CHAIRMAN SIXTO Brillantes, what’s happening at the Commission on Elections? Politicians are now saying that if you can’t win an election in your territory, win it in the Comelec.
Two politicians in Lucena, Quezon, repudiated by the voters in the last mayoralty elections, are doing just that. They now want to be declared the winners with the help of some Comelec commissioners. One of them did not even run for mayor, but he now wants to be declared by the Comelec the legitimate mayor to replace the present mayor who was elected by the Lucena voters with an overwhelming majority. One of the commissioners has already written a decision declaring that non-candidate the mayor of Lucena and asking the other commissioners to sign it.
Believe it or not, this can happen only in the Philippines with our present Comelec. This is what is happening in Lucena, Quezon:
Mayor Ramon Talaga is a three-term mayor of Lucena. He filed his certificate of candidacy for the last mayoral elections but was disqualified by the Comelec. His wife, Barbara “Ruby” Talaga, therefore replaced him as the official candidate of Lakas-Kampi. She obtained the highest number of votes, was proclaimed winner, and is now serving as the mayor.
Now comes the loser, Philip M. Castillo, who filed a petition for the annulment of Barbara’s proclamation. Citing wrong dates and other technicalities, he claims that the people of Lucena did not vote for Barbara but for her husband Ramon, who was still in the Comelec’s list of candidates on election day. He wants that the votes credited to Barbara to be annulled and set aside; and that he, having obtained the second highest number of votes, be declared the winner.
How did he know that the votes marked “Talaga” were for Ramon and not for Barbara? Did he ask each and every voter for whom he/she voted?
As if that farce were not enough, here comes the vice mayor, Roderick A. Alcala, who did not even run for mayor, but is now asking the Comelec to declare him the mayor under the rules of succession, which say that when the position of mayor becomes vacant, the vice mayor succeeds him.
But the mayor’s seat has not yet been declared vacant, so how can he be declared the mayor?
The Comelec’s Second Division, presided over by Nicodemo Ferrer, threw out the petitions of Castillo and Alcala. Commissioner Elias Yusoph assented, but Commissioner Lucinito Tagle dissented. Tagle said that Vice Mayor Alcala should be declared the legitimate mayor, but is it true that Alcala is Tagle’s nephew? If he is, then he should inhibit himself from the case.
Both Alcala and Castillo filed a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec en banc, and Tagle not only did not inhibit himself, he grabbed the position of ponente and, surprisingly, Chairman Brillantes allowed it. Tagle already wrote a dissenting opinion favoring Vice Mayor Alcala, why was he allowed to be the ponente of the en banc? With him as ponente, the decision he wrote for the en banc would naturally be in favor of his nephew(?), Alcala.
True to expectations, Tagle’s draft decision (1) reversed the Jan. 11, 2011 resolution of the Second Division that dismissed both Castillo’s petition for the annulment of the proclamation of Barbara Talaga, and Alcala’s petition-in-intervention; (2) granted the petition of Alcala; (3) annulled the proclamation of Barbara as mayor; (4) ordered Barbara to cease discharging the functions of the mayor; and (5) ordering Vice Mayor Alcala to succeed as mayor.
This has not yet been promulgated, but it has already put the people of Lucena in an uproar. If enough of the six Comelec commissioners sign it, the votes of only four commissioners would replace the votes of thousands of Lucena voters as to their choice of mayor.
Already, the Tagle draft decision is making the rounds of the Comelec commissioners for their signatures. And curiously, Commissioner Yusoph, who had signed the earlier resolution of the Second Division dismissing the petitions of Castillo and Alcala, has reportedly signed the new Tagle draft decision reversing that resolution and declaring Alcala the new mayor. Is it true that Yusoph made a complete turnabout? What made him do that? If just two more commissioners sign the draft, just four votes of Comelec commissioners would overturn the votes of thousands of Lucena voters. Is that the new brand of democracy in the Comelec under Chairman Brillantes? A person who did not even run for mayor is now to be declared mayor on the say-so of just four powerful men. What happens to the votes of thousands of Lucena folk who have already signified who they want to be their mayor?
Note that the issues being raised here are again a conflict between the substance and technicalities of the law. The substance is the votes of the people of Lucena who chose Talaga. The technicality is the dates of the filing and withdrawal of the certificates of candidacy. But it is a principle in law that in a conflict between the substance and a technicality of the law, substance takes precedence. Which means the wishes of the people take precedence over the technicality of dates and other “eck-eck.” The people of Lucena want Barbara Talaga to be their mayor; let no one overturn their wishes.
The term of Chairman Brillantes will go down in history as the blackest if he lets this anomaly happen.