Tripartite DILG-COMELEC-SB Board Delays Resolution of SK Election Controversy

 By Adan Silangan

      In an attempt to delay resolution of a petition to deny due course to the candidacy of Annika Guelas in the recently concluded Sangguniang Kabataan elections, the Board of Election Supervisors (BES) which is mandated to supervise the said elections refused to act on the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Fernan Fruto (SK Chair of Barangay San Isidro who ran for SK Municipal Federation President against Guelas) saying the Board has been rendered functus officios after the lapse of three days following the SK Elections in December 6, 2007.

       The motion for reconsideration by Fruto asks the BES, composed of DILG municipal local government operations officer Rico Gaurino, COMELEC election officer Claire Salut and Sangguniang Bayan Secretary Augustus Leo Asuncion, to stop Annika Guelas from sitting as SK Federation President due to her misrepresentation that she is below 18 years old when she ran as SK Chair of her barangay in Barangay San Juan Bago, Bulan, Sorsogon. Fruto claimed the Board of Election Supervisors (BES) abused its authority when it ruled in favor of Guelas by giving more weight to Guelas’ photopied birth certificate in resolving the issue of her birth. Fruto appended to his Motion for Reconsideration a National Statistics Office (NSO) authenticated copy of Guelas’ certificate of live birth showing the latter to have been born on October 23, 1989 and not as she claimed to be on October 31, 1989.

      The Local Government Code of 1992 (Sec. 428, R. A. 7160) as amended provides that an elective sangguniang kabataan official must “at least be fifteen (15) years but not more than eighteen (18) years of age on the day of his election”.

      Annika Guelas misrepresented her true age in her certificate of candidacy filed with the COMELEC and claimed to be below eighteen years old. A day before the election on December 6, 2007, Fruto called the attention of the BES about Guelas’ misrepresentation, an act that, according to the Philippine Penal Code, constitute perjury a crime punishable by imprisonment and disqualification to hold public office.

       The BES, headed by Gaurino, ignored Fruto’s complaint and decided in favor of Guelas. The Board gave credence to Guelas’ photocopied certificate of live birth showing an altered date of birth. The day of Guelas’ birth was changed from October 23, 1989 to October 31, 1989, making it appear that Guelas is below 18 years old when the election was held in October 29, 2007.

      What Fruto can not understand is why did the Board rely on Guelas’ “photocopied” birth certificate?

       The office of the DILG and the Sangguniang Bayan is just a few steps away from the office of the Civil Registrar. A simple inquiry from that office would expeditiously resolve this issue by asking for the original copy of Guelas’ birth certificate and compare it from the photocopied certificate.

       But Gaurino et. al. chose not to find out the truth about the authenticity of Guelas’ age and would rather deny Fruto his right to occupy the seat of SK Federation President, a seat reserved only to the youth “less than 18 years of age on the day of his election”.

      Not content with their apparent partiality to Guelas, Gaurino, Salut and Asuncion, exacerbated Fruto’s plight by refusing to act on the latter’s motion for reconsideration on the erroneous but convenient contention that the Board’s authority “has ceased three days after the SK Elections on December 6, 2007” and that the BES has ceased as such on December 9, 2007.

      The triumvirate, obviously misapplied a provision in DILG’s memorandum circular governing the SK Elections which states that, “The BES shall decide all election controversies within three (3) days after the federation election” to mean as three days after the SK Elections the BES shall cease to exist as such. Taking their cue from this erroneous assumption Gaurino, Salut and Asuncion refused to perform their mandated function as “arbiter in all election controversies”. A simple appreciation of the DILG circular would show that the BES is mandated to resolve all election controversies within three days after the federation election, it did not say the BES’ life will last only three days after the SK federation election.

       Fruto was not surprised by the intentional delay the BES is causing his assumption to office. Guelas is an SK candidate with a known political backing by the De Castros who were reportedly moving “heaven and earth” to facilitate Guelas’ election, not only as SK Municipal Federation President, but as SK Provincial SK Federation President that will sit as ex officio member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

      A day before Gaurino informed Fruto of the BES’ refusal to resolve his motion for reconsideration, Fruto’s grandafather, Fernando Briones, received a phone call from Bulan Mayor Helen De Castro asking Briones to convince his grandson to withdraw his disqualification case against Guelas. The lady mayor reportedly informed Briones, in strong words, their special interest in having Guelas installed as SK Federation President. She even claimed to Briones that Guelas has the backing of the New People’s Army in the province and that she would like to see to it that they (De Castro’s) don’t win the ire of the rebel group. Briones, however, was quick to add that the lady mayor was only bluffing, in her “desperate attempt to convince me (Briones) to withdraw the disqualification case against Guelas”.

    (With a report from Luisito Panelo)