Poll protest vs Negros Occidental mayor dismissed

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Moises Padilla Mayor Ella Garcia Yulo scored another victory after a Bacolod City court dismissed the electoral protest filed against her by her uncle, former mayor Magdaleno Peña.

In the 25-page decision dated August 22, Bacolod City Regional Trial Court Branch 49 Judge Edgar Tupas said the protest was “summarily dismissed, motu proprio for insufficiency in form and content.” 

Peña’s pending prayer to hold in abeyance the transfer of ballot boxes was “noted without action for being moot and academic,” the court said in its decision.

The court also ordered the clerk of court of La Carlota City Branch 63 to return Peña’s unused cash deposit amounting to P189,000 to him or his authorized representative.  

Yulo garnered 13,056 votes against Peña's 5,493 votes.

Peña earlier questioned the election result, claiming it was “manufactured, padded, fraudulent, altered, distorted, and illegal vote totals which are not reflective of the true results of voting and counting in the protested precincts.” 

Yulo, in her reply, asked the court to dismiss Peña’s petition for failing “to specifically detail the alleged acts or omissions complained of showing the electoral frauds, anomalies or irregularities in the protested precincts” and “for utter lack of merit and basis.”  

Counterclaim

Yulo asked the court to order Peña to pay her P1.2 million in damages and litigation expenses: P300,000 in moral damages, P300,000 in exemplary damages, P500,000 for attorney’s fees, and P100,000 in litigation expenses. 

Judge Tupas set the preliminary conference on Yulo’s counterclaim for damages on September 23.

Tupas was the fourth judge to handle the election protest against Yulo. The other judges  inhibited themselves.

The election protest was filed before the La Carlota City RTC, but the two judges inhibited from the case.  The case was then referred to Bago City RTC, whose judge also inhibited from the case. It was then raffled off to Tupas in Bacolod. 

In his decision, Tupas said that the alleged frauds, anomalies and irregularities in the 34 precincts are not electoral in nature and would not justify invocation of the remedy of an election protest.

“Assuming, for the sake of argument, that it is electoral in nature, and assuming that all registered voters therein voted for Peña, it would not alter the outcome of the election,” he said

“Their votes will still be insufficient to overcome Yulo’s presumptive lead...as she would have still won the election by a comfortable margin,” he said. 

'Baseless'

The judge also pointed out that the police report on violent incidents in the town was “not relevant” to the poll protest since it listed events that occurred some years or months prior to the May 13, 2019 election. The attached newspaper reports are inadmissible hearsay evidence, he added.

He also pointed out that the alleged overwhelming support by the registered voters in the municipality for a manual recount of the ballots has “no sanction in law” and cannot be logically substantiated. 

Yulo, when sought for a reaction, said she was happy that the election protest was dismissed. “The case is baseless, and the judge saw that,” she said.

Weeks before the May 13 election, Yulo survived an attempt on her life, but she lost her brother, Marc Garcia, and nephew, Councilor Michael Garcia, during the ambush on April 25. 

In July, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor also dismissed the murder complaint against her and two other officials due to insufficient evidence. They had been tagged in the killing of a political campaigner in 2016 . – Rappler.com