Court junks manual recount petition of MKK supporters

THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 42 dismissed the manual recount or audit of the ballots cast in the May 9 elections in Bacolod City filed by supporters of Magbinuligay Kita sa Kauswagan (MKK).

City Legal Officer Joselito Bayatan received the order on Wednesday dated November 21, 2016 and signed by Judge Fernando Elumba.

The Pamilya MKK party was headed by former mayor Monico Puentevella, who lost to Mayor Evelio Leonardia in his reelection bid during the May 9 elections.

On May 30, petitioners Richard Calulut, Rufino Alcala, Rodelyn Jagunap, Lope Ledesma Jr., Levy Cadagat Jr., Rodolfo Robles Jr., Banni Macapodi, Nelson Reyes, Rosanna Ilon, Jose Jessie Bantigue, Madeline Diaz, Salvacion Penuela, Febe Legaspi, Joji Agbas, Emilia Lopez, Edgardo Emilia, Jessel Sombilla, and Stella Alfabeto filed the case against the City Board of Canvassers, which also included City Election Registrar Mavil Majarucon-Sia, and the City Treasurer of Bacolod.

Puentevella got 97,993 votes while Leonardia garnered 120,231 votes.

The six-page decision stated that the courts have no authority to pass on issues through advisory opinion or to resolve hypothetical or feigned problems.

Courts do not sit to adjudicate mere academic questions to satisfy scholarly interest, however intellectually challenging, the order added.

The order said there is no actual case or controversy exists in the case at bar.

Perusal of the petition shows the petition is seeking, among others to order respondents City Election Registrar and Board Canvassers of Bacolod City to do, allow or otherwise facilitate the manual recount or audit of the ballots cast in the last May 9, 2016 in all the clustered precincts in Bacolod City, it added.

The court further said the petition asked that “once having ordered the manual recount and manual audit as herein prayed for, to declare by way of an order, decision, resolution or otherwise the true and actual number of votes cast and totaled for all the local positions in Bacolod City.”

It added that the Solicitor General’s contention in the motion to dismiss that the petition is essentially for the annulment of election result is meritorious taking into consideration the prayer.

The Solicitor General maintains, which this court concurs, that the jurisdiction over actions for annulment of election result lies exclusively with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc, it further said.

The court also dismissed the petition-in-intervention filed by former councilors Homer Bais, Alex Paglumotan, and Catalino Alisbo along with Bong Dilag, Arnel Sigue, and Jocelyn Uychiat.

Bayatan said the court clearly stated that the Puentevella supporters are simply raising hypothetical problems or feigned problems and failed to raise a valid controversy or legally termed as justiciable controversy.

“In other words, no actual case or controversy ever existed in the complaint filed by Puentevella’s supporters,” he added.

The Comelec First Division had earlier dismissed the electoral protest filed by Puentevella against Leonardia.

Bayatan said there is a stark similarity between the Comelec election protest and the RTC complaint that they were both initiated without any legal basis at all, except to raise an unfounded speculation and high suspension in the election system that Puentevella himself had participated.
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