The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has disqualified Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba for alleged violation of the spending ban during the May 9, 2022 elections.
Mamba viewed the disqualification order as “an injustice” to the Cagayan voters. “I did not buy a single vote to win. I have exceptions from the Comelec for the funds spent during the election ban,” he argued.
The Comelec Second Division upheld the allegation of defeated gubernatorial candidate Zarah Rose de Guzman Lara that Mamba committed widespread vote-buying purportedly using government-issued funds.
The poll body said while Lara failed to prove that Mamba engaged in vote-buying, there was “strong” evidence that he violated the 45-day ban on releasing public funds ahead of election day.
The Comelec also said it had exempted only one program of the local government from the ban, the “No Barangay Left Behind” or NBLB project, on the condition that funds used would be reported.
In its ruling, the Comelec said there was no proof that Mamba complied with this requirement, making it illegal for him to disburse the funds.
“Suffice it to say, failure to comply with the condition set by the Commission on the grant of exemption, nullifies the said exemption.
Briefly stated, in this case, it may be considered that the grant of exemption for the NBLB is nullified, and thus, the disbursement of funds therefor is illegal for want of authority from the Commission,” the division said.
The Comelec added it gave no “express exemption” for Mamba’s two other programs, the Oplan Tulong sa Barangay and Krusada Kontra Korapsyon.
It also pointed out that “it is all over the records of this case that” Mamba disbursed public funds during the prohibited period for the NBLB, No Town Left Behind, and Oplan Tulong sa Barangay programs.
He “did not deny that there were disbursements of funds for the said projects” of the province as published by the Cagayan Provincial Information Office (CIO), the Division added.
Mamba said the programs were not “massive vote-buying activities” and were part of his duties as governor.
The Comelec was not convinced by Mamba’s contention that the NBLB and NTLB were not new programs and were not initiated for campaign purposes.
“(It) is incumbent upon us to strictly implement the prohibition on the release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds not in accordance with existing laws, rules and regulations. Therefore, based on the evidence presented, Petitioner has overcome the burden of proof with substantial evidence to establish that Respondent violated Sec. 261 (v) (2) of the OEC (Omnibus Election Code),” the decision stated.
ABS-CBN News is seeking Mamba’s comment on the decision.
Mamba may file a motion for reconsideration within five days “which will be elevated to the Commission en banc,” said Comelec spokesman John Rex Laudiangco.
Mamba became the second governor to face a disqualification order after the May polls.
Last month, the Comelec ordered Albay Governor Noel Rosal to vacate his post over a similar violation of the election law.