By Ferdinand Patinio

Former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has canceled the certificate of candidacy (COC) of former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. for the May 2022 national and local elections (NLE).

In a resolution dated April 30, the seven-man panel granted the Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioner Romeo Momo for false misrepresentation in the respondent’s COC.

The petitioner noted that Pichay Jr. has stated in his COC that he is eligible to run for public office even after being found guilty of grave misconduct by the Ombudsman in the decision of Tutol et al. vs. Pichay Jr. dated July 4, 2011, which carried an accessory penalty of disqualification to hold public office.

“The alleged false misrepresentation made by Prospero A. Pichay, Jr. in his COC was his act of deliberately answering “NO” to the question “(h)ave you ever been found liable for an offense which carries with it the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office, which has become final and executory?” the ruling said.

In granting the motion for reconsideration of Momo, the Comelec en banc ruled that based on Section 7, Rule III of Administrative Order 7, or Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman, as amended by AO 17 dated March 15, 2003 and Memorandum Circular 01, series of 2006, the Ombudsman decision is immediately executory and inclusive, which meant that the decision was to be strictly enforced and properly implemented even if an appeal, motion for reconsideration, or petition for review has been filed.

“Only a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or a Writ of Preliminary Injunction, duly issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, stays the immediate implementation of Ombudsman decisions,” it added.

At the same time, the resolution declared the votes garnered by Pichay as stray.

It also reversed and set aside the resolution of Comelec’s former First Division dated Feb. 15, 2022, which dismissed Momo’s petition seeking to deny due course or cancel the COC of Pichay.

The Comelec also cited the SC case of Cobarde-Gamallo vs. Escandor, which upheld the validity of the immediately executory nature of Ombudsman decisions, which states that Section 7, Rule III of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman.

The poll body said the high tribunal was categorical in providing that an appeal shall not stop the decision from being executory and that it shall be executed as a matter of course.

“The Comelec is duty-bound to implement the Decision of the Ombudsman and the law requires the execution and implementation of the Decision as a whole. As a constitutional body, the Comelec must henceforth execute Ombudsman Decision dated July 4, 2011 as a whole,” the poll body said.

On Nov. 11, 2021, the high court finally affirmed the perpetual disqualification ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman against Pichay Jr., which became final and executory on Aug. 17, 2022.

Meanwhile, the Comelec is set to conduct an investigation for possible filing of an election offense case against Pichay Jr. for his alleged commission of material misrepresentation in his COC in the 2022 polls. (PNA)