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Comelec disqualifies Laguna Gov. Ejercito for campaign overspending

(Updated 3:52 p.m.) The Commission on Elections en banc, in a unanimous decision, ordered on Wednesday the disqualification of incumbent Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito for overspending during the May 2013 elections.

In a press conference, Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the poll body en banc promulgated and upheld the September 2013 decision of its First Division.

Laguna Vice Governor Ramil Hernandez will take over Ejercito's post.

“Ang voting unanimous, 7-0. Wala po kaming kaduda-duda dun sa violation, walang dissent. For the first time, based on our records, ito talaga makikita ang direct violation of the campaign finance rule on overspending and it involves a very high position of governor of a province,” he said.

Brillantes said Ejercito shelled out P6 million in just one contract for a television advertisement for his campaign last year. Ejercito is allowed to spend only P4.5 million for his entire campaign.

“He exceeded his campaign expenses above and beyond what is allowed by law. Ang nakita namin on record sa isang kontrata pa lang meron na siyang P6 million, dun pa lang lumampas na siya. Other documentary evidence would show that he spent much, much more, in fact ang aming record he spent around P23.5 million, sobra sobra sa allowed expenses,” the Comelec chief said.

Also, he said candidates are only allowed to spend P3 per registered voter. Laguna has a total of 1,525,522 voters.

Ejercito won as Laguna governor in the 2013 elections with 549,310 votes.

Brillantes said Ejercito has five days to bring his case before the Supreme Court. If there will be no action by that time, the order will be implemented.

“ER Ejercito is not automatically removed, meron pa siyang five days (upon receipt of the decision) within which to go up the Supreme Court to get a temporary restraining order (TRO). 'Pag wala kaming natanggap na TRO within five days, i-implement na namin yung decision,” Brillantes said.

Meanwhile, in a statement aired on Wednesday on GMA News TV's News TV Live, Ejercito said: "I am prepared to take legal action against the disqualification order of the Comelec once we receive the documents from the Comelec."

“The duly elected vice governor is now directed to assume the position of governor of Laguna by reason of law of succession,” said Brillantes.

Moreover, Brillantes said: “We will try to determine whether there is basis to continue the criminal aspect of the overspending. Itong napagdesisyunan namin ay administrative aspect lang kaya disqualification. The criminal aspect will still have the process of preliminary investigation, iba kasi yun, beyond resonable doubt 'yan.”

GMA News TV's Balitanghali said they are trying to get Ejercito's side but the latter has yet to make reply.

The disqualification case stemmed from a petition filed by Ejercito's close rival Edgar "Egay" San Luis. Brillantes said the poll body took the cue from the petition and audited Ejercito's campaign expense report. — Amita O. Legaspi and Amanda Fernandez/LBG/KG, GMA News