THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has dismissed the disqualification case filed against incumbent Governor Manuel Mamba of the Province of Cagayan that, in effect, reversed an earlier resolution of Comelec (Second Division) last December 2022 that ordered his disqualification over alleged election spending in connection with the May 9, 2022 national and local elections.
In a resolution dated and released on Monday, March 6, 2023, the Comelec en banc, in a unanimous resolution, found that the petition filed by Ma. Zarah Rose Lara was filed “after Mamba’s proclamation, hence, the Comelec has no authority or jurisdiction to hear and resolve the petition for disqualification.”
The Comelec en banc found that on May 10, 2022, Lara electronically filed her petition at around 6:21 p.m. Under Section 3, Rule 25 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure, a petition for disqualification “shall be filed any day after the last day of filing of the certificates of candidacy, but not later than the date of proclamation.”
Mamba was proclaimed by the board of canvassers of Cagayan as the winning governor “on May 11, 2022 at 1:39:54 a.m. (and) this proclamation effectively divested the Commission of any authority to hear and decide disqualification cases filed after the same. Thus, the Commission has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the subject petition as it was filed after (Mamba’s) proclamation,” the poll body said.
Since Lara’s petition was filed electronically or by e-mail, the Comelec said that it is governed by Section 5, Rule 2 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure that states, “emails received beyond 5:00 p.m. shall be considered filed at 8:00 a.m. of the next working day.”
Thus, applying Section 5, Rule 2 of the Comelec Rules, it “yields no other conclusion but that the petition was filed belatedly after (Mamba’s) proclamation. The petition (against Mamba), filed on 10 May 2022, at 18:21:41 GMT+8, is considered as filed at 8:00 a.m. of the next working day, i.e., 11 May 2022, 8:00 A.M., which is after the proclamation of (Mamba) on 11 May 2022 at 1:39:54 a.m., the Comelec added.
In dismissing Lara’s petition, the Comelec en banc also ruled that since the petition was filed after the May 9, 2022 election, any petition for disqualification after the election and proclamation of the winner “shall be dismissed as a disqualification case, but the complaint shall be referred for preliminary investigation to the Law Department of the Comelec,” the Comelec said, citing various cases with similar issue decided by the Supreme Court.
The Comelec explained that “the Commission’s authority to continue with cases involving petitions to disqualify candidates applies only to cases timely filed within the period set by law and before the proclamation of the winning candidate as provided under Section 6 of R. A. No. 6646. The clear intent of the law is to limit the authority of the Commission to hear disqualification cases filed before the proclamation of the candidate.”
Mamba was represented in the Comelec En Banc by election lawyers Romulo Macalintal, as lead counsel, and Antonio Carlos Bautista, Donnah Camitan, and Emilio Maranon III.