SC asked anew to issue status quo order to reinstate Noel Rosal as Albay governor

Supreme Court

Ousted Albay Gov. Noel E. Rosal reiterated his plea for the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a status quo ante order (SQAO) that would reinstate him to his post as chief executive of the province.

Legal quarters aid that a SQAO – “the state of affairs that preceded the onset of controversy” – can be issued by the SC while Rosal’s petition assailing the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is still pending resolution by the High Court.

Before the Comelec’s first division issued a resolution on Sept. 19, 2022 that disqualified him as a governor for alleged violation of Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) on the 45-day spending ban in the May 9, 2022 elections, Rosal was the sitting governor of Albay.

Rosal’s appeal before the Comelec en banc (full commission membership) was denied on Nov. 18, 2022. He then filed a petition with the SC which was denominated as GR No. 264125.

Thus, Rosal being the governor is “the current state of affairs,” while his disqualification and subsequent ouster “is the onset of controversy,” legal quarters said.

In his SC petition, Rosal said the Comelec deprived him of his “constitutional right to due process” after the poll body denied his motion to reset “hearing on the preliminary conference despite justifiable grounds.”

He also told the SC that the Comelec issued the disqualification ruling based on “mere allegations” and despite the failure of the complainant to “adduce evidence” that he had actually disbursed funds during a period specified by the Omnibus Election Code.

Thus, Rosal asked the SC to determine “grave abuse of discretion” on the part of the Comelec when the poll body issued the challenged decision and resolution.

In his motion for SQAO through lawyers Romulo Macalintal and Antonio Carlos Bautista, Rosal pleaded the SC to respect the manifest will of the electorate of Albay. Rosal got 469,481 votes as against his closest rival’s 238,746 votes or a commanding vote-lead of 230,735 votes, despite a pending disqualification petition during the election.

Rosal asked the SC “ to apply the very recent decision of the court in the disqualification case of the mayor of Agoo, La Union where the court resolved all doubts in favor of the manifest will of the people electing the latter as their mayor despite a pending disqualification case.”

He said: “Like the ousted Mayor of Agoo, La Union who was reinstated by the Supreme Court, I was decisively elected by the people of the Province of Albay as their Governor despite the pendency of a disqualification against me with a commanding 469,481 total votes. Hence, all doubts should likewise be resolved in favor of the manifest will of the people of Albay who elected me as their Governor.”

Rosal was referring to the very recent SC decision which upheld the election of Frank Ong Sibuma as municipal mayor of Agoo, La Union as it reversed two resolutions issued against him by the Comelec in May and June 2022.

In his motion, Rosal also argued that the Comelec failed to issue the appropriate Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRRs) to implement the provision of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) for which he was disqualified by the Comelec.

“There was no IRR issued by the Comelec which specifically explained the coverage of Section 261(v)(2) of the OEC as required by Section 52 of the OEC. Absent such IRRs, the said provision is unenforceable and cannot be the basis of my disqualification,” he said.

He cited a decision of the SC which ruled that the provisions of the OEC and related election laws can only be implemented and enforced if the corresponding IRRs have been issued by the Comelec.

At the same time, Rosal told the SC that “the Comelec already ruled that I did not commit vote buying under Section 68(a) of the OEC and the assistance given to tricycle drivers and senior citizens were amounts due them and not for the purpose of influencing or inducing them to vote for me.”

“Hence, it is grave abuse of discretion of the Comelec to still disqualify me despite such ruling of no vote-buying and no evidence that I committed acts to influence or induce the voters to vote for me under a new provision (Section 2t61(v)(2) of the OEC) where one element is that the release of public funds was intended to influence or induce the voters to vote for me,” he stressed.

In his plea for SQAO, Rosal asked the SC to allow him to reassume the position as Albay Governor, to direct the Department of Interior and Local Government to immediately reinstate him to said position, and to direct acting Governor Edcel Greco Lagman to peaceably relinquish the gubernatorial post to Rosal until further orders.

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