Jalosjos’ candidacy in Zambo City faces uncertainty

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/22 October) – The status of the candidacy of former Zamboanga del Norte first district representative Romeo Jalosjos for mayor in this city is facing uncertainty.

This came about after Jalosjos, the mayoralty bet of the United National Alliance (UNA), failed in his first legal battle to have his name included in the permanent list of voters in this city.

In a 16-page decision handed down last Thursday, Municipal Trial Court (MTC)Branch 1 Judge Nancy Bantayanon-Cuaresma denied Jalosjos’ petition for inclusion in the permanent list of voters (Precinct No. 1465-A) for lack of merit.

Cuaresma’s decision came after Jalosjos filed a petition for inclusion in the permanent list of voters after the Election Registration Board (ERB) disapproved last August 31 his application to be a registered voter for the second electoral district.

Jalosjos applied for registration as voter last April 26, the day he announced his intention to run for mayor in this city.

He filed a motion for reconsideration before the ERB last September 4 “and the same was denied in its resolution dated September 27, 2012.”

The ERB’s action came after Deputy House Speaker and first district Rep. Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, and Jose Lobregat, Mayor Celso Lobregat’s younger brother, filed opposition to Jalosjos’ application for registration.

Salazar is the Liberal Party’s (LP) bet for mayor while the mayor’s brother, who chairs the locally organized Adelante Zamboanga Party (AZaP), is the second district congressional bet of the LP-Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino-AZap coalition.

Salazar and the mayor’s brother were named as the oppositors and the ERB as the respondent in the petition filed by Jalosjos before the MTC Branch 1.

District 2 election officer Joseph Ian Tria chairs the ERB with City Civil Registrar Atty. Alexander Eric Elias and City Schools Division Superintendent Pedro Melchor Natividad as members.

In his petition before the MTC Branch 1, Jalosjos said that he is a qualified to be a registered voter citing “any person who has been sentenced by final judgment to suffer imprisonment of not less than one year” shall automatically reacquire the right to vote upon expiration of five years after service of sentence.

He added that he completed his service of sentence on December 16, 2007 which is more than five years before the 2013 elections.

Jalosjos added he is still qualified to register as voter in the 2013 elections even assuming he completed his service of sentence on March 18, 2009, as alleged by the oppositors citing Section 40 of Republic Act 7160, Section 3, Article X of the Constitution and Section 65 of the Omnibus Election Code.

However, Cuaresma took into consideration the final judgment of the Supreme Court affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court Branch 62 of Makati City that found Jalosjos guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of statutory rape and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count and guilty beyond reasonable doubt of six counts of acts of lasciviousness.

She stressed that because of the conviction, Jalosjos suffers from the accessory penalty of absolute perpetual disqualification to register to vote as provided for in Section 41 of the Revised Penal Code that states “the penalties of reclusion perpetua and reclusion temporal shall carry with them xxx that of perpetual absolute disqualification which the offender shall suffer even though pardoned as to the principal penalty, unless the same shall have been expressly remitted in the pardon.”

In turning down the petition, Cuaresma cited that “although petitioner Jalosjos had already served the principal penalties imposed upon him as commuted by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to 16 years, three months and three days, he has not yet served the eight accessory penalties of perpetual absolute disqualification inherent in and deemed imposed on him together with the principal penalties of two counts of reclusion perpetua and six counts of imprisonment within the range of reclusion temporal which were not subject of commutation, much less of pardon by the President of the Philippines. A commutation of sentence of a convict does not fully absolve him from all effects and consequences of the judgment of conviction and does not have the effect of restoring his right to vote.”

“In the case at bar, Petitioner Romeo G. Jalosjos is not qualified to register as a voter and to vote. Consequently, he cannot be a candidate and cannot vote or be voted upon in any national or local elections until his perpetual absolute disqualification are expressly remitted and restored by pardon,” Cuaresma further said in her decision. (MindaNews)