Court says boxing promoter is not a qualified voter of Cordova

Posted on October 3, 2012


A rented house in Cordova is not  a residence until one makes it a home.

On this basis, a Cebu judge yesterday shut the door on  boxing promoter Rex “Wakee” Ong Salud whose plan to run for mayor of  Cordova town was weakened by a second court ruling denying him  entry as a registered voter there.

Salud’s appeal on the decision was dismissed yesterday by Regional Trial Court Judge Raphael Yratorza Sr.  of Branch 28 of  Mandaue city.

“Modayon gyud mi karong Huwebes,” said a shocked Salud. (We will proceed on Thursday.)

Despite the legal setback  Salud said he would go ahead and file his certificate of candidacy (COC) along with members of his full slate tomorrow.

Reelectionist Mayor Adelino Sitoy said the boxing promoter risked going to jail for defying a court order.

In anticipation of the filing, Sitoy filed a manifestation in court to cite his rival in contempt of court along with Cordova Comelec registrar Arvin Maghanoy.

The election battle in Cordova, a fisherman’s town in Mactan island, has been heating up with the foray of a new challenger to Mayor  Sitoy, a lawyer and  political veteran.

Salud’s resources as a big-time boxing promoter, who prides himself in being a close friend of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, congressman of Sarangani, has placed Sitoy on the defensive.

Salud’s  reputed past as a gambling financier in the 1980s in the Visayas  has stoked speculaton that he would be prepared to spend heavily for an election.

Salud, who owns the RWS Stable in Labangon, Cebu City, leased the house of the barangay captain of Cogon in April 2012, and admitted “soemtimes residing in Cebu and sometimes in Cogon, Cordova.”  Such statements failed to convince the judge that Salud was a bonafide resident, and thus qualified to register in Cordova as a voter.

An earlier finding by the Municipal Circuit Trial Court in Consolacion also ruled against Salud, after an occular inspection of the rented  house showed a small  bedroom, a bed with no mattress, and an address that Salud himself had difficulty locating.


Salud yesterday said his line-up of Cordova candidates for the 2013 elections was ready.

His running mate will be Dr. Rowena Tongco, an incumbent councilor. The candidates for councilors are Dionson Tan, Manuel Pacaldo, Edwina Premacio (another incumbent municipal councilor), Dominador Aytona, Rene Bontol, Andres Dinoy, Manuel Biongcog and Cora Tumulak.

Salud said they will first go to church to hear Mass on Thursday morning before going to the Cordova Comelec office to file their COCs.

“Ang akong tuyo mao ra gyud ang kausaban ug kalamboan sa lungsod,” he said.  (My only purpose is to bring change and prosperity to the town.)

Salud admitted that he only slept over once in the rented house in Cordova, but would usually drop by at night and stay for a few hours.


Mayor Sitoy said the challenger could end up in jail for contempt of court if he goes ahead and files his COC.

“I must act ahead. Salud is a total stranger with a hidden agenda in Cordova,” said the mayor.

Cebu provincial election supervisor Marco Lionel Castillano, in an interview, said Salud’s COC will be received without comment because “the duty of the election officer is just ministerial.”

“We will have to refer the issue to our law department (in Manila). But in case no decision will be released until Friday, we have to accept it.” He said a petition for disqualification could still be filed against Salud for failing to meet a key requirement of a candidate, that one should be a registered voter in the place where he or she wants to serve.

Under the Constitution, the right to vote belongs to a citizen at least 18 years old who resided in the Philippines for at least one year, and in the place where he proposes to vote for at least six months before the election.

Castillano said Salud has until Oct. 31 to refile his application as  a registered voter of Cordova, since the Election Registration Board earlier disapproved it.

Mayor Sitoy, who is is seeking reelection in the Cordova town, filed his COC last Monday. His running mate is his daughter Mary Therese Sitoy-Cho.

When asked if he was  threatened by Salud’s mayoralty bid, Sitoy laughed and said “No, he (Salud) has no roots in Cordova.”

“Wakee Salud just doesn’t know that in Mactan, we killed the first invader. People in Mactan don’t  want anyone from outside. We’re very nationalistic,” he said.

The Comelec yesterday received a copy of the court’s latest decision.

Judge Yrastorza of RTC Branch 28 in Mandaue City affirmed the earlier ruling of Judge Jocelyn Uy-Po of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Consolacion and Cordova which earlier said  Salud was not qualified to be a voter of Cordova.

The RTC’s ruling is “final and executory” said Castillano.

The court said Salud failed to prove that he has been a resident of the municipality for six months.

Yrastorza invoked  a ruling of the Supreme Court which equates residence with “domicile”.

Domicile “imports not only an intention to reside in a fixed place but also personal presence in that place.”   It “denotes a fixed permanent residence to which, whenever absent for business, pleasure or some other reasons, one intends to return.”

To change domicile, one must show actual removal or an intention of abandoning one’s former place of residence and setting up a new one, said the court.

Salud first claimed he’s been a resident of Cogon, Cordova since June 2011 and that he visit his rented house once a week and sometimes once a onth.

An ocular inspection by the MTCC showed the rented house in barangay Cogon, Cordova town “does not possess any single personal effect” of Salud.

The bed there had no mattress sufficient to carry Salud’s weight and was in “a little boy’s room”. The out house “does not even have a proper door.”

During the ocular inspection, the judge said Salud could not even locate his residence. “It took more than an hour of going nowhere when the counsel of the respondents (Election Registration Board) volunteered to lead the way,” Po said.

Salud, whose statements were recorded, said that “I am undecided yet. That is why I am not residing here.”/ADOR VINCENT S. MAYOL with reports of Correspondent Fe Marie Dumaboc and Norman Mendoza



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