THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has ordered the disqualification of Albay Governor Noel Rosal from the May 2022 national and local polls over violation of the Omnibus Election Code on the disbursement of public funds during the election period.The Comelec ruling stemmed from the petition filed by Joseph San Juan Armogila, who ran for councilor but lost in the recent elections against Rosal on the basis of the conduct of payout of cash assistance by the local government to the tricycle drivers and senior citizens in April.Rosal was then the mayor of Legazpi, Albay.The Comelec said the payout is covered by the social welfare and development activities under the Omnibus Election Code, which bans the release of public funds during the 45-day period before election day.The agency rejected Rosal’s defense that the distribution of the cash assistance is exempted from the prohibition since the activity is just a continuation of what has already been started since 2021.“Nowhere in the law does it state that a continuing social welfare and development project is excluded from the prohibition nor exempted thereof. As expressly stated above, the exemption from the prohibition applies only to ongoing public works commenced before the campaign period or similar projects under foreign agreements,” the resolution read.“All told, the conducted payout of cash assistance to the tricycle drivers and senior citizens within the forty-five-(45)-day ban is not an exempted activity and was not given an exemption by the Commission, hence, respondent violated Section 261 (v) of the OEC,” it added.In a television interview, Comelec chairman George Garcia said the ruling, however, is not yet final and executor, as it is still a subject for reconsideration.“Under the Comelec rules of procedure, the losing party has the right to file a motion for reconsideration within a period of five days from th receipt of such a decision,” he said.Garcia said Rosal should have sought for the Comelec’s permit to continue the payout of assistance just like what other local government units did.In a Facebook post, Rosal said he will continue with his functions as the provincial governor until the order reaches finality. (SunStar Philippines)