Comelec disqualifies Cagayan governor for violating spending ban

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CAGAYAN Governor Manuel N. Mamba, Sr. delivers a speech during an event at the provincial capitol in Dec. 2021. — CAGAYAN PIO

THE COMMISSION ON Elections (Comelec) has disqualified Cagayan Governor Manuel N. Mamba, Sr. from the May elections for disbursing funds for transport vehicles, cash assistance and scholarships during the spending ban period. 

“It’s all over the records of this case that respondent (Mr. Mamba) disbursed public funds during the prohibited period for the village programs,” according to the 18-page decision dated Dec. 14 penned by Election Commissioner Marlon S. Casquejo.  

The election body noted that the governor, who was running in May for a third term in office, did not deny the disbursements for the provincial government, but maintained they were not “massive vote buying activities.”  

Mr. Mamba did not immediately reply to a Facebook Messenger chat seeking comment.  

Under a Comelec resolution dated Dec. 16, 2021, government officials were barred from releasing or spending public funds from March 25 to May 8.   

Public officials must apply for exemptions from Comelec to proceed with a project during this period.  

The petition was filed by Zarah De Guzman Lara, who lost to Mr. Mamba in this year’s gubernatorial race. She argued that the governor committed vote-buying during the period in the guise of cash aid distribution.  

Mr. Mamba argued that he did not commit an election offense since the programs being implemented were ongoing non-infrastructure projects during his second term.  

Comelec ruled that he was not liable for vote-buying, but maintained that he violated the 45-day spending ban.  

The governor can still appeal the case before the Comelec en banc within five calendar days or bring his case to the Supreme Court, Comelec Spokesperson John Rex C. Laudiangco told reporters in a Viber message. — John Victor D. Ordoñez