Former Eastern Samar Governor Lutgardo Barbo on Wednesday filed a disqualification case with the Commission on Elections against incumbent Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, who is running for governor of the province, and a cancellation of accreditation as party-list group against An Waray over its alleged violation of the Omnibus Election Code.
Barbo, the vice president for Visayas region of ruling party PDP-Laban, and Tingog Sinirangan party-list nominee Alexis Yu filed their 10-page petition at the Comelec headquarters in Intramuros, Manila.
They alleged that Evardone and An Waray had engaged in election-related offenses during the senior high school graduation ceremony at the Eastern Samar State University-Guiuan campus last April 2.
Evardone’s wife, Grace Evardone, is the second nominee of An Waray party-list. Despite earlier guidelines prohibiting political candidates from being invited to graduation ceremonies, Barbo said Evardone was allowed to address the audience, and a video presentation highlighting his accomplishments was allegedly shown during the distribution of diplomas.
Barbo, a lawyer and former Secretary-General of the Senate of the Philippines, said what Evardone and An Waray did during the event was “a disgraceful and repulsive act, which sends a twisted concept of moral values to the graduating students who are still in their tender age.”
“We filed this case because the future of our country is at stake here. These so-called leaders don’t deserve to be elected because not only they are morally bankrupt, but they are also brazen in violating the election laws even in the presence of the students and faculty members. My conscience will not allow this,” said Barbo, also a former president of the Philippine Normal University.
“Filing this case against Evardone and An Waray is the right thing to do," added Yu of Tingog.
"We will hold them accountable for the violations they have committed. People who have shameless disregard for law do not deserve to be in public office. This will also serve as a lesson to the youth and to the public that no one is above the law,” he added.
Barbo and Yu said they have gathered sufficient evidence and testimonies from different witnesses at the ESSU-Guiuan campus, which led them to file the charges.
In the petition, Barbo said that Evardone violated Sections 104 and 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code when he allegedly distributed white envelopes, each prominently marked with the name of Evardone and an Waray party-list, containing P200 to the students after the graduation rites.
The distribution happened, Barbo said, after the school principal, Zenaida Lacdo-o, allegedly instructed the class advisers to gather their students for the distribution of the envelopes. Section 104 states that “no candidate, his or her spouse or any relative within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, or his campaign manager, agent or representative shall, during the campaign period, on the day before and on the day of the election, directly or indirectly, make any donation, contribution or gift in cash or in kind, or undertake or contribute to the construction or repair of churches or chapels or any structure for public use or for the use of any religious or civic organization.”
Section 261 (a) on vote-buying and vote-selling also states: “(1) Any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private, or makes or offers to make an expenditure, directly or indirectly, or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, corporation, entity, or community in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate
or withhold his vote in the election, or to vote for or against any aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in a convention or similar selection process of a political party.
"(2) Any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any expenditure or promise of any office or employment, public or private, for any of the foregoing considerations.”
Barbo also said An Waray violated Sections 6 of the “The Party-List System Act,” or Republic Act No. 7941.
Titled “Refusal and/or Cancellation of Registration,” the section states that the Comelec "may, motu propio or upon verified complaint of any interested party, refuse or cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of any national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition on any of the following grounds: (2) It advocates violence or unlawful means to seek its goal; (5) It violatesor fails to comply with laws, rules or regulations relating to elections.”
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