‘Reservation’, favored treatment for actors?

Posted on November 1, 2012


While hundreds of people lined up under the hot sun, actress Ruffa Gutierrez and her two siblings walked straight into the air-conditioned office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to register as voters of Cebu City.

Many asked: Are celebrities exempted from falling in line? Why should they enjoy favored treatment?

Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial supervisor Marco Lionel Castillano said the election office has no specific instructions on this.

“The Comelec didn’t formulate any guidelines on how to handle the queueing and management of the registration,” he said.

Ruffa Gutierrez registered as a voter of barangay Kamputhaw last Wednesday.

Yesterday it was her brothers Richard and Ritchie Paul turn to transfer their registration to Cebu City.

Accompanied by parents Annabelle Rama and Eddie Gutierrez, the two brothers arrived at the Comelec City office at 2:30 p.m and registered as voters of barangay Kamputhaw in Cebu City’s north district.


Annabelle Rama is running for Cebu City’s north district under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) ticket along with her cousin, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

Richard and Ritchie Paul joined their sister Ruffa and brother Elvis along with his girlfriend Alexa Uichico as voters in barangay Kamputhaw.

Richard Gutierrez’s celebrity girlfriend Sarah Lahbati and her mother Estrella Lahbati also registered as voters in Kamputhaw.

ABS-CBN and radio dyAB broadcaster Leo Lastimosa yesterday questioned Sarno on air about why Ruffa Gutierrez wasn’t asked to line up for the voter’s registration.

After her sons finished in the Comelec, a peeved Annabelle lashed out at Lastimosa for implying that they were given special privileges.

She accused Lastimosa of being “anti-Rama” and said the broadcaster should not involve her children.

“Don’t pick a fight with my children, I’m not afraid of you. If you fight my children, I’m not afraid to face you,” she said.

In response to the query about apparent favoriotism for celebrities, Sarno said the Gutierrez family had earlier arranged a reservation to file the actress’ application to be a registered voter of Cebu City.

“(If we ask Gutierrez to line up), do you think it will not create a commotion?,” Sarno said in a TV interview.

Meanwhile, Castillano said election officers like Sarno can determine what procedures are needed to ensure peace and order during the voter’s registration.

“We could not avoid the fact that there are still people who get star struck. If Ruffa was asked to fall in line, she may get harassed by fans,” he said.

Sarno said that under the law, anyone can register if he or she resides in the area six months prior to the elections.

In the case of the Gutierrezes and their friends, Sarno said they still have time to do it because the election is seven months away.

Castillano said election officers have the discretion on whether or not to accommodate celebrities ahead of other individuals who lined up for the voter’s registration.

“Sarno was transparent anyway. He was not hiding something. If he had biases, he should not have made his actuations in public,” he added.

Any complaint against Sarno will be addressed by the Comelec, Castillano said. “Let due process take its course,” he said.

Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol said the anti-graft office welcomes any complaint against Sarno.

“We will conduct an investigation should there be any complaint that will be filed before the office,” Apostol told Cebu Daily News.

While equal treatment among Filipinos is necessary, Apostol said there are exemptions to the rule.

“Each person should be treated equally. But there are exemptions due to practical reasons. If celebrities will be mandated to toe the line, there will be a commotion,” he said.

Lawyer Earl Bonachita, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter, said he could not think of any law violated by Sarno in accommodating Gutierrez and other celebrities during the voter’s registration.

“Although it’s generally on a first come, first served basis, I think the Comelec (officer) has the discretion on how to conduct the registration in an orderly manner,” Bonachita told Cebu Daily News.

“Hence, he could give priority to certain registrants if that could expedite the process and avoid disruptions. Maybe, he has foreseen that if Ruffa is made to join the line, fans might converge and disrupt the registration,” he added. /Ador Vincent Mayol and Jhunnex Napallacan

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