Alvin pleads not guilty to election charges
Former Cebu City Mayor Alvin Garcia pleaded not guilty to charges of violating the Fair Elections Act when he ran campaign ads in a local daily that exceeded the legal limits during his reelection bid in 2004.
Garcia was arraigned before Judge Estela Alma Singco of the Regional Trial Court Branch 12 last Monday.
The pre-trial conference of the case is scheduled for Aug. 14.
The criminal complaint against Garcia was filed by his then-rival and eventual winner in the mayoral contest, Tomas Osmeña.
Osmeña’s complaint was based on the publication of a series of political advertisements in Sun.Star Cebu from April 26 to May 2, 2004.
Sun.Star Cebu is owned by the Garcia family.
The advertisements were titled: “Mayor sa Katawhan,” “It’s a No-contest,” “No To Tom Tax Osmeña,” and “Mayor Alvin Garcia.”
The half-page ad “Mayor sa Katawhan” was published four times on April 27 and 29 and May 1 and 2, 2004.
The ad “It’s a No Contest” ran daily or seven times from April 26 to May 2, 2004.
The “No to Tom Tax Osmeña” ad appeared thrice on April 28 and 29 and May 1, 2004; while the “Mayor Alvin Garcia” advertisement was published once.
The complaint said the newspaper ads appeared more than the frequency allowed by law and were not properly labeled as to the name and address of the party or candidate benefited by the ad.
Under Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Elections Act, print ads should not exceed one fourth page in a broad sheet, and half page in tabloids at a frequency of thrice a week per newspaper, magazine or other publication during the campaign period.
Garcia denied the accusations, saying the political ads were not for him alone but the entire slate of his party, Kugi Uswag Sugbo-Koalisyong Nagkakaisang Pilipino (Kusug-KNP) party, which had 20 local candidates and the presidential and vice presidential bids of Fernando Poe, Jr. and Loren Legarda.
He said that with 22 candidates entitled to advertisements thrice a week, the Kusug-KNP would have a total of 66 ads per week for all the Kusug-KNP candidates.
He also said these were really campaigns for the benefit of candidates of the Kusug-KNP Party and contained the pictures and names of the candidates with the correct names and addresses of the party or candidate as required by the law.
The Commission on Elections in Central Visayas (Comelec-7) first recommended to dismiss the complaint but the poll body en banc disagreed and found probable cause that Garcia had violated the law.
Garcia went to the Supreme Court (SC) to contest the Comelec’s ruling. But the High Court eventually ordered that the case against Garcia “be allowed to take its due course.”
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