Supreme Court Orders Comelec to Reassess Disqualification Case Against Cagayan Governor

MANILA — The Supreme Court has overturned a decision by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which had rejected a disqualification petition against Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba filed before the 2022 elections. The court found that the Comelec committed a "grave abuse of discretion" and has remanded the case back to the Comelec en banc for proper review as of April 16.

According to Philippines News Agency, the case was elevated to its attention after the Comelec en banc overturned an initial decision by its Second Division, which had disqualified Governor Mamba based on substantial evidence that he violated Section 261(v) of the Omnibus Election Code. This section prohibits the unauthorized release, disbursement, or expenditure of public funds during the campaign period. The petitioner, Ma. Zarah Rose Lara, who also ran for governor, filed the petition on May 10, 2022, at 6:21 p.m., more than 24 hours after the elections had concluded.

The controversy arose when the Comelec en banc deemed Lara's petition filed the next business day, May 11, at 8 a.m., after Mamba was proclaimed the winner at 1:39 a.m. that day. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the petition was validly filed within the day of the proclamation, noting that disqualification petitions could be submitted at any time during the 24-hour period of the proclamation day, as per Article 13 of the Civil Code.

The court also emphasized the need for Comelec procedures to adapt to modern technological realities, recognizing that email submissions are not constrained by traditional office hours. The Supreme Court stated that the Comelec, with its significant resources, should be capable of accessing and processing filings made via email outside of regular office hours. This decision underscores the court's directive that procedural rules should align with substantive laws and adapt to technological advancements to ensure fairness and accessibility in electoral processes.