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Comelec annuls proclamation of Batangas town mayor

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has annulled the proclamation of Renato Federico as the mayor of Sto. Tomas town in Batangas province.   In a 20-page resolution, the Comelec en banc said Osmundo Maligaya should be proclaimed as the duly-elected mayor for being "the only valid mayoralty candidate." It said Federico was not a valid replacement for former town mayor Edna Sanchez, who backed out of the mayoralty race to replace her deceased husband in the province's gubernatorial race.   The decision stemmed from a motion filed by Maligaya on June 1, 2010 asking the Comelec to annul the proclamation of Federico.   Mrs. Sanchez bowed out of the 2010 Sto. Tomas mayoralty race to replace her husband, Armando Sanchez, in the gubernatorial contest. Mr. Sanchez died days before the May 2010 elections. Mrs. Sanchez eventually lost to incumbent Batangas Governor Vilma Santos-Recto.   Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code allows for a substitute candidate in case an official candidate "dies, withdraws, or is disqualified for any cause" even until mid-day of election day.   However, the Comelec noted in their decision that while they approved the withdrawal of Mrs. Sanchez in the mayoralty race, they did not rule on the validity of Federico replacing her.   "COMELEC Resolution No. 8889... only stated that the withdrawal of Edna P. Sanchez caused a vacuum in the mayoralty contest. Necessarily, it follows that there should be a full application and observance of the December 14, 2009 deadline for filing substitute certificates of candidacy if the cause for substitution is withdrawal of an official candidate... there is no rhyme nor reason to give due course to the COC of Federico since he filed his substitute COC beyond the December 14, 2009 deadline," it said.   "The death of former Gubernatorial candidate Armando P. Sanchez cannot be used to justify non-compliance with the law and the rules. It is not the death of Armando P. Sanchez that caused a vacancy in the mayoralty race in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, rather it is the withdrawal of the candidacy of former Mayor Edna P. Sanchez," it added.   The Comelec also said that the proclamation should be annulled because it is the "outcome of an illegal and highly irregular proceeding" of the municipal board of canvassers (MBC) of Sto. Tomas, Batangas.   According to the resolution, the MBC proclaimed Federico without first annulling the certificate of votes and proclamation, which had initially proclaimed Mrs. Sanchez as the winner of the mayoralty race.  Mrs. Sanchez's name was retained in the 2010 election ballots and it received the highest number of votes.   "The proclamation is flawed because it was based on a highly irregular proceeding of the board, there can be no valid proclamation to speak of and the same can be challenged even after the candidate has assumed office," the poll body said. — Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News
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