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Imelda Papin asks Comelec to conduct ocular inspection on her Bulacan house to prove residency

Congressional candidate Imelda Papin, who is facing a disqualification case, on Thursday asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct an ocular inspection on her house in San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan to prove that she is indeed residing there. Lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who filed a 17-page motion for ocular inspection on behalf of Papin, said the inspection is crucial to belie allegations that she is residing in a “commercial establishment not intended for human habitation.” He said the Election Registration Board (ERB) of San Jose del Monte City conducted an ocular inspection on the house when Papin applied for transfer of her registration to Bulacan. “Even the ERB was convinced that respondent (Papin) was already residing at her aforementioned home at the time it conducted the said ocular inspection in August 2012,” Macalintal said. In an interview with reporters, Macalintal said Papin should not be disqualified from running for Congress for the same reason former President Joseph Estrada was allowed to run for mayor in Manila when he is a known resident of San Juan. “Ito ay katulad din lang ng kaso ni President Erap (Estrada’s nickname). We know for a fact that he is a resident of San Juan City pero as early as May 9 [ay] lumipat siya ng Maynila. May 10 nagpa-register siya na approved and nothing has been said about his residency,” he said. He added in the case of Papin, “the same ruling should be applied. What is sauce for the gander must be the sauce for the goose. In other words, what is sauce for Erap is what the sauce should be for Imelda.” Estrada himself is facing a disqualification case that the Comelec has yet to resolve. In a 10-page resolution dated January 31, the Comelec Second Division found Papin ineligible to run for public office over questions on her residency in the district she seeks to represent. “Respondent’s Certificate of Candidacy must be cancelled for making false material representation relating to her residence and for claiming that she is eligible to run for public office,” said the Second Division in its resolution, which Papin received on February 5. “There are not enough proof to show she actually resided in any of the said properties within the period required by law. Respondent may own and lease several properties anywhere she chooses. However, such act alone will not suffice to make her resident of said place for election purposes, in the absence of any overt acts indicative of her intention to consider it as her permanent abode or residence,” it added. It also said that while the decision of the ERB to approve her transfer of registration record can be honored, it does not automatically qualify her as a candidate for congresswoman. “It does not involve the residency requirement for eligibility to run for Congresswoman, which requires a residency in the locality for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the election,” said the Second Division. In her 19-page motion for reconsideration filed on February 11, Papin said the Comelec Second Division failed to appreciate the evidence she presented such as pictures of the blessing of her house in the city; certifications that her brother, Jose, and relatives are residents of the city; affidavit of her neighbors; receipts that she paid her taxes and bills in San Jose del Monte. The motion stated that even though Papin abandoned her residence when she sold her property in 2009 and even when she filed her candidacy for senator in 2010 where she declared her residence in Quezon City, she “can be considered as a returning resident.” “The respondent had all the sentimental, emotional and financial connection with San Jose del Monte. Her relatives lived there. She had her business there. In fact, she lived there for many years,” the motion stated. Papin also said the petitioner was not able to present any credible evidence that she is not a resident of San Jose del Monte City. “Assuming that the respondent cannot be considered as a resident of San Jose del Monte since the year 2000 or 2002, or even assuming further that she ceased to be a resident of San Jose del Monte in 2009, that does not mean that she cannot be considered as a resident of San Jose del Monte by election day,” the motion stated. Section 117 of the Omnibus Election Code states that a voter must be residing in the city or municipality where he/she proposes to vote for at least six months immediately preceding the election, among others. In a separate interview, poll chief Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the Comelec en banc is now writing its decision on the motion for reconsideration of Papin.   "Yung ponente ginagawa pa lang niya. Iikot pa sa amin 'yun [for signature]," he said. He said they will resolve all disqualification cases before March 29, the start of campaign period for  local candidates. — KBK, GMA News