Former Senator Francis Escudero who is running for governor of Sorsogon and three other local candidates are facing disqualification after a cause-oriented group filed a complaint with the Commission on Elections for alleged violation of election laws.
In its petition, the Bayan at Mamamayan group alleged that Escudero, who is the official candidate of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, donated P50,000 to the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Seminary for the use of its premises for a proclamation rally on March 31, 2019 or two days after the start of the 45-day campaign period for local candidates in violation of the Omnibus Election Code.
The three others were Escudero’s running mate Mayor Manuel Fortes, his mother Sorsogon First District Rep. Evelina Escudero, and NPC second district congressional candidate Ditas Ramos.
BM lead convenor Revor Lasay said the donation violated Section 104 of the Omnibus Election Code and constituted as prohibited under Comelec Resolution 10429.
Fr. Philippe A.B. Gallanosa of the diocese of Sorsogon admitted that OLPS received a rental payment from the NPC for the venue even as he pointed out that the diocese has no business permit to rent out its premises for public use.
“Since OPLS did not have any business permit, and necessarily had no official receipt to issue whatsoever for the use of its premises, it is, by simple reasoning, that, the amount given by [Senator Escudero] or the NPC to OLPS is a form of donation, which is a prohibited act pursuant to Comelec Resolution 10429 and election offense in violation of Sec. 104 of the Omnibus Election Code,” the petitioner said.
Lasay said that before the March 31 rally, he had written Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes requesting that the church withdraw any agreement it may have entered into with Escudero or NPC as the event would undermine church independence and non-partisanship in relation to an earlier directive from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, but the rally pushed through anyway.
The petitioner also called the attention of the Comelec in a letter dated March 27, claiming that the Sorsogon-Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting has been put into a compromising position because it allowed its members to be part of the political activity.
But Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Sunday had a political message of his own, urging the Catholic faithful to follow “leaders” who can strip off worldly possessions and power and be humble, as Jesus Christ did.
In his homily at the Manila Cathedral, Tagle said Palm Sunday was meant to commemorate the victorious entry of Jesus Christ to the city of Jerusalem a week before he was crucified.
He urged Catholics not to be fooled by other leaders who were haughty due to their power and wealth.
Meanwhile, as the month-long overseas absentee voting opened in 85 Philippine posts abroad, Senator Cynthia Villar reminded the almost two-million registered voters to exercise their right to vote.
“I urge our [countrymen] overseas to make sure their voices are heard and elect the persons that will continue to work for the protection and well-being of overseas Filipinos and their families,” said Villar, who is seeking a second term in the Senate.
Due to the significant contribution of overseas Filipino workers to the country’s economy, Villar said it is only right that they are given this chance to take part in the election of the country’s leaders and policymakers even if they are away.