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Comelec division disqualifies Isabela mayor for vote-buying


(Updated 8:42 p.m.) For giving out bags of rice and live pigs to constituents, an Isabela mayor was disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division on charges of vote-buying.
 
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez tweeted that Benedict Calderon, mayor of Roxas, Isabela, was disqualified due to vote-buying during the May 2013 midterm elections. 
 
Vote-buying pertains to giving or promising money or anything of value in exchange of a vote. Vote-buying is an election offense and may cause the disqualification of a candidate, and a one to six year imprisonment, according to the Omnibus Election Code.
 
"Affidavits of witnesses, together with video clippings of vote-buying activities lead to no other conclusion than that vote-buying indeed took place," Jimenez tweeted.
 
In a separate text message, Jimenez said the Comelec acted on a petition filed by Calderon's political rival Harry Soller, who ran against him in the midterm polls. Soller ran as an independent during the last elections.
 
"Vote-buying was via distribution of goods (rice, live pigs, etc.) at various events," Jimenez said.

"During the campaign period, namimigay ng bigas, baboy at pera," poll chief Sixto Brillantes Jr. added in a "24 Oras" report.

As of posting time, GMA News Online has yet to reach the camp of Calderon for his comments on the Comelec division's decision.

In the "24 Oras" report, Calderon refused to give a statement upon his lawyer's orders. He hinted, however, that he smells politics behind the disqualification.
 
Calderon is the second mayor and fourth elected government official disqualified by the Comelec for election offense during the May 2013 polls. Based on the Comelec website, Calderon is allied with the Nationalist People's Coalition.
 
As with the previous disqualification cases, Calderon may file a motion for reconsideration on the division decision, which the Comelec sitting en banc would decide on the merit.
 
If the Comelec en banc rules against Calderon, he may appeal to the Supreme Court.
 
Once the disqualification is executory, he would be replaced by Vice Mayor  Servando Soriano.
 
The division earlier disqualified Norzagaray, Bulacan Mayor Alfredo Germar and Councilor Rogelio Santos Jr. for vote-buying, and Laguna governor ER Ejercito for overspending in his campaign expense.

Ejercito has since filed an appeal with Comelec en banc. — Marc Jayson Cayabyab/RSJ/BM, GMA News
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