PDP-Laban Visayas Vice President and former Eastern Samar Governor Lutgardo Barbo has filed a disqualification case and cancellation of accreditation as party-list against incumbent Eastern Samar Congressman and Eastern Samar gubernatorial candidate Ben Evardone and An Waray party-list over alleged violation of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC).
In a 10-page petition filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Intramuros, Manila, Barbo along with Tingog party-list nominee Alexis Yu alleged that Evardone and An Waray had engaged in election-related offenses during the senior high school graduation ceremony at the Eastern Samar State University (ESSU)-Guiuan campus last April 2. Evardone’s wife, Grace Evardone, is the second nominee of An Waray party-list.
Despite earlier guidelines prohibiting political candidates from being invited to graduation ceremonies, Evardone was allowed to address the audience and a video presentation highlighting his accomplishments was allegedly shown during the distribution of diplomas.
Barbo, a lawyer and former Secretary-General of the Senate of the Philippines, alleged that what Evardone and An Waray did during the event was “a disgraceful and repulsive act which sends a twisted concept of moral values to the graduating students who are still in their tender age.”
“We filed this case because the future of our country is at stake here. These so-called leaders don’t deserve to be elected because not only are they morally bankrupt, but they are also brazen in violating the election laws even in the presence of the students and faculty members. My conscience will not allow this,” said Barbo, who is also a former president of the Philippine Normal University.
“Filing this case against Evardone and An Waray is the right thing to do. We will hold them accountable for the violations they have committed. People who have shameless disregard for law do not deserve to be in public office. This will also serve as a lesson to the youth and to the public that no one is above the law,” added Yu.
The case was filed on April 17.
The petitioners said they have gathered sufficient evidence and testimonies from different witnesses at the ESSU-Guiuan campus which led them to file the charges.
In the petition, Barbo accused Evardone of violating Sections 104 and 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code when he allegedly distributed white envelopes, each prominently marked with the name of Evardone and An Waray party-list, reportedly containing P200 to the students after the graduation rites.
He said the purported distribution happened after the school principal, Zenaida Lacdo-o, allegedly instructed the class advisers to gather their students for the distribution of the envelopes.
Section 104 states that “no candidate, his or her spouse or any relative within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, or his campaign manager, agent or representative shall, during the campaign period, on the day before and on the day of the election, directly or indirectly, make any donation, contribution or gift in cash or in kind, or undertake or contribute to the construction or repair of churches or chapels or any structure for public use or for the use of any religious or civic organization”.
Section 261 (a) on “vote-buying and vote-selling” states: “(1) Any person who gives, offers or promises money or anything of value, gives or promises any office or employment, franchise or grant, public or private, or makes or offers to make an expenditure, directly or indirectly, or cause an expenditure to be made to any person, association, corporation, entity, or community in order to induce anyone or the public in general to vote for or against any candidate or withhold his vote in the election, or to vote for or against any aspirant for the nomination or choice of a candidate in a convention or similar selection process of a political party.
(2) Any person, association, corporation, group or community who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any expenditure or promise of any office or employment, public or private, for any of the foregoing considerations.”
Barbo added that An Waray allegedly violated Sections 6 of the “The Party-List System Act,” or Republic Act No. 7941.
Section 6 of R.A. 7941 on “Refusal and/or Cancellation of Registration” states that “COMELEC may, motu propio or upon verified complaint of any interested party, refuse or cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of any national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition on any of the following grounds: (2) It advocates violence or unlawful means to seek its goal; (5) It violates or fails to comply with laws, rules or regulations relating to elections.”