The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a status quo ante order temporarily preventing a Commission on Election order disqualifying Legazpi City, Albay Mayor Geraldine Rosal.
The SQA order effectively reinstated Rosal for the time being pending resolution of the petition before the high court and took back the proclamation of second placer Alfredo Garbin Jr. as city mayor.
Rosal defeated Garbin by a narrow margin of less than 1,000 votes in the May 2022 elections.
“The Supreme Court En Banc deemed it necessary and proper to issue a status quo ante order requiring the parties to observe the status quo prevailing before the issuance of the Comelec resolutions dated October 4, 2022 and May 4, 2023,” the SC said in a resolution.
The said Comelec resolutions disqualified Rosal as candidate for mayor of Legazpi City and directed the special city board of canvassers to proclaim Garbin Jr. as the duly elected mayor.
Comelec spokesperson and lawyer Rex Laudiangco confirmed the poll has received the SC ruling and that it will comply.
“Said compliance of Comelec with established processes guarantees all parties to the case the opportunity to avail of all legal remedies under our jurisdiction,” he said.
The Court en banc also required the Comelec, Garbin, Rosal, Joseph San Agustin Armogila, and Oscar Robert Cristobal to file their comments within a “non-extendible period of ten days from notice.”
Armogila, who was a candidate for city councilor in last year’s election, filed a petition seeking the disqualification of Rosal on the grounds of vote buying under Section 68 (A) of the Omnibus Election Code and violation of the prohibition on release, disbursement, and expenditure of public funds under the said law.
The case filed by Armogila stemmed from a Facebook post on March 31, 2022 about a Tricycle Driver’s Cash Assistance Payout, which coincided with the 45-day ban on the release of public funds.
The post thanked Rosal for the activity and tagged her as “Mayor Gie Rosal” even if she was not an incumbent mayor at the time.
At the time, the mayor of Legazpi City was Rosal’s husband, Noel.
The poll body held that “the cash assistance payout was an activity intended to induce the voters to vote for herein respondent likewise became more manifest with the display of election paraphernalia during the said event.”