BAGUIO CITY – The 2nd Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) junked the disqualification case filed by losing mayoralty candidate lawyer Jose M. Molintas against incumbent Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan for alleged vote-buying due to lack of merit.
In a 10-page resolution signed by Commissioner Elias R. Yusoph, Division Chairman; and Commissioners Luie Tito F. Guia and Arthur Lim, the poll body ruled out vote-buying in the allegation of Molintas that Domogan and former Rep. Bernardo M. Vergara distributed P7,000 to student beneficiaries of the scholarship program of the two city officials on 17 March 2013.
It is readily apparent that the alleged act was committed outside the campaign period under Resolution No. 9385 which provides that the campaign period for elective regional, provincial, city and municipal officials started on 29 March 2013,”the resolution stated.
The resolution stated “Domogan cannot be disqualified for the commission of the same act since he is not yet considered a candidate under Section 68 of the Omnibus Election code.”
On the alleged use of public properties of Timpuyog ti Baguio as its headquarters during the campaign period for the May 2013 mid-term elections, the Comelec cited the Omnibus Election Code and the Local Government code do not include the same as a ground for disqualification, thus, the commission of the alleged act of using government property as headquarters for the political campaign cannot serve as a basis for Domogan’s disqualification.
Furthermore, the poll body cited Domogan was able to attach in his counter-affidavit the lease contract, statement of account and official receipts for the use of the Lion’s Clubhouse of Baguio City and Baguio Pines City Lion’s Club, all executed and issued in the name of Timpuyog ti Baguio, a local political party, and that the pieces of evidence would readily show that the alleged violation cannot be directly attributed to Domogan to justify his disqualification.
On the alleged solicitation of the participation of barangay officials of Irisan, Molintas alleged that Domogan solicited the participation of Irisan barangay officials for his political campaign and attached a document entitled ‘budgetary requirements signed Dumalti’ and a video footage of a local news televisions interview of Dumalti.
On the other hand, Domogan contended that the same document was a proposal from the barangay officials of Irisan of which he had no knowledge until the same was broadcasted by a local new program and attached a joint affidavit executed by Irisan barangay officials.
“A review of the aopplicable laws cited on disqualification of candidates likewise show that the alleged act does not fall under any of the enumerated grounds which would result in the disqualification of Domogan,” the decision added.
Notwithstanding the dismissal of the disqualification case against Domogan, the resolution stated the Commission, in its power to conduct preliminary investigation of all election offenses punishable under the election laws and to prosecute the same notes Molintas belated submission in his memorandum that the statement of contributions and expenditures filed by Atty. Carlos M. Canilao for United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Baguio Chapter failed to reflect the amount of P80,000 paid to Baguio Pines City Lions Club for the rent of the clubhouse during the duration of the campaign period.
Because of the belated manifestations, the Comelec ordered a more thorough inspection of the records of the case for the determination of any possible election offense committed by responsible parties, thus, the matter was referred to the law department in coordination with the campaign finance unit of the poll body.
The promulgated resolution was already transmitted by the Comelec to the concerned parties for their further action.
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan was elated upon being furnished a copy of the dismissal of his disqualification case, citing that all the issues that were raised against him were ‘politically motivated and fabricated to suit the interest of his perennial rival for the mayoralty post.’
“We just continue to exercise our sworn duties and responsibilities to serve our constituents amidst the pendency of the disqualification case. We express our gratitude to the Comelec for finding merit to our detailed justifications on the unfounded allegations against us,” Domogan stressed.
It can be recalled that Domogan bested Molintas in the three successive elections where they were rivals in various elective positions, In the 2007 mid-term elections, Domogan routed Molintas for his third term as Representative of the lone district of Baguio City. In the May 2010 national elections, Domogan again best Molintas for the mayoralty race and again repeated his feat against his rival for the city’s mayoralty post in the May 2013 mid-term elections.