CEBU CITY -- Election fever is back.

A group of Barangay Buot-Taup residents asked on Tuesday the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) to order the exclusion of 82 people from the barangay elections, virtually calling them flying voters.

The respondents, they said, do not live in the upland barangay but were able to register with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Cebu City Office as new voters for the village polls scheduled on Oct. 25.

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They accused barangay Captain Ritchie Sibla of “facilitating” the registration, saying he and his companions ferried them to the registration center in downtown Cebu City “by the truckloads” between Aug. 10 and 13. 

Sibla denied the allegation. He said he wondered why he is being accused of hauling people when he did not even visit Comelec during the registration period last month. 

He admitted there were some residents from nearby barangays in Talisay City who wanted to register in Cebu City and asked him if they can go with Buot-Taup residents to the Comelec to sign up.

The petitioners asked the MTCC to order that the Comelec “promptly exclude private respondents as duly registered voters of Barangay Buot-Taup” and “bar them from voting in the said barangay.”

The residents impleaded Comelec South District Supervisor Edwin Cadungog and the entire Election Registration Board (ERB).

In a statement last Aug. 16, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez asked the public to help identify flying voters, once the list of registrants was posted that day.

“If you see people who are not residents in your barangay, report to your election officer so they may be excluded from the list, if necessary,” he said.

Under Republic Act 8189 or the Voters Registration Act of 1996, any voter, candidate or political party representative may challenge, under oath, any application for registration.

The Buot-Taup residents argued that none of the “new voters” were listed in the barangay’s voters list for the polls last May 10.

And even if they claim that they began living in Buot-Taup only after the May elections, the residents said they are still disqualified from voting because of the Comelec’s six-month-residency rule.

In their registration, the new voters claimed residency in the Buot-Taup sitios of Pangpang, Taup and Lawod.

But Sibla clarified the aspiring voters went to the Comelec of their own free will and he never persuaded them to register in the city.

He said these persons told him they made a living selling in Cebu City and were required to present a voter’s affidavit.

Sibla believes the allegation is politically motivated and said that a potential opponent in the October elections, former Buot-Taup barangay captain Rosalita Callino, may be behind the complaint.

Callino, an ally of the Bando Osmena Pundok Kauswagan, couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time.

Cadungog of Comelec declined to comment on the case.

But he clarified the complainants should show proof to support their petition to exclude certain voters.

“Basta kami, igo ra nga motuman kon unsa’y imando sa korte (All we need to do is heed whatever the court orders),” Cadungog said. (KNR/ETB/Sun.Star Cebu)