THE House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) has found basis to conduct a manual recount of all 269,261 votes cast for Cebu’s fifth district congressman during the May 13 polls.
The development came after former fifth district congressman Ramon “Red” Durano VI had asked for a manual recount of votes cast in the district and to void the proclamation of his opponent, incumbent Rep. Vincent Franco “Duke” Frasco (5th).
Durano filed the protest before the HRET on July 15, 2019, the last day for the filing of a protest before the body.
Frasco, on the other hand, filed his reply and counter-protest on Sept. 2, 2019.
The HRET is the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the members of the House of Representatives.
It is composed of nine members, three of whom are justices of the Supreme Court, while the remaining six are members of the House of Representatives.
In a Sept. 3, 2019 Precautionary Order signed by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, the HRET directed local election officers, city and municipal treasurers and other personnel to “[...] safeguard the integrity of the ballot boxes and their contents, list of voters with voting records, books of voters and other documents or paraphernalia used in the election, as well as data storage devices containing electronic data evidencing the conduct and results of elections in the contested precincts used during the May 2019 Elections, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Tribunal.”
The subject of the instant election protest and counter-protest are all the 462 clustered precincts that functioned in Danao City and in the towns of Borbon, Carmen, Catmon, Compostela, Liloan, Pilar, Poro, San Francisco, Sogod and Tudela during the May 13, 2019 elections.
“Considering that the instant election protest does not fall among any of those cases which may be summarily dismissed as provided for in Rule 23 of the 2015 Rules of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, the Tribunal orders the issuance of summons in this case,” a portion of the HRET notice signed by Tribunal Secretary Girlie
Durano’s counsel, election lawyer and former Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, said they are still waiting for an order from the HRET.
Waiting in line
“As soon as that (order) is issued, we will coordinate with the Comelec offices, city and municipal treasurer’s offices for the audit, retrieval and bringing of the paraphernalia to Manila. Once that’s done, we will also be in line since there are also several other protests filed before the HRET. Depending on the sequence, the HRET will also order the reviewal of 25 percent of the protested precincts,” Larrazabal said.
For Durano, while the congressional race may be over, the fight to serve the fifth district continues.
“Nine out of 11 mayors and officials are allied with me, including 90 percent of the 207 barangays in the district. In Camotes Islands alone, of the 40 elective posts in the four towns, we managed to sweep 39 positions during the 2019 elections. On June 30, 2019, I stepped down as the congressman but I took a different oath, not to an office but to a promise beholden to the people of our district: to fight for the truth and reinstate fairness by seeing this case through,” Durano said in a press statement.
Frasco was proclaimed fifth district representative on May 14, a day after the elections, disrupting the Duranos’ hold of the congressional seat since 1949.
Frasco, the son-in-law of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, defeated Durano by 35,609 votes. Frasco got 152,435 votes while Durano got 116,826.
The congressman, though, remains unfazed and welcomed the development.
“I agree with the HRET’s position. In fact, in my answer and counter-protest, I requested the HRET to conduct a manual count of all precincts in the fifth district and not just the five local government units protested by Durano. I believe that with a manual recount of all precincts in the fifth district, my lead of almost 36,000 will be much, much more,” Frasco said.
Among the matters raised by Durano’s camp in their electoral protest was the malfunctioning of several vote counting machines, which reportedly caused a delay of at least four hours in some areas.
There were also voters who reportedly voted for Durano, but the voter’s receipts allegedly did not reflect his name.