AMID losing by more than 64,000 votes against his challenger, the camp of outgoing Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia has filed an electoral protest before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Central Office in Manila as they questioned the results of the recent polls in the city.

The protest was filed on May 20, 2022 by Leonardia's legal counsel lawyers Marcus Vaflor and Jireh Alimon. It was docketed as Election Protest Case No. 008-2022.

Dr. Chris Sorongon, spokesperson of Leonardia along with Vaflor and Alimon, in a press conference at the Planta Hotel in Bacolod City on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 said that they are seeking for the conduct manual recount of all 450 clustered precincts in the city.

He said they also asked the Comelec to declare failure of elections and conduct special polls in Bacolod City due to massive vote buying and fake voters being allowed to cast their votes that resulted in the mysterious and unbelievable outcome last May 9, 2022.

"Indeed, today marked another milestone in the political history of Bacolod City, as we unveil to you the first ever electoral protest in the 34 year political career of Mayor Bing – simply to know the truth and give hope to hundreds of thousands who consider the recently concluded May Bacolod local elections as mysterious and unbelievable," he added.

"The move of Leonardia to file a complaint was in response to the people's clamor (because) the people of Bacolod want to know the truth," Sorongon said.

Sorongon added that for most Bacolodnons, “the results were unbelievable as they pointed out the longest caravan ever mounted during our opening salvo, the mammoth crowd that mass-up during our miting de avance.”

He also said that the people of Bacolod City cited the huge turnout of crowds at Leoanardia's daily campaigns and handshaking sorties and caucuses, the survey results both done internally and conducted by independent institutions on top of the achievements of the current administration and a clear platform of government.

In the May 9, 2022 elections, Mayor-elect Alfredo "Albee" Benitez of Team Asenso secured 171,893 votes defeating Leonardia of Grupo Progreso (GP) who only obtained 107,447 votes.

The Comelec already declared Benitez, who is the former congressman of the Third District of Negros Occidental, the winning mayor of the highly-urbanized city on May 10, 2022.

The deadline to file an election protest was May 20, 2022.

Amid their new “political battle,” Sorongon expressed his gratitude to the Bacolodnons who stayed with GP during the “good and most challenging times.”

"Your love and support are highly appreciated. You have been a source of inspiration and strength for me all these years," he said.

For his part, Vaflor said the massive and rampant vote buying affected the results in all of the 61 barangays and 450 clustered precincts on the weekend leading to the elections and during May 9 balloting itself.

"That is why our client deemed it appropriate to file the necessary complaint to know the truth with the prayer that Comelec will conduct a manual recount and consequently declare failure of elections to pave the way for the holding of special polls," Alimon said.

The camp said they have enough evidence and witnesses and they are accommodating more witnesses everyday.

Massive vote buying and flying voters are just two of the many grounds they cited in the electoral protest. There are many other violations, they said.

“Vote buying happened on the weekends prior to the elections, in the morning just before elections, during the elections itself, and even afterwards as voters would show up to local headquarters and show their ink-stained fingers as proof that they had voted for Benitez,” Sorongon claimed, adding that “numerous fake voters were allowed to vote despite their information not matching those in the Election day Computerized Voters Lists.”

Vaflor stressed that they have to file an election protest because this is the proper remedy.

In an electoral protest, he said, usually the winning candidate gets to sit. However, that is not with the prejudice to the eventual results of the protest.

Benitez, in response, said the “baseless and frivolous complaint” filed by the incumbent mayor is another desperate move of one who refuses to accept the truth.

Benitez said the conduct of the 2022 elections was generally peaceful, credible and orderly.

No documented and concrete evidence has been shown to prove any irregularities at the voting precincts, the mayor-elect said.

“Such electoral protest is therefore an exercise of futility, and will surely be dismissed. The people of Bacolod have spoken and it is time to move on and buckle down to work,” he added.

For his part, reelected Councilor Al Victor Espino, who is under Team Asenso, said it's the right of the camp of Leonardia to file an electoral protest.

"That is a right accorded by the law, the Omnibus Election Code, so maybe they are taking the avenues to explain that kind of mandate given by the people of Bacolod to mayor-elect Benitez," he said.

Espino added: "They also have their reasons because for so long there's no candidate in the city that has experienced such a defeat, the way the candidate was beaten."

The Team Asenso councilor stressed that “the camp of Leonardia could not accept that they had been beaten” but they also understand it.

On the big numbers of supporters of GP during the rallies, Espino said that is a perception and their camp (Team Asenso) also have a big number of supporters shown at their rallies at the Paglaum Sports Complex.

"That is a matter of perception, that is from my point of view and that is from their point of view. But for their own peace of mind, then I encourage them to do what they are doing now," he said.

Amid the protest, the proclaimed candidates by the local Comelec can assume their post on June 30 this year, Espino stressed.

"We are thankful for the trust and support of the people of Bacolod. It's an indication that they accepted the plans and programs of mayor-elect Benitez for the city,” he said, adding that “rest assured that we will do all of our promises during the campaign.”