Richard Gomez: Latest LP bet to be axed by Comelec
By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Liberal Party (LP) may have been allowed to keep its celebrity endorsers but it lost one of its star candidates for a congressional seat in Leyte.
Actor Richard Gomez, who was sworn in as LP member in November last year, was disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from running in the fourth district of the province for lack of residency.
Gomez became the latest LP member to suffer defeat in the hands of the Comelec. Earlier, the poll body nullified the 2007 election victories of three governors who are LP members—Grace Padaca of Isabela, Eddie Panlilio of Pampanga and Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan.
Neric Acosta, an LP senatorial candidate, said the series of defeats that the party was suffering in the hands of the Comelec could be part of a tactic to derail the LP’s national campaign.
It makes it difficult for LP, he said, “because one way or another, it’s as if you are disabled in a certain way.”
In a resolution granting a petition to disqualify Gomez, the Comelec’s First Division ruled that the actor failed to present “sufficient proof” of his residency in Ormoc City in Leyte, his wife Lucy Torres’ hometown, or his ties to the city.
“The absence of such ties indicates his lack of intention to stay permanently in the locality,” the ruling said.
“Moreover, having no substantial ties to Ormoc City, it can hardly be expected from him to be cognizant and sensitive to the needs of the locality,” the Comelec said.
“This defeats the spirit of representation. This is the very evil which the residency requirement sought to avoid,” the poll body added.
The division said Gomez’s residence “remains to be Colgate Street, East Greenhills, Mandaluyong.”
The disqualification case was filed by Buenaventura Juntilla, a former barangay (village) chair in Ormoc.
Gomez said he was an Ormoc resident because he took part in religious activities, stood as sponsor in weddings and delivered speeches in various gatherings there.
He also pointed to his driver’s license, which listed Ormoc as his residence, as further proof that he has complied with the law’s residency requirement.
The division, however, said Gomez showed no intention of abandoning his Greenhills residence.
Being a registered voter in Leyte was not proof that Gomez was a resident of the place, it said.
Election laws require candidates to be residents of the area they are running in for at least a year before the elections.
Gomez, the Comelec said, “still maintains his substantial ties to Manila.”
“The respondent, up to the present, has material, practical, real and substantial reasons to stay in Manila,” it said.
The poll body said Gomez and his wife, Lucy, a TV host, both work in Metro Manila.
“While it is true that ownership of property is not an indication of domicile, it nevertheless strongly indicates the intention of the respondent not to abandon the said place,” it said.
LPs out, Arroyo allies in
The Comelec’s Second Division earlier unseated Governors Padaca, Panlilio and Mendoza and declared politicians allied with the Arroyo administration as the duly elected officials.
In Padaca’s case, it is Benjamin Dy Jr. of the Dy political clan and close ally of the administration.
In Pampanga, it was Lilia Pineda, wife of suspected “jueteng” financier Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda and close friend of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In Bulacan, it was former Gov. Roberto Pagdanganan, another close ally of Ms Arroyo.
Gomez’s rivals in the congressional race are Eufrocino Codilla of the administration coalition Lakas-Kampi-CMD and Silverio Tagolino, an independent.