Double whammy: Comelec division unseats Pampanga 'drug' mayor
PAMPANGA, Philippines – When it rains, it pours.
Lady Luck has stopped smiling at Mabalacat City Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division cancelled his Certificate of Candidacy (COC) to run for reelection in May.
Comelec Commissioners Christian Robert Lim, Luie Tito Guia, and Ma Rowena Amelia Guanzon signed the resolution which was promulgated on August 3. It stemmed from the disqualification case filed by mayoral candidate Pyra Lucas against Morales.
In the resolution, the Comelec First Division said Morales already served his 3 consecutive terms as Mabalacat mayor prior to the 2016 elections.
“Consequently, Respondent committed material misrepresentation when he stated in his COC that he is eligible to run for Mayor of Mabalacat City when in truth and in fact he is not,” the resolution stated.
“Accordingly, the Certificate of Candidacy of Marino P. Morales is hereby CANCELLED. All votes cast in his favor are declared stray,” said the resolution which also ordered the city board of canvassers to proclaim as mayor the candidate with the next highest number of votes.
Morales – among the local officials in the "drug list" of President Rodrigo Duterte – got 39,919 votes in the mayoral race, which is more than the combined votes of his 3 rivals.
Former board member Crisostomo Garbo got 17,553 votes; former vice mayor Noel Castro, 10,696 votes; and Lucas, 5,750 votes – for a total of only 33,999. The Comelec 1st Division declared these votes as the only valid votes in the Mabalacat mayoral election.
Morales, first elected as Mabalacat mayor in 1995, has occupied the position for a total of 21 years – broken only when the Ombudsman suspended him for 6 months over a quarrying-related case in 1999, and when he turned over his seat to his vice mayor for 46 days due to an electoral case prior to the 2007 elections.
The camp of Morales said it said it would appeal the Comelec ruling before the Comelec en banc, and will bring the case all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
The former Mabalacat vice mayor Castro filed the first disqualification case against Morales late last year, citing Morales' 3 consecutive terms prior to his re-election bid.
“Morales has been the mayor of Mabalacat since 1995 – for 21 years to be exact – making him the longest reigning mayor in the entire country,” Castro said, adding that it was a repeated violation of the Local Government Code.
In a January 13 resolution, the Comelec's 2nd Division dismissed the disqualification case due to procedural defects that included "lack of verification, failure to furnish respondent a copy of the petition, and failure to comply with the Efficient Use of Paper Rule (EUPR)."
The Supreme Court-issued EUPR that took effect on January 1, 2013, prescribes the format – spacing, font to be used, margins, and page numbering – of pleadings, motions and documents filed in courts.
Garbo, another mayoral bet, filed a separate disqualification case against Morales which is still pending before the poll body’s 2nd Division.
Lady Luck on his side
A review of Morales' legal struggles to keep his post showed that Lady Luck was mostly on his side – even in the case of an unfavorable ruling.
The Comelec and SC decisions on electoral cases filed against Morales since 1998 eventually led to his qualification to run for reelection until 2013.
After Morales was reelected in 1998, his rival, the late businessman Anthony Dee demanded a recount. It was not until April 2, 2001, when the Angeles City Regional Trial Court Branch 57 ruled in favor of Dee and ordered Morales to vacate his post.
Following a series of motions and counteractions, the ruling only became final and executory on August 6, 2001 – months after the term Dee was supposed serve had lapsed. Morales managed to serve the full term even though he lost in the recount.
Since Morales, by virtue of the court ruling, did not win in the 1998 mayoral election, he was allowed to seek two more terms.
He dodged legal questions to his reelection bid in 2004, but in 2007, the High Court reversed an earlier Comelec en banc resolution and cancelled his COC in the 2004 elections.
The High Court ordered him to vacate his post to then Vice Mayor Prospero Lagman, who acted as the municipal mayor from May 16 to June 30, 2007.
On July 1, 2007, Morales was again elected as Mabalacat mayor.
The SC decision allowed him to run for reelection in the 2010 elections for his second term, and to seek a third term in the May 2013 elections.
Morales filed his COC to run for the same position in the 2016 elections, citing the change in the Mabalacat Charter when it became a component city in 2012.
“Mabalacat’s transformation into a component city made my current term as my first term as a city mayor. Therefore, I’m still eligible to run in 2016,” said Morales. – Rappler.com