BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The dismissal of the petition for exclusion in the voters list of Bacolod City by Bacolod Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 4 Judge Franciso Pando for lack of merit, which was filed against former Representative-turned mayoralty aspirant Alfredo Benitez, was re-affirmed by Regional Trial Court Judge Ana Celeste Bernad.
Bernad, in her 11-page decision, said “This court believes that the court a quo had committed no error in its findings and appreciation of the facts and evidence in this case”.
The decision of Judge Pando dated October 1 last year, dismissing the petition for exclusion filed against Benitez from the list of registered voters of Precinct Number 0629A in Brgy. Mandalagan, Bacolod City, was assailed by petitioners Hector Yula, Teodoro Abao and Jonah Tornea Abao, claiming that the Court a quo erred when it ruled that Benitez has established his domicile in Bacolod City, despite the overwhelming evidence being presented on the contrary.
Petitioners argue the decision of the lower court “contravenes existing laws and jurisprudence”, Thus appelants pray to the Court for the setting aside of the decision, and that “a new one be issued”, directing the Lower Court to exclude respondent-appelee from the permanent list of voters in Brgy, Mandalagan.
Benitez said he has proven by overwhelming and substantial evidence that “he is physically residing in Mountain View Subdivision in Brgy. Mandalagan, Bacolod City, that he intends to permanently resides thereat, and that he had abandoned his domicile in Victorias City,” court records show.
Bernad said “respondent Benitez has shown as well by evidence his intention to make Bacolod City his permanent residence, stressing also that he satisfactorily met the minimum residency requirement to become a voter of Brgy. Mandalagan in Bacolod City.”
“This Court is of the view that the Election Registration Board has correctly applied the pertinent provisions of the law governing the matter,” she added.
In view of the foregoing, the decision rendered by MCTC Branch 4 dated Oct.1, 2021, is hereby affirmed and the appeal ordered dismissed for “lack of merit,” Bernad also said.
After the finality of this decision, let the records of this case be remanded to the Court a quo, the judge said, in her decision dated February 7 this year.
Andrei Norman Saril, counsel of Benitez, yesterday said that the ERB, MTCC and RTC found out that his client has fully complied with the requirements on residency, stressing also that as of the date of May 9 elections, Benitez is a resident of Brgy. Mandalagan, Bacolod City, for one year and 11 months, from the date he applied his application to transfer his voting records.
Based on the law, Saril added that the RTC decision is “final and executory” and cannot even be subject to any motion for reconsideration.*