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Reporters flank congressman turned Gingoog vice mayor Peter Unabia in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, on Thursday. Unabia finds himself waging a legal battle over the legitimacy of his candidacy in Gingoog City following a ruling by the Commission on Elections that invalidated his certificate of candidacy because of a question on his residency. (photo by Lito Rulona)

Unabia combative: ‘I won’t be stopped’

By NITZ ARANCON, LITO RULONA with EDWIN IYO
Correspondents .

FORMER congressman Peter Unabia said he would assume as vice mayor of Gingoog City today amid questions on his residency and a Commission on Elections (Comelec) ruling that canceled his certificate of candidacy.

“Mo-assume ko. Daug ko. Walay makapugong nako,” said Unabia.

Unabia’s pronouncement came in the wake of former Gingoog councilor Miguel Paderanga’s submission of an opposition to the ex-congressman’s motion that asked the Comelec to reconsider and reverse its May decision that struck down the latter’s certificate of candidacy.

Paderanga submitted his written opposition to the Comelec’s first division on June 21. In his opposition, the ex-councilor asked that Unabia’s motion for reconsi-deration “be denied in the interest of law and substantial justice.”

Paderanga argued that Unabia’s motion should be denied because the former congressman did not give any new reason or refutation of the the accusation that he committed “material misrepresentation” in his certificate of candidacy for Gingoog vice mayor.

Paderanga has alleged that Unabia did not meet the minimum residency requirement set by law when he filed his candidacy papers. In his certificate, Unabia stated that he is a resident of Purok Duterte, Barangay San Luis, Gingoog  City.

The former councilor said Unabia has been a resident of Gingoog City for less than a year and therefore, disqualified to be a candidate in Misamis Oriental’s component city.

“The arguments in the motion for reconsideration are but a rehash of those alleged in respondent’s position paper or memorandum contesting petitioner’s claim that respondent knowingly committed material misrepresentation when he declared in his COC that he is a resident of Gingoog City,”  reads a part of Paderanga’s written opposition.

He called on the Comelec, as “quasi-judicial body” and “trier of facts” to apply the Omnibus Elections Code and implement the Local Government Code in his case against Unabia.

Unabia said he received the copy of the Comelec ruling two weeks ago or about a month after he won in the race for Gingoog’s vice mayoral post.

In his motion for reconsideration, Unabia presented as evidence water bills that would show he has been living in Gingoog at least 15 months before the elections. He also submitted a March 2018 electric bill.

He said the processing of a building permit for his Gingoog residence would show that he has been in the city for over a year.

“Wala ko’y nakita nga dunay conflict ani,” he said.

Unabia pointed out the the Comelec office in Gingoog accepted his certificate of candidacy.

“We don’t know kung ang Comelec-Gingoog naghatag ba sila og statement sa Comelec central office in Manila,” he said.

Unabia said the Comelec should consider that he won in the elections with 36,588 votes over former mayor Marie Guingona’s 29,533 or a margin of 7,055 votes.

“That is a huge margin nga dapat ila kanang i-consider. The people have spoken. I believe nga kung naka-botar pa tanan tawo sa Gingoog siguro maka-kuha ako og mga 10,000 plus nga labaw against sa Guingona,” he said.

Unabia said he would assume as vice mayor and perform the tasks that come with the office while waiting the decision of the Comelec on his motion for reconsideration.

Earlier, lawyer Joel Dexter Nagtalo, Gingoog’s elections officer, said it was his office that served the Comelec resolution that canceled the former congressman’s certificate of candidacy after it the election commissioners established that he has resided in San Luis, Gingoog for only 10 months, short of the minimum requirement.

Based on the law, a candidate for a local position should be a resident of a city where he is seeking an elective seat for at least one year.

In another interview last week, Nagtalo said that in case the Comelec decision becomes final, the next question would be on who would assume as Gingoog vice mayor.

He said that if the rule on succession is followed, then the mother of Gingoog Mayor Erick Cañosa, Evelyn, would become vice mayor. The elder Cañosa, a member of Unabia’s political party, topped the race for city council seats with 40,277 votes.

Another school of thought is that in case Unabia is disqualified, the qualified vice mayoral candidate with the most number of votes takes over. That candidate is ex-mayor Marie Guingona.

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