MABALACAT, Pampanga –— With a vote of 7-0, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) en banc on Monday ruled for the cancellation of City Mayor Marino Morales’ certificate of candidacy (COC) – meaning all votes cast in his favor in the May 2016 polls are declared “stray”.
In a 13-page decision, the COMELEC en banc ordered the Mabacalat City Board of Canvassers to reconvene and annul the proclamation of Morales as elected mayor in the May 2016 polls.
The electoral body also directed the Mabacalat City Board of Canvassers to proclaim the qualified candidate with the next highest number of votes and effect the necessary corrections in the COC and proclamation.
Last January 4, 2016, Lucas, losing mayoral candidate in the city and chairwoman of Violence Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), filed the disqualification case against Morals as Mayor of Mabalacat City, alleging that the former could no longer run in the 2016 polls since he had already been elected and had served for three consecutive terms for the same position from 2007 to 2013.
On May 20, 2016, Petitioner-Intervenor Crisostomo Garbo filed a motion for a leave to intervene and alleged that Morales was “ineligible” to run as Mayor of Mabalacat City for he was constitutionally barred from serving his fourth consecutive term. Garbo obtained the second highest number of votes in the 2016 elections next to Morales.
On January 28, 2016, elected Vice Mayor Christian Halili filed as respondent-intervenor and claimed that should respondent-Morales’ COC be cancelled, he should be the one to be proclaimed as Mayor under the rule on succession instead of Garbo.
However, last August 8, 2016 Morales, thru his lawyer Atty. Romulo Macalintal, sought reconsideration of the COMELEC 1st division ruling and assailed the cancellation of his COC despite the fact that there was no prior authoritative finding by a competent authority that he violated the three-term limit rule; that the petition was filed out of time and it lacked a certification against forum shopping.
Morales’ camp also claimed that he was re-elected as mayor of the municipality of Mabalacat for the term 2010-2013 but only served as up to July 21, 2012, when the former municipality was converted into a component city by virtue of R.A. 10164 and that he only served as holdover mayor of the new Mabalacat City until June 2013 – the start of the term of the first set of elective city officials.
According to the Comelec en banc led by its Chairman J. Andress Bautista, the issue in this case revolved whether the office of the municipal mayor should be construed as a different local government post as that of the office of the city mayor, following the conversion of the municipality into a component city.
Morales asserted in his claims that the conversion of Mabalacat from a municipality into a city was accompanied by substantial increase in its territorial area and inhabitants.
He insists that the Congress intended to include the area of Clark as part of Mabalacat City and that residents of the Freeport zone became registered voters following the enactment of R.A. 10164.
However, under section 2 of R.A. 10164 it clearly indicates the that the territorial jurisdiction of the City shall be within the present metes and bounds of the Municipality of Mabalacat and does not even change even by an inch, the land previously covered by the municipality.
Reaching Morales’ camp, the city mayor has yet to issue any statement on the Comelec en banc decision as he is with his lawyers in Manila as of press time.