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Junk disqualification case, Matugas asks Comelec

Photo credit: Jun Lira
By Eugenio Lira, Jr.

SURIGAO CITY— First District Representative Francisco Matugas recently asked the Commission on Election (Comelec) to dismiss the Petition for Disqualification filed against him by a rival candidate for lack of cause of action and/or failure to state a cause of action, and for utter lack of merit.

The petition, which was filed by Gertrudes C. Saberon on February 22, 2013, specifically alleged that Matugas “is not qualified to be a candidate for Congressman because he has committed the heinous crime of PLUNDER defined and punishable under Republic Act No. 7080.”

Saberon used as evidence in her petition the September 13, 2012 decision of the Commission On Audit EN BANC which disallowed the use of Matugas’ PDAF as intelligence fund.

In an eight-page Answer with Prayer for Summary Dismissal, the lawmaker, through his lawyer Romulo Macalintal, told the poll body that Saberon’s allegation particularly paragraph 4, together with its sub-paragraphs: 1, 2, 3, 3-A, 4, 5, 6, and 7 were “false and misleading conclusion of fact and of law, the truth of the matter being that respondent did not commit plunder.”

“The facts, as alleged by petitioner, do not constitute any ground to disqualify respondent. Essentially, petitioner seeks to disqualify respondent on the ground that he allegedly committed plunder, as defined and penalized under R.A. 7080,” Macalintal observed.

“Respondent had never been found guilty of plunder by any court or tribunal. Likewise, he never committed, nor has he been adjudged guilty of committing any of the acts enumerated under the above-cited Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code,” Macalintal said in his pleading.

He said the Decision dated September 13, 2012 of the Commission On Audit EN BANC relied upon by petitioner Saberon as basis for respondent Matugas’ disqualification did not even relate to any plunder case against the latter for the same merely discussed the disallowance of the lawmaker’s alleged allocation of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for intelligence and anti-insurgency purposes. It did not also propose to make any finding as to respondent’s alleged liability for the commission of plunder.

“This is plainly logical since the COA does not have any jurisdiction to make such finding/ruling,” said Macalintal, adding that “respondent is, thus, puzzled on how said COA Decision serves as basis for his alleged commission of plunder.”

Considered as one of the country’s brilliant lawyers, Macalintal further said the disqualification case was prematurely filed and, therefore, dismissible for lack of cause of action.

“To disqualify a candidate for the commission of a crime, the law requires prior conviction by final judgment of a competent court or tribunal. Such requirement is lacking in this case as respondent has not been convicted of plunder. This is consistent with the constitutional presumption of innocence, which is guaranteed to every person accused of a crime,” Macalintal argued.

He cited the case of Romeo Jalosjos “who was allowed to run for, and serve as, Congressman despite the pendency of the rape case against him, and notwithstanding, the fact that he was under detention.”

“Thus, until and unless, respondent had been convicted by final judgment for committing the crime of plunder, he should be allowed to run for the position of Member of the House of Representatives for the 1st District of Surigao del Norte in the upcoming 13 May 2013 elections,” he argued.

In the said pleading, Macalintal questioned the truthfulness of the verification of Saberon’s Petition saying the same was defective as it was executed in Quezon City and notarized by a notary public whose notarial commission was only limited to the City of Manila.

He also raised serious doubt as it appeared the Petition was executed and signed on “22 February 2013” at “Dapa, Siargao, Surigao del Norte” and the jurat of the said verification indicated the petitioner as male, as evidenced by the use of the word “his” to refer to petitioner/affiant.

A conference on the said case is scheduled on April 10, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. at the Comelec Central Office in Manila. (JLira, Contributor)


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