High Court reinstates Antique governor

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THE Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of the reinstatement of Antique Governor Exequiel Javier who the Commission on Elections(Comelec) disqualified in 2015.

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In its decision, the high tribunal said the “Comelec gravely abused its discretion when it disqualified (Gov.) Javier based on a provision of law that had already been expressly repealed.”

In the decision penned by Associate Justice Arturo Brion, the High Tribunal set aside the Comelec order dismissing Javier over the governor’s suspension of the mayor of Valderama town during an election period, which is an election offense.

The original petition for disqualification against Javier was filed by former Lakas-CMD secretary general and UNA candidate Raymundo Roquero and party-mate Cornelio Aldon. The due filed the case after Javier suspended Mayor Mary Joyce Roquero.

Javier allegedly suspended Roquero after she manifested her political opposition against him.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes and Commissioners Elias Yusoph, Arthur Lim and Lucenito Tagle approved Javier’s disqualification. Two commissioners – Commissioners Louie Guia and Christian Lim – dissented while Commissioner Al Parreno was on official business.

The Comelec resolution – the original of which was signed by Yusoph – indicated that Javier violated election laws when he suspended Roquero on January 23, 2013.

However, the Supreme Court said that the basis for disqualifying Javier no longer existed with the repeal of Section 216 (d)(1) and 2 of the Omnibus Election Code by Republic Act 7890.

The High Court said the Comelec’s jurisdiction to disqualify candidates is limited to election offenses covered by the Omnibus Election Code and that all other election offenses are beyond its ambit as these are criminal in nature.

The tribunal also disagreed with the Comelec’s position that Roquero’s suspension is covered by Section 261(d) of the Omnibus Election Code.

The “Comelec’s stubborn insistence that RA 7890 merely impliedly repealed Section 216 (d) despite the clear wordings of the law amounted to an arbitrary and whimsical exercise of judgment,” the Supreme Court said.

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