THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) Second Division has declared Cebu Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. in default for failing to attend the preliminary conference of the election protest filed against him by defeated gubernatorial bet Glenn Anthony Soco.

Lucenito Tagle, Comelec Second Division presiding commissioner, said Sanchez or his lawyer failed show up at the preliminary conference last July 29 in Manila despite notices sent to him.

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Lawyer Coeli Fiel, one of the counsels for Soco, said with the Comelec’s order, Sanchez cannot participate in the proceedings, such as objecting to the ballots, nominating members of the revision committee, and filing pleadings.

“There will be no opportunity for them to employ dilatory tactics,” Fiel told Sun.Star Cebu.

“Bear in mind that the higher calling is to determine the true results of the elections. That is the real victory, isn’t it?” said Fiel.

Interviewed separately, Sanchez said they have not received any order from Comelec.

“There must be a manipulation. I just doubt there might be a misinformation,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez criticized the order, saying his lawyer received Soco’s manifestation with motion to set case for preliminary conference dated July 2.

Sanchez said they received a copy of the manifestation in Cebu City last July 13. The same manifestation was delivered to his residence in Tuburan, Cebu last July 15.

The Comelec order states Sanchez was notified on July 8 to attend the preliminary conference.

Sanchez said this couldn’t be possible since, as records of the Comelec would show, the manifestation was sent on July 8 yet, but his office received it only on July 13.

Sanchez called the Comelec’s order another “harassment” carried out by his political opponents.

In his one page order, Tagle said Soco’s lawyers – Fiel and George Erwin Garcia, were present during the preliminary conference last July 29 while Sanchez and his lawyer failed to attend.

Soco also attended the preliminary conference in Manila.

Garcia then moved to declare Sanchez in default for failing to attend the preliminary conference and file his preliminary conference brief.

Tagle also directed Soco to present his evidence. The poll official said the Comelec will issue a corresponding order for retrieval of the contested ballot boxes.

Soco filed an election protest against Sanchez, citing “errors” in the transmittal of the results from precinct level to the canvassing center.

Sanchez won a third straight term with a margin of 26,237 votes over Soco.