RTC affirms city court ruling junking election cases vs Albay solon, mayor

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Representative Fernando Gonzales (Albay, 3rd District)
Representative Fernando Gonzales (Albay, 3rd District)

LIGAO CITY (9-Nov-2012/PNA) – The Regional Trial Court (RTC) here affirmed the decision of the Ligao City Court dismissing the petition for exclusion from the voters’ list filed by former Ligao City Vice Mayor Stephen Bichara against Albay House Representative Fernando Gonzales (3rd District) and his wife, Ligao City Mayor Linda Gonzales.

Judge Edwin Ma-Alat of the RTC Branch 14 here upheld the decision earlier issued by Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) presided by Judge Aurora B. Parcia junking a petition on the two election cases filed by Bichara.

Ma-Alat, in an eight-page decision, denied for lack of merit the appeal made by Bichara while affirming the MTCC decision on October 8 this year dismissing the petition for the removal of the names of the Gonzaleses in the roster of voters in two voting precincts in Barangay Tuburan, this city.

Bichara, in his appeal to the RTC assailed the decision of the city court and declared that the court erred when it did not recognize the disqualification of Rep. Gonzales and his wife Linda.

He also said that the city court made a mistake when it refused to exclude the Gonzaleses from the book of voters despite the pieces of evidence presented.

The MTCC, in its decision, ruled that Bichara failed to present evidence to back up his petition.

Parcia said “the allegation of the petitioner could not hold water and his claim must be established and proven.”

In Bichara’s petition, he alleged that Rep. Gonzales is a Spanish national whose father Francisco Gonzales was a Spanish citizen, therefore an alien.

On the other hand, Mayor Gonzales was petitioned based on two grounds: first, for also being an alien because of her marriage to Rep. Gonzalez, second, her being a permanent resident in the United States of America.

Bichara also claimed that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc decision on July 23, 2010 declared Gonzales as an alien, consequently disqualifying him to be a candidate for congressman.

Rep. Gonzales in his answer denied the allegation, saying the petition has no basis and the jurisdictional issues presented by Bichara were already repealed.

He claimed that the Comelec resolution disqualifying him was a subject of a petition for certiorari prohibition and mandamus filed before the Supreme Court.

Gonzales said the issue unseating him in the Lower House is still in the House of Representative Electoral Tribunal (HRET).

Mayor Gonzales said the petition lodged against her also has no legal basis to prove that she is an American citizen.

The MTCC granted the motion for dismissal on the grounds that cited resolution of the Comelec en banc has already been annulled and set aside by the SC and still the subject of a Motion for Reconsideration.

Gonzales, a reelectionist on his second term for congressman in the 3rd district of Albay, is running under the banner of the ruling Liberal Party while his wife Linda, the incumbent city mayor, is in her last term.

Bichara is a brother of Rep. Al Francis Bichara of the 2nd district of Albay. A former city vice mayor, he run for the mayoral post but lost.

He has filed his candidacy for city mayor and will be pitted against Patty Gonzales Alsua, the incumbent vice Mayor. (PNA)

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