MANILA - The chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday said disqualified Laguna Governor ER Ejercito should already step down from office after his replacement, Ramil Hernandez, took his oath as the new governor.
Speaking to radio DZMM, Chairman Sixto Brillantes rejected Ejercito's claim that the latter was not given due process when he was accused of exceeding the cap on election spending in the 2013 polls.
"ER is saying he was not given due proces, which is not true. The complaint passed through the First Division, there was a hearing and when he lost, he filed a motion for reconsideration. [The Comelec en banc] heard it again before we made a decision," he said.
Edgar San Luis of the Liberal Party first filed the petition for disqualification against Ejercito, stating that Ejercito was allowed to spend only P4.5 million or P3 for each of the 1,525,522 voters in Laguna.
Comelec records showed Ejercito spent P23.5 million during the campaign, way beyond his authorized campaign limit of P4.5 million or P3 each for 1,525,522 voters.
Ejercito's camp denied the charges, saying that "strangers" paid for his TV advertisements.
Brillantes, however, said Ejercito's argument does not hold water.
"Yes, he didn't pay for it. It was a donation to him. However, the law on campaign finance does not mention the source of the money. What is being discussed here is how much was spent. If a donor donated P1 billion, can you spend that one billion? No. The limitation is still P4.5 million," he said.
"Yung binigay sa kanyang TV ads, he accepted it. He should have said: 'Give me P4.5 million and not P6 million.'"
Brillantes said at least one contract for Ejercito's political ads in ABS-CBN was worth P6 million, which already exceeded the spending cap.
The Comelec chief noted that Ejercito spent or received P23.5 million in political ads alone.
"Political ads pa lang yun. Hindi naman pwede na hindi siya mangampanya, mag gasolina, magpalabas ng campaign propaganda material," he said.
He also denied that the poll body is bent on throwing out members of the Estrada clan out of government positions.
He explained the Comelec earlier threw out a disqualification case filed by then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim against former President Joseph Estrada when the latter was running for mayor.
Lim later elevated the case to the Supreme Court.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
On Tuesday, Vice-Governor Hernandez took his oath as the new governor of Laguna, replacing Ejercito.
This is despite moves by Ejercito to barricade the provincial capitol to prevent Ejercito's removal.
Brillantes said the writ of execution implementing Ejercito's ouster and Hernandez's takeover has already been drafted and will be delivered to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) tomorrow. He said the DILG will then serve the writ to Ejercito.
The Comelec chief said Ejercito's refusal to accept the written order will not matter.
"It will not matter if he doesn't accept it because there is such as thing as substituted service. The one serving will just say he refused to accept and that is considered as serving," he said.
He also said Hernandez can stay in the vice-governor's office until Ejercito decides to leave. He said Hernandez will already be recognized as the governor once the writ is served.
"All other government agencies already recognize the new governor. We told the department heads that the military and the police, the Department of Finance and the provincial treasurer will already recognize Hernandez," he said.
"If ER wants to stay, he can but no one will recognize him anymore. Mapapahiya lang dahil wala nang susunod, hindi na pwedeng pipirma. If he signs, then there will be a case of usurpation of authority. Magiging tau-tauhan na lang siya dun," he added.