COMELEC EN BANC DECISION UNANIMOUS
    PHL”s longest staying mayor ordered evicted

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    MABALACAT CITY – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has belatedly disqualified this city’s Mayor Marino Morales, dubbed as the country’s longest staying mayor whose term started in 1995, and ordered the local board of canvassers to swear in former provincial board member Cris Garbo, who landed in second place in last year’s mayoral polls, as his replacement.

    In a resolution signed by all Comelec commissioners led by Chairman Andres Bautista, the polls body affirmed the petition of Pyra Lucas, who landed fourth in the local elections, seeking the cancellation of the certificate of candidacy (COC) of Morales and disqualify him from running for mayor “since he had already been elected and had served for three consecutive terms for the same position from 2007 to 2013.”

    This time deciding en banc, the Comelec, in its resolution dated last May 25, affirmed the same verdict.

    Morales said in a telephone interview, however, that he would seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court against the Comelec resolution.

    But Garbo said Morales had only up to this Friday to file the TRO and that he would file a motion for the immediate execution of the Comelec order if Morales fails to file for TRO. He also cited legal experts as saying that the Supreme Court is to decide on the cases merely on the bases of evidences already presented to the Comelec.

    Unanimous

    Garbo expressed confidence, however, that the Supreme Court would eventually give way to the enforcement of the Comelec resolution which, he noted, was a unanimous verdict.

    In its 17-page resolution, the Comelec noted that on Aug. 3 last year, its first division had already cancelled Morales’ COC and ordered the local board of canvassers to “reconvene, annul the proclamation of Marino P. Morales, proclaim the candidate with the next highest votes, and effect the necessary corrections in the Certificate of Canvass and Proclamation.”

    Morales’s mayoral term since 1995 was interrupted only by electoral protests that only led to his continuing mayoral term. In the May elections last year, he argued that while he had indeed already occupied his post for three consecutive terms, he had served as municipal mayor “up to July 21, 2012, when the former Municipality of Mabalacat was converted into a component city by virtue of R.A. No. 10164.” He contended that he was thus merely on his first term as city, not municipal mayor.

    The Comelec also dismissed Morales claim to a fresh term on the bases of enlarged geographical territory to include Clark freeport, as well as increase in local population as basis for cityhood, which were used as justifications in another case earlier affirmed by the Supreme Court. It noted that the law that made Mabalacat a city cited the same geographical boundaries and that “no substantial change occurred as to respondent’s authority as chief executive over the inhabitants of Mabalacat.”

    The Comelec resolution also dismissed the claim of Vice Mayor Christian Halili to be proclaimed mayor based on the rule of succession, as it affirmed the decision of its first division to proclaim Garbo as mayor, as he obtained the next highest number of votes in the last mayoral elections.

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