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SC affirms Comelec ouster of Batangas town mayor

The Supreme Court has affirmed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision nullifying Renato M. Federico's victory as mayor of Sto. Tomas town in Batangas province in the 2010 elections. In a 19-page decision penned by Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, the high court en banc unanimously held that Federico’s substitution of Edna Sanchez was invalid as it was filed “after the December 14, 2009 deadline provided for under Section 13 of Comelec Resolution No. 8678.” Sanchez withdrew from the mayoral race to substitute her husband, gubernatorial candidate Armando Sanchez, who died on April 27, 2010, days before the elections. Federico, on May 5, 2010, filed with the Office of the Election Officer of Sto. Tomas his certificate of candidacy (COC) and certificate of nomination and acceptance as substitute candidate for mayor. The court noted that by that time, the official ballots had already been printed with the name “SANCHEZ, Edna P.” retained on the list of candidates. Sanchez garnered the highest number of votes—28,389—against Osmundo M. Maligaya’s 22,57. The Municipal Board of Canvasser proclaimed Federico as winner in the mayoralty race after considering Sanchez’s votes in favor of him. This prompted Maligaya to file a petition to annul the proclamation of Federico, which the Comelec granted, thereby proclaiming Maligaya as winner. The Supreme Court did not agree with Federico’s contention that the Comelec Resolution cannot prevail over the provisions of Section 77 of Batas Pambansa Bilang 881, The Omnibus Election Code, which provides that a “substitute candidate nominated by the political party concerned may file his certificate of candidacy for the office affected in accordance with the preceding sections not later than mid-day of the day of the election.” The court explained that the “Comelec is empowered by law to prescribe such rules as to make efficacious and successful the conduct of the first national automated election,” and “as automated elections had been mandated by law, there was a need for the early printing of the ballots.” “So that all candidates would be accommodated in the ballots, the early filing of the COC’s was necessary. If there would be late filing and approval of COCs, the names of aspiring candidates would not be included in the ballot, the only document to be read by the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines,” the court pointed out. “Without question, the votes garnered by Edna could not be credited to Federico as he was never a legitimate candidate. As there was an invalid substitution, there could not be a valid proclamation,” it added. The Court also lifted the Temporary Restraining Order it issued on January 17, 2012, which enjoined the Comelec from proclaiming Maligaya as mayor of Sto. Tomas. — KBK, GMA News