Comelec reverses court ruling, ousts LU mayor

>> Sunday, December 20, 2009

By Jerry Padilla

AGOO, La Union– The mayor of this town lost her position after the Commission on Elections unseated her and installed her opponent in the 2007 elections.

The Comelec reversed the decision of the local regional trial court affirming the victory of Mayor Sandra Eriguel and declared Ma. Theresa Dumpit-Michelena the duly elected mayor with a 167-vote margin.

Eriguel’s camp said here are alleged loopholes and irregularities in the Comelec ruling, as no one from the poll body informed them to witness the recount conducted in Manila.

Contested election results from Agoo as well from other towns were brought to the Comelec main office in Intramuros after the 2007 elections but were reportedly stolen on the night of July 27 this year.

The Comelec’s law department recently resolved the case on the missing election results by recommending the filing of criminal and administrative charges against engineer Lorenzo Peres, building administrator of the poll body’s Election Records and Statistics Division; Rodolfo “Jun” Eres, an aide of a retired general from La Union and PO2 Johnson Pagulayan, who was assigned at the poll department.

Lawyer Ferdinand Rafanan, head of the Comelec’s law department, said the three would be charged with bribery, grave misconduct and violations of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Eriguel’s camp alleged anomaly in the ruling, noting Comelec Chairman Jose Melo and Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer both affixed their signatures but wrote the words “no part,” which means they did not participate in the recount and in settling Michelena’s appeal.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento had a dissenting opinion, affirming the victory of Eriguel in the recount with 1,419 votes over Michelena.

Other signatories of the order, penned by Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, were Commissioners Armando Velasco, Gregorio Larrazabal, and Elias Yusoph, who all did not put any notation above their signatures.

Eriguel said the ruling saddened her, citing the RTC decision upholding her victory with more than 4,000 votes over Michelena.

Eriguel, who was instrumental in the town’s literacy program by garnering this year the Hall of Fame award and the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, is the wife of Dr. Frannie Eriguel, standard-bearer of the Nationalist People’s Coalition in the second district congressional race.

Dr. Eriguel, who was endorsed by nine out 11 incumbent mayors in the second district, recently bolted the Lakas-Kampi-CMD and joined the NPC.

He is pitted against Lakas-Kampi-CMD candidate Rep. Tomas Dumpit Jr.

Forty-eight of the 49 barangay captains of Agoo have signed a manifesto of support for Mayor Eriguel, along with 18 of the 20 mayors of the province.


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