To lose his post?


Lack of residency petition prospers at HRET vs Cong. Amatong

By Cha Monforte

Compostela Valley District 2 Congressman Rommel “Bobong” Amatong may be removed from his post and be ordered to vacate his office if the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) will declare he is ineligible for his current congressional post for lack of residency.

The influential HRET, which can decide electoral protest cases, is now reportedly girding to decide on a quo warranto petition which is now threatening to dislodge Cong. Amatong from his present post following the latter’s alleged to failure to substantially negate a complainant’s affidavits, witnesses and evidences proving the congressman’s lack of residency in Nabunturan town.

This was aired yesterday in a phone interview with Nick Bryan Patalinghug, a resident of Pantukan and former community affairs officer during the administration of former Gov. Jose Caballero, who lost in the congressional bout with the Cong. Amatong by a margin of over 34,000 votes in the 2007 polls.

Patalinghug said he was optimistic the quo warranto petition he filed against the congressman in HRET Case No 07-002 would be acted favorably by the HRET on the grounds that Amatong failed to prove so far that he was an actual resident of Nabunturan town one year prior the date of the last elections.

He said that hearings on the merits on his petition have already been completed and he is now awaiting for other counter-affidavits and evidences on the residency claim of Amatong as recently required by HRET which Patalinghug said he would oppose anew before the House electoral body would decide the case.

Patalinghug said he has managed to have attachments and evidences in his quo warranto petition that have not been so far substantially negated and countered by Amatong who is defended by lawyer Charles Suelto, the current vice mayor of Maco town. Patalinghug is counseled by lawyer Gil dela Bando,

Patalinghug claimed that they were able to produce electric and water bills in the account of either the congressman or of his wife showing that they were residents of St. Anthony Subdivision along Mamay road in Davao City.

The complainant also told Sidlak they were able to secure a certification from the subdivision’s homeowners association noting of the congressman residence in the place.

Patalinghug’s witnesses who included Ramon Bandong, a Purok 2 resident in poblacion Nabunturan and also a former community affairs officer during Caballero’s administration, had also debunked Cong. Rommel’s residency claim that he is a resident of the neighboring Purok 3 in the same poblacion.

Cong. Amatong had reportedly also claimed he has an ice cream factory in Purok 13, which was also debunked by the purok chairman who is also a Patalinghug witness.

Nabunturan Mayor Macario Humol, serving a witness of Amatong, had reportedly vouched for the ice cream making business of Amatong with a mayor’s permit and had allegedly made another “perjurious” statement on oath that the congressman was born in Nabunturan when Amatong himself presented his birth certificate showing he was born in Davao City.

As this developed, Patalinghug was girding to step up his legal battle by entertaining to file perjury case against the witness mayor.

The Constitution mandates that no person shall be a member of the House of Representatives unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, on the day of the election, among others, is a registered voter in the district in which he shall be elected, and a resident there for not less than one year immediately preceding the election.

HRET, which is composed of three justices from the Supreme Court and six members from the House of Representatives, had in the past electoral protest cases during the 13th Congress removed several congressmen from office.

One of whom was the controversial and influential Mark Jimenez, also known as Mario Crespo, whom the HRET declared to have failed in proving that he had waived his status as permanent resident of the United States.

At the latest, the HRET heard Patalinghug’s petition before the end of last month after at least two hearing proceedings with witnesses on both parties and the submission of complaint affidavits and counter affidavits of the parties, reports said.

Amatong supporters earlier charged that Patalinghug has been actually standing in the proxy electoral protest war of the losing Caballero.

In a separate phone interview yesterday, the former governor said that the charge dragging his name is immaterial. “What is material in the case is whether (Bobong) Amatong can prove the constitutional requirement before the HRET that he is an actual resident of the Nabunturan one year prior the last election, and nothing else,” Caballero said.

Efforts to contact Amatong yesterday for comments proved futile. (Cha Monforte/Rural Urban News)


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