By Joey Natividad
SAN JOSE, Camarines Sur (BicolToday.com/12-may-12) – Showbiz celebrities Aga Muhlach and Charlene Gonzales face top uphill legal battle in their intentions to vote in this town, as legal moves for their disqualification as voters heat up, and and it may reach up to the Commission on Election national office in Manila.
The popular actor may even face perjury charges for “allegedly notifying the Election Registration Board (ERB), formed to hear his disqualification petition in San Jose, that they, the Muhlach couple, were out in the country when they did not show up in the April 16 hearing.”
This developed as the powerhouse legal team seeking to disqualify the Muhlach couple blocked the scheduled hearing on Friday (May 11) right after a new ERB was formed to hear the petition. Legal counsels of the petitioners requested on Monday (May 7) COMELEC Chair Sixto S. Brillantes to disqualify newly appointed ERB chair Perfecto V. Llanza, Jr.from hearing the petition against the Muhlach couple for alleged “ignorance of the proceedings, bias and prejudice against the petitioners, and partiality to the respondents.”
The hearing on the Muhlach couple stalled for 3 weeks after San Jose election officer Imelda Añonuevo, then as ERB chair inhibited herself, and the scheduled April 25 hearing was postponed after the ERB was dissolved despite the appearance of the Muhlachs that day.
Following normal procedures, the appointment of the chairman for a new ERB shall be decided by the COMELEC en banc, and not to be appointed by a higher officer.
Newly-appointed ERB chair Llanza, Presentacion town’s election officer, was designated on Friday (May 4) by Bicol Region Election Officer Romeo Fortes after ERB chair Añonuevo inhibited herself on April 25, in response to the motion to inhibit filed by the petitioner’s lawyers, and over reports of “alleged pressures from influential persons” which Añonuevo refused to elaborate.
Upon receiving the order from the Comelec regional office, Llanza on Saturday (May 5) personally served notices to petitioners and respondents regarding his new appointment order and about the newly formed ERB, and he issued an order to hear the petition on (May 11) Friday morning, with resolve to decide immediately over the pending disqualification petition.
On Monday (May 7), petitioners’ lawyer Roque Bello filed a motion to the COMELEC Chair to disqualify Llanza, through COMELEC executive director Jose M. Tolentino. The next day, Tuesday (May 8), COMELEC Manila sent Camarines Sur election supervisor Attorney Noriel Badiola a memo ordering Llanza not to conduct the ERB hearing on Friday. But, the memo did not specify that Llanza was relieved as ERB chair.
Bello’s actions were based on affidavits filed by petitioner former Mayor Gilmar “Maymay” Pacamarra and Ronnie Nitollano, who both claimed that they heard Llanza, while serving the notices, voicing out his fear that “cases will be filed against him by the Provincial Governor if he will not decide favorably for the Muhlachs.” It is common knowledge that the “provincial governor” being referred to by him is Camarines Sur Governor Lray Villafuerte.
On the move to file perjury case, Maymay Pacamarra, who is the leader among the petitioners, said they felt deceived by the Muhlachs, through their counsels, that the couple were out of the country during the scheduled April 16 hearing, but, in truth they were somewhere near Manila. The Muhlachs personal appearance in the hearing was mandatory, according to the petitioners.
The Muhlachs’ legal defense hangs on the constitutional right of a Filipino citizen to register and vote.
The stiff opposition against the Muhlachs’ plan to register and vote in San Jose is the on-going rumor that he will be running for Congress in 2013 against a well-entrenched traditional politician in Camarines Sur. So far, the actor has not declared publicly that he will run for Congressman, but the showbiz couple have been busy making public appearances in the rural areas accompanied by other politicians. [BicolToday.com]
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