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SC upholds Frank Sibuma election as Agoo mayor

The Supreme Court has upheld the election of Frank Ong Sibuma as mayor of Agoo Town in La Union as it dismissed two issuances of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

During its session on Wednesday, the Supreme Court En Banc nullified the resolution of the Comelec dated May 2022 which canceled the certificate of candidacy (COC) filed by Sibuma.

It also dismissed Comelec's writ of execution dated June 2022 which annulled Sibuma's proclamation and ordered the proclamation of his rival, Stefanie Eriguel Calongcagon.

This stemmed from the petition filed last year that sought to cancel Sibuma's COC on the grounds that he falsely indicated his place of residency in Barangay Sta. Barbara when he is supposedly a resident of San Eugenio, Aringay.

The petitioner had provided certificates issued by Punong Barangay Erwina Eriguel of Sta. Barbara which stated that he is not a resident there.

For his part, Sibuma said he had indicated his residency in Agoo since his birth. He further said he was born in Agoo and completed his secondary education at the Don Mariano Marcos State University in Agoo.

According to the Supreme Court, the Comelec Second Division committed grave abuse of discretion when it ordered the cancellation of Sibuma's COC without finding out if he deliberately indicated a false representation.

"The Court held that Sibuma's declaration of residency in his CoC proceeded from his good faith and firm belief that he possesses the required residency for the position vied for. That his domicile remains to be Agoo, La Union, and that he is a bona fide resident thereof were confirmed by his documents in support thereof," it said in a press briefer.

Further, the Court faulted the Second Division with grossly unreasonably appreciating and evaluation of evidence for relying on the certificate issued by Erwina Eriguel, the aunt of Sibuma's rival Eriguel Calongcagon.

The Supreme Court also said that the Comelec failed to resolve the petition before the 2022 national and local elections on May 9, leading Sibuma to be elected as mayor with 21,364 votes against Calongcagon's 16,603 votes.

"The Court ruled that all doubts should be resolved in favor of Sibuma's residence qualification to give fullest effect to the manifest will of the people of Agoo electing him as their mayor," it said. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News