• NSamar lawmaker faces ouster

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    Northern Samar Rep. Harlin Abayon may lose his Congressional seat three months before the elections.

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    Speaker Feliciano Belmonte confirmed on Thursday that the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) ruled in favor of a petition filed by former House Deputy Speaker Raul Daza questioning Abayon’s victory in the 2013 polls.

    Daza claimed he was cheated in the counting of votes before the Northern Samar Provincial Board of Canvassers where he lost to Abayon by a measly 52 votes.

    Daza had demanded a manual count of ballots in 17 precincts where his votes were purportedly not counted.

    “That’s true [that HRET ruled against Abayon]. I don’t know it officially, but Abayon can still file a Motion for Consideration before the Supreme Court. The decision [of the HRET]is in favor of Raul Daza,” Belmonte told reporters.

    Under the Constitution, the HRET is the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the Members of the House of Representatives after they are proclaimed winners. The HRET is composed of three Supreme Court Justices and six House members.

    The HRET’s decision can be appealed before the Supreme Court.

    More to come

    Abayon is not the only congressman facing this predicament.

    Last week, the Supreme Court reversed an earlier HRET decision upholding the victory of Surigao del Sur Rep. Philip Pichay.

    The High Court instead granted the petition filed by former Tandag City Mayor Mary Elizabeth Ty-Delgado, who claimed that Pichay was not qualified to contest the seat in 2013.

    Delgado’s petition cited that, under the Omnibus Election Code, a crime involving moral turpitude such as libel bars an individual from running for public office for five years after conviction.

    Pichay has been convicted of libel in February 2011 so the five-year ban would be lapsing only this month.

    “She (Delgado) can be sworn in even without the session. For her to participate in the plenary, she will have to be sworn in again in the plenary first,” Belmonte said.

    But Pichay, who appealed the Supreme Court ruling earlier this week, will not be losing his Congressional post just yet as far as Belmonte is concerned.

    “He has filed an MR (motion for reconsideration), and it is his right. I would think it would be resolved in a few days because the vote in the Supreme Court is almost unanimous. I say we give this guy a chance to file an appeal. If it is dismissed by the Supreme Court, we’ll install Delgado,” Belmonte said.

    Last week, Lord Allan Velasco was also sworn in as the duly elected Representative of Marinduque, replacing Belmonte’s party-mate Regina Reyes of the Liberal Party.

    The Commission on Elections had nullified Reyes’ 2013 victory over the then incumbent Velasco and her eventual proclamation over the ground that Reyes is an American citizen.

    Reyes appealed the Comelec decision before the Supreme Court but it was denied in July 2013. A subsequent appeal was also rejected in December that same year.

    The HRET issued a decision on December 14 last year to remove Reyes’ case from its jurisdiction, resulting in the installation of Velasco.

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