Gov’t exec pressured Comelec to rule vs Lucena mayor?

PNS –A ranking administration official was accused of influencing the Commission on Elections’ ruling on a poll protest involving a mayor in Quezon province.

The high government official allegedly tried to fix the case so that the poll body would rule against Lucena City Mayor Barbara Ruby Claudio-Talaga.

Claudio-Talaga, the official candidate of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, won against Philip Castillo of the Liberal Party by over 4,000 votes in the May 10 elections. She was declared as winner on May 13. Claudio-Talaga’s victory made Lucena City among the few opposition bailiwicks in the Calabarzon region after many of its officials joined the camp of President Benigno Aquino as soon as the polls were over

On May 17, the LP, through Castillo, asked the Comelec to nullify her proclamation despite the poll body’s resolution which found her candidacy valid.

The protest was primarily anchored on Talaga’s being a substitute candidate for her husband, Mayor Ramon Talaga. The LP said Ramon was the official candidate of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

The mayor decided to substitute his wife as candidate five days before the elections after the Comelec ruled that he has completed his third and final term, hence is no longer qualified to run.

The substitution was in compliance with the rules prescribed under the Omnibus Election Code.

Castillo’s protest is pending at the Comelec’s Second Division chaired by Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer.

Vice mayor Roderick “Dondon” Alcala filed a motion for intervention so he can assume the post of mayor in case the poll body issued a ruling unfavorable to Mrs. Talaga.

The vice mayor is a nephew of Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala.

Sources privy to the controversy said that sometime last month and in exchange for a huge sum of money, the ranking government official visited the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila in an effort to “influence” the poll commissioners to disqualify Mrs. Talaga.

Ferrer however said no one from the executive department approached him in relation to the poll protest.

“In fairness, I have not received any call, any visit, from anybody regarding the case,” Ferrer said.

The other division members, Commissioner Elias Yusoph and Commisioner Lucenito Tagle, were not available for comment.

Sources said Yusoph, a Muslim, the alleged ponencia of the decision, is still in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the observance of Ramadan.

Although the internal rules of the Comelec prevented Ferrer from giving details of the case, he confirmed that the division has finished deliberating the merit of the protest.

“I cannot tell you (more) details nor give the name of the ponente except to say that yes, the voting was 2-1, and the (final) draft of the resolution is now pending with the commissioner who dissented from the majority opinion,” Ferrer said.