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COMELEC junks poll protest vs. Albee, Bing’s camp not yet furnished copy

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

The Commission on Elections 2nd Division has allegedly dismissed the election protest filed by former Bacolod City Mayor Evelio ‘Bing’ Leonardia against incumbent Mayor Alfredo Abelardo ‘Albee’ Benitez for being “improperly filed” and “insufficient in form and content.”

On May 20, Leonardia, through counsels Marcus Vaflor and Jireh Alimon lodged a post-proclamation protest before the Comelec central office in Manila, calling for a manual recount of all 450 clustered precincts and declare failure of elections because of massive vote buying and fake voters who were allowed to cast their ballots.

Leonardia, who garnered 107,447 votes, sought the nullification of the proclamation of Benitez, who won as mayor of Bacolod City with 171,893 votes.

Benitez sought the dismissal of complaints against him by Leonardia, stressing that the allegations and evidence were “false, misleading and imaginary, since they were unsubstantiated and self-serving.”

NO COPY, CANNOT COMMENT

The camp of former Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia declined to issue a statement for now in reaction to the alleged dismissal of the protest by the Second Division of the Commission on Elections.

“Our lawyers have yet to receive a copy of the alleged decision of the Second Division of the Comelec.  As such, we cannot comment yet on the reported decision being unaware of the reasons allegedly made by the Second Division.  Rest assured that our protest complied with all requirements of the Comelec and the law,” Dr. Chris Sorongon, spokesperson of Leonardia, said yesterday.

Sorongon said their camp will exhaust all available legal remedies to ensure justice will be done to the voters of Bacolod City.

“We are wondering though where the sources of these alleged documents are coming from. We are the real party in interest but our counsel has not been furnished one even if these said documents are already swirling in media outlets,” he said.

Sorongon, however, gave the assurance that Leonardia’s counsel will face the issues squarely at the proper time and forum.

THE DECISION

The Comelec decision being referred to is dated September 7 and signed by Presiding Commissioner Marlon Casquejo and Commissioner Rey Bulay.

It said “it bears stressing that the process of manual recount is not a toll intended to replace proof with suppositions or evidence with assumptions. Baseless and unsubstantiated protests remains impermissible in order to fully protect the true will of the electorate as truthfully reflected in the results of the elections.”

Though defeat in any elections is desolating for the losing candidate, an election protest must not be used as a vindication of a lost opportunity to serve the public, or worst, an unjustified assertion of wounded pride, the Comelec decision said.

Comelec noted that the protestant failed to specify and substantiate statements in the election protest that would distinctly show how and where the occurrences of fraud, vote buying and other irregularities were committed, it added.

In fact, not a single affidavit of witness was attached to the petition to substantiate the allegations, it further said.*

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