TAKE TWO: Losing candidate again seeks nullification of rival’s election

By: Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – A defeated mayoralty bet in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental asked the Commission on Election (Comelec) to nullify the election of Mayor Salvador Escalante for allegedly hiding information  that he was found guilty of abuse of authority.

But Escalante’s lawyer Reggie Placido denied that there is such decision against his client.

Manuel Laurel Garganera III, who lost to Escalante in the May 13, 2019 elections cited the decision of the Court of Appeals on the case of a certain Leonilo B. Hulleza whom Escalante allegedly placed on floating status in 2009.

Garganera raised his concern in a letter to Atty. Maria Norina S. Tangaro-Casingal, Director IV of Comelec central office in Manila.  This is the second time he raised the issue after the Comelec dismissed his earlier petition.

Garganer furnished the media with copies of the CA decision in a press conference on June 17.

The decision reads “We find respondent (Salvador Escalante) guilty of abuse of authority in the performance of his function beyond contemplation of law by issuing the Floating Status Memorandum which amounted to the constructive dismissal of the petitioner. However the imposition of the appropriate penalty against the respondent is rendered moot and academic by the fact that respondent is no longer the Local Chief Executive of the City of Cadiz by reason of expiration of his term of office.”

Salvador was replaced by his brother Patrick as Cadiz City mayor when the CA decision was promulgated.

In the said case, Hulleza was reinstated as City Engineer Cadiz and was paid five years worth of representation and travel allowance which was reckoned from the time he was placed on floating status.

Garganera contended that Salvador Escalante issued the floating status memorandum and was found guilty of abuse of authority.

But the CA cannot impose sanctions on Salvador as he was no longer Cadiz City mayor when the decision was rendered in January  2012.

“The decision was appealed by Mayor Patrick Escalante (not Salvador Escalante) but was affirmed by the Supreme Court and it has long attained finality both for Patrick Escalante and Salvador Escalante,” Garganera said.

He added, “It is our submission that while the penalty for abuse of authority was not actually imposed on Mr. Salvador Escalante for the reason that he was no longer in office, his conviction remains.”

Garganera added that “accordingly, he committed falsification when, in his certificate of candidacy (CoC) for the 2019 elections, he deliberately withheld information that he was found guilty of abuse of authority in the said case.”

“Accordingly, we ask that his COC for the 2019 election be annulled and that his election to the position of City Mayor of Cadiz be nullified.”

The Comelec had earlier denied Garganera’s petition to nullify Salvador Escalante’s CoC for lack of basis.

“As borne by the documents you submitted, please be informed that this Department may not validly cancel the COC of Salvador Escalante Jr. for the reason that the attached notices and entry of judgment pertain to one Patrick Escalante, further, no mention was made therein as to the alleged perpetual disqualification from holding office of Salvador Escalante Jr.,” Tangaro-Casingal said in an earlier letter to Garganera.

On his part, Placido said the CA decision refers to the case of Hulleza, not to Escalante.

He added that the city government has implemented the CA decision by reinstating Hulleza.