String of disqualification cases filed vs Torres-Gomez, allies in Leyte

CEBU, Philippines – The Torres-Gomez clan and its political allies achieved their goal to dominate Leyte 4th District after their bets were victorious in the 2019 midterm polls, effectively ending the decades-long rule of the Codilla family

But over the past 9 years, their political careers have been repeatedly challenged by a series of disqualification cases.

Richard and Lucy

Coming out of the entertainment industry, actor Richard Gomez ran for a senatorial post in 2007 but failed to land in the top 12.

Three years later, Gomez and his actress wife Lucy Marie Torres Gomez set their sights on Leyte politics.

Richard filed his candidacy for the congressional post of Leyte’s 4th District in 2010. But his ambitions were again thwarted when former Ormoc barangay chair Buenaventura Juntilla filed a petition to disqualify him for failing to meet the residency requirement of at least one year before filing of candidacy.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) sustained the disqualification petition against Richard in February 2010. However, his wife Lucy had already filed a petition to substitute for him on December 14, 2009.

Although Lucy was declared winner with a staggering 101,250 votes and her substitution was considered by Comelec as “legal and valid,” she was asked by the Supreme Court (SC) to vacate the post less than two months before the 2013 midterm elections.

The SC order was the result of a quo warranto petition filed by Silverio Tagolino,  questioning the eligibility of Torres to run. The argument was, she could not substitute for a candidacy that was invalid to begin with.

Lucy reportedly described politics as “a game of the devils” in a press conference after her victory was arbitrarily ruled as null and void by the SC 

The couple ran again in 2013, this time for different local posts. Lucy gunned for the congressional post of the 4th district of Leyte, while Richard targeted the mayoralty of Ormoc City.

Lucy won, Richard lost again. 

Because her previous term was invalidated, Lucy's win in 2013 was effectively her first term. 

In the 2016 elections, the celebrity couple ran for the same local positions. Gomez claimed his first victory after 3 failed attempts, becoming the mayor of Ormoc City. Lucy reclaimed the 4th District of Leyte in the House of Representatives.

Three years later, petitioners Jeffrey Dubal and Noelcito Wagas, both residents of Ormoc City, filed a petition to disqualify Lucy from seeking reelection.

They claimed that her reelection bid violated the three-term rule under Article 6, Section 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. If reelected, the petitioners said, it would be Lucy's  fourth term as the representative of the Leyte district.

The Comelec Second Division, however, dismissed on April 24, 2019 the instant petition to disqualify because of two reasons.

First, the poll body said that the "instant petition was filed out of time" because it was beyond 25 days from the date she filed her certificate of candidacy, in violation of what was prescribed in section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code.

The second reason was that there was no violation of the three-term rule. The Comelec ruled Lucy was "neither duly elected nor did she fully serve her alleged 2010 to 2013 term."

The Torres-Gomez Allies

Shortly after Lucy survived her disqualification case, her allies in the district also experienced the same validity threat to their candidacies.

Pedrito Abapo attempted to cancel the candidacy of now Merida town mayor-elect Rolando Villasencio in November 2018. He said that Villasencio misrepresented that he was a resident and registered voter of Puerto Bello, Merida, Leyte.

The petitioner’s argument was later dismissed by the Comelec Second Division on April 25, 2019.

According to the Comelec, Villasencio did not commit material misrepresentation in his certificate of candidacy due to "lack of factual and legal merit."

Meanwhile, a Kananga town resident Donato Mendoza Jr filed yet another disqualification case against Lucy’s sister and now Leyte Board Member-elect Carmen Jean Torres-Rama on January 3, 2019. Mendoza also challenged the residency of Carmen. 

Again the Comelec junked the disqualification bid.  – Rappler.com 

*Photos: Carmen Jean Torres-Rama from her Instagram account; Richard Gomez and Lucy Torres Gomez by Joel Liporada; Rolando Villasencio from his Facebook page