SC finds elected Abra mayor a Filipino, junks poll protest


THE Supreme Court has upheld the election of Rovelyn Villamor as mayor of Lagangilang, Abra after establishing that she was able to reacquire her Filipino citizenship prior to her candidacy in 2019.

In a vote of 11-2, the Court granted the petition of Villamor assailing the two resolutions dated April 26, 2019 and November 27, 2019, issued by the Second Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Comelec En Banc, respectively, which granted the election protest filed by Antonio Bello Viernes, her only rival in the 2019 mayoralty race. The Court said that its resolution is “immediately executory.”

Viernes earlier filed before the Comelec a petition under Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) seeking the denial/cancellation of Villamor’s certificate of candidacy (COC) on the ground that she allegedly falsely claimed that she was eligible to run for mayor when she was reportedly a naturalized American citizen.

But the SC declared that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it ruled in favor of Viernes and disqualified Villamor from the post without any prior determination of whether or not she had intended to deceive or mislead the electorate.

The SC said the Comelec the poll body was unable to determine Villamor’s intent to deceive or mislead the electorate.

In fact, the SC stressed that Villamor never kept it from the public her status as a naturalized American citizen and the date when she renounced it.

This shows lack of bad faith on the part of the mayor, according to the SC.

The High Tribunal also found sufficient proof supporting Villamor’s claim that she had reestablished residence in the Philippines after her naturalization as an American citizen in 2009.

The Court noted that Villamor also acquired properties in Lagangilang Municipality, paid taxes and registered and voted in the May 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections; and that these were never used to question her residence qualification.

Aside from these, the High Tribunal concluded that she had complied with the 6-month minimum residency requirement for voters during the May 2018 elections; thus satisfied the 1-year residency requirement for a mayoralty candidate in 2019.

Villamor won the election with 5,879 votes against the 1,534 votes received by Viernes. She was proclaimed mayor of Lagangilang Municipality on May 14, 2019.

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