Fernandez appeals to SC

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — LAGUNA Rep. Dan Fernandez has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse a ruling by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) nullifying his election in May 2007.

In a 55-page decision, Fernandez also asked the High Court to issue temporary restraining order stopping the implementation of the HRET decision that ordered him to vacate his office over a residency requirement.

The lawmaker claimed that the HRET committed grave abuse of discretion when it “imposed unlawful additional qualification requirements to candidates seeking a congressional seat.”

In its decision last Dec. 16, the HRET favored the electoral complaint filed by Jesus Vicente who accused Fernandez of misrepresenting his certificate of candidacy in the election by claiming that he has been a resident of Villa Toledo Subd. in Sta. Rosa City since Feb. 2006 or over 14 months before the polls in 2007.

Vicente questioned why Fernandez was proclaimed congressman when the residences he filed in the past elections were in Pagsanjan and Cabuyao towns, which are both outside the first district.

The complainant continued that the actor-turned- politician only rented a house in Villa Toledo Subd. owned by Bienvenido Asuncion for the sake of his congressional bid and did not really have intention to abandon his residency in Pagsanjan.

The HRET gave weight to testimonies of three witnesses who said they have not seen Fernandez in any of homeowner’s association activities as basis in ruling that he was not a resident in the district.

But in his petition before the SC, the solon claimed that he did not violate any election rule — especially after the Commission on Elections had already accepted his candidacy.

He further argued that he was qualified to run as congressman of the first district since he has been paying his income taxes in the city since 2003 and also moved his residency and voter’s registration prior to the elections unquestioned.

“It does not matter whether (Fernandez) and his family actually reside in the said locality only in Feb. of 2006 because to reckon that prior to the May 14, 2007 national and elections, it is still very well within the one-year period prescribed by the Constitution for the contested position,” the petition read in part.

Voting 7-2, the HRET nullified the election of Fernandez as congressman of Laguna’s first district due to lack of residency.

The seven HRET officials who voted against Fernandez were SC Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, as chairman, and members Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, Rep. Mauricio Domogan of Baguio City, Rep. Fredenil Castro of Capiz, Rep. Roberto Cajes of Bohol, Rep. Solomon Chungalao of Ifugao and Rep. Florencio Miraflores of Aklan.

Fernandez, a former actor, won by 35,000 votes over his closest rival Neric Joaquin, son of former Rep. Uliran Joaquin of Laguna.