CAGAYAN DE ORO -- The camp of former mayor Vicente Emano has maintained that it was bereft of due process with the ruling of the poll body dismissing the electoral protest filed against incumbent Mayor Oscar Moreno.
Emano’s legal counsel, Francis Ku, said the dismissal issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) stemmed from their refusal to obey a Comelec order requiring them to transport the 41 ballot boxes to Manila for recounting.
“We want to emphasize that the protest was dismissed not because the counting favored Moreno, but because we refused to comply with the Comelec order to send the ballot boxes. Our position is – we have not been accorded with due process,” Ku said Thursday.
In its two-page order dated October 9, 2014, the Comelec’s First Division said: “The Commission (First Division) hereby resolves to dismiss the instant protest for protestant’s failure to comply with the lawful order set forth in this Division’s August 15, 2014 Order directing the protestant (Emano) to coordinate with the election officer of Cagayan de Oro City regarding the expenses for the delivery of the remaining  contested pilot precincts with the caveat that his failure to comply thereto shall cause the dismissal of his [protest] for lack of interest to prosecute his case.”
The order was signed by presiding Commissioner Lucenito Tagle and Commissioner Al Parreño.
Instead of affixing his signature, the panel’s third member, Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, however, wrote atop his name: “Inhibit. Counsel of protestee is former associate in law firm.”
Ku said they decided not to pursue the protest anymore since the Comelec did not give them the chance to bring out their evidence.
“We were not allowed to present evidence to the Comelec. It would be useless to spend a great amount [to bring] the remaining ballot boxes to prove our case,” he added.
Based on what they had observed from the 31 ballot boxes previously brought to the Comelec central office in Manila, Ku said there was a “Tuldok-Hawan operation,” the theory of their protest that took place during the 2013 elections.
“Tuldok,” he explained, means the voter shaded both the circles besides the name of Emano and another mayoralty candidate making it a stray vote.
“Hawan” means the voter has voted for all the Padayon Pilipino (Emano’s political party) candidates running for the city council, but left the space empty for the mayor.
In both these instances, Ku said these should be the ground for Comelec to credit the votes to Emano.
“Dili ma-credit kang [Emano] kay dili maklaro ang intention sa voter. [Those were] stray votes and not counted,” Ku said.
He added that had the Comelec allowed those votes to be credited to Emano, it would have made a difference in the result of the election. “That’s around 20,000 votes. It could have affected the result.”
Ku said the Comelec did not allow them to present their argument. “So what is the point of bringing the ballot boxes, and spending about half a million pesos for expenses, [to Manila]?”
But Moreno’s lawyer Mateo Delegencia refuted, saying the Comelec did not accede to Emano’s argument.
“Wala mosugot ang Comelec ana, kay di man na mao ang rules (The Comelec didn’t agree with it because it didn’t conform to the rules),” Delegencia said.
“Wala man sila motuman sa Comelec order, it means wala na silay gana nga mapadayon ang ilang protesta, kay tan-aw nila nga wala silay dag-anan gihapon (they didn’t follow the Comelec’s order, it means they were not interested to pursue the protest since they’re at disadvantaged),” he added.
Delegencia disagreed Emano’s camp was bereft of due process since their camp had the chance to lodge their protest before the Comelec.
Delegencia said that by giving Emano the chance to reply to Comelec’s order to transport the 41 ballot boxes, and the recounting previously of the 32 ballot boxes were part of due process.
“Just because their motion [to credit stray votes to Emano] was denied, moingon dayon sila nga denial of due process,” he added.
He said it would be futile for Emano to spend for the transport of the 41 ballot boxes for recounting when Comelec’s ruling would still be the same.
Contrary to Ku’s claims, Delegencia said even if the 41 ballot boxes were recounted, these would be insignificant on the result of the 2013 elections.
He added it would be better for Emano to prepare for the 2016 elections rather than push for the protest.
“We apologize to the supporters of [Emano] that we cannot continue with the protest, but it does not mean that our advocacy for clear election has not been successful,” Ku said.
“We hope that this experience will teach the Kagay-anons to vote wisely next time and to be careful, and that the people will appreciate our struggle for electoral reforms,” he added.
Ku said they are no longer interested in elevating their protest to the Supreme Court since the legal remedy that the higher court would issue is certiorari, which will take a long time. Add to this is the fact that it’s only a couple of months left before the next election.
When asked if Emano is planning on running for mayor in 2016, Ku said: “Wala pa ‘na sa iyang decision, wala pa ‘mi nag-istorya ana (He is yet to decide. We haven’t talked about it yet).”
City election officer Aleli Ramirez said Thursday she has not yet received a copy of the Comelec order, but confirmed that the 41 ballot boxes are still stored at the City Treasure’s Office. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro)