RTC takes action on mayor's case of 46 ballot boxes in Benguet town

>> Sunday, June 17, 2007

TUBA, Benguet – The Regional Trial Court’s Branch 63 has acquired jurisdiction of 46 contested ballot boxes from Tuba to determine who was elected mayor in the May 14 elections in the town.

The RTC is based in the capital town of La Trinidad .

Incumbent Vice Mayor Florencio Bentres, standard-bearer of the Lakas-CMD in Tuba, has been proclaimed mayor-elect by the municipal board of canvassers on May 16.

This was based on the results that showed Bentres garnering a total of 4,752 votes as against the 4,334 votes by his closest rival, Camp 3 punong barangay Ignacio Rivera, a stalwart of the Aksyong Demokratiko.

However, in a complaint field with the RTC here, Rivera protested the results and demanded for a recount and revision of the ballots from 46 controversial precincts, claiming alleged irregularities in the counting.

He said because of the alleged anomalies in the counting of votes, the “true will of the people of Tuba” has not been upheld in the political exercise.

The RTC granted Rivera’s prayer for the court to take custody of the ballot boxes even as it ordered Bentres to submit his manifestation regarding the complaint filed by Rivera.

In an order, Judge Benigno M. Galacgac directed the municipal treasurer of Tuba to turn over the 46 contested ballot boxes to the Tuba municipal police station whose members are to provide security for the transport of the ballot boxes to the court.

Rivera said during the casting and counting of the ballots, additional accomplished ballots had been reportedly added to the ballot boxes by one or the same person or persons, and this subsequently altered the results of the election.

The votes intended for other mayoralty candidates such as lawyer Nestor Baban and Fernando Aritao were added to the votes of Bentrez, Rivera alleged.

The mayor-elect has yet to submit his manifestation on the complaint filed by Rivera. With his reply, the court may settle the election dispute.

Rivera also claimed that there was rampant misreading, misappreciation, substitution and tampering of ballots that led to the eventual proclamation of Bentrez as the winning mayoralty candidate.

He said they were able to pursue “ill motives” because his watchers were ordered to stay out of the polling places.

He added his watchers were also made to accomplish tally sheets, thus preventing them from watching the reading and appreciation of the ballot cast.

Rivera’s lawyers expressed confidence that in a recount, the punong barangay would win by a comfortable margin over the proclaimed mayoralty bet.


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