By Joey Natividad
SAN JOSE, Camarines Sur – The Comelec hearing to deny showbiz couple Aga Muhlach and Charlene Gonzales- Muhlach their applications as voters was postponed for Thursday, April 19, after the couple did not show up, while the petitioners’ legal counsels insisted that the Muhlachs must appear in person, and should not delegate their persons through their lawyers.
The Muhlachs did not show up during (April 16) Monday’s hearing of the Election Registration Board (ERB) at the Comelec office at San Jose, Camarines Sur. The hearing was in response to the joint petition submitted on April 2 by 14 persons asking the Comelec to deny the showbiz couple their applications for registration as voters in the town, claiming that “the couple were not residents of San Jose, and . . . that they were in the town for the first time, acting as sponsors of a mass- wedding of 216 couples in February.”
Representing the Muhlachs in the ERB hearing were Lawyers Elmer Guerzon and Maureen Morales who were accompanied by Rene Magtoto of the office of Camarines Sur Governor L-Ray Villafuerte. The legal counsels said the Muhlachs were out of the country, and cannot personally attend the hearing. But, Thursday (April 12) of last week, the Muhlachs were in Goa town, some 5 kilometers distance from San Jose, hosting their family reunion.
The petitioners’ counsel, Lawyer Juan Luis Carpio, insisted for the physical appearance of the Muhlach couple, claiming that “the most important requirement for a contested voter registrant is the physical presence of the respondent.”
Lawyer Carpio gave stressed that “to vote is a constitutional right, and that his sacred right must be defended by the particular individual if his right to vote is being questioned . . . and that the respondents (the Muhlachs) have no excuse from not attending this hearing if their rights are under question.”
Lawyer Cristina Castañeda, another legal counsel of the petitioners, demanded that the Muhlachs must present photocopies of their passports if they actually have been out of the country during the rescheduled second hearing for Thursday, The demand by Lawyer Castañeda was denied by ERB members Comelec election officer Imelda Añonuevo and Dr. Lourdes Paaño, who presided the hearing, en banc, with Alex Malate acting as secretary.
Earlier, before the formal start of the hearing, Comelec officer Añonuevo claimed that, since January until March, there are 700 new applicants for voters registration, and only the Muhlach couple were subjects for complaint.
The Muhlach lawyers have presented their arguments based on the basic constitutional rights of every Filipino to vote, but they were not discussed nor the petitioners’ arguments heard, owing to the failure of the couple to appear.
Another complainant, Maymay Pacamarra, later explained before the media right after the adjournment of the hearing, that he was not seeking for the disqualification of the Muhlach couple.
“We, the people of San Jose, want to know the real reason and the truth behind the Muhlachs plan to register here, when they are not true residents of the town, ” said Pacamarra, who was also former mayor of the town.
Pacamarra clarified that they are honored if the Muhlachs have sincere plans of residing in the town, since they are showbiz couple, and will help tourism in their place. But, he said he wants to know the legality for them registering here (in San Jose) as voters, and their actual intentions.
He denied having knowledge that the Muhlachs have a newly-acquired residence, still under construction according to reports, in the town. BicolToday.com
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