Tribunal releases records for Roxas poll protest

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 31 2012 11:14 AM | Updated as of Jan 31 2012 07:14 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has released records in the election protest of President Aquino's losing running mate Manuel "Mar" Roxas II against Vice President Jejomar Binay for resolution of three cases of local election protest in the 2010 polls.

Justices of the Supreme Court, convening as PET, have granted the request to the use of books of voters and records of votes in Danao City and Samboan municipality in Cebu and Pasacao town in Camarines Sur, which were among those the tribunal had took into custody from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), in resolving the protest and counter-protest in the 2010 vice presidential race.

In a four-page resolution released last Friday, the tribunal issued authority to the Comelec only for the resolution of recall petitions against Danao Mayor Ramon Durano Jr., Samboan Vice Mayor Rogelio Capa and Pasacao Councilor Nino Tayco.

The PET said the release of the records was "subject to the condition that the Comelec will safeguard the integrity of the subject documents."

The petition against Mayor Durano was filed in July last year by his brother, Vice Mayor Ramon Durano III, and 10 city councilors.

Danao City had a total of 63,670 voters, which means at least 12,734 signatures or 20 percent were required for the recall petition. The vice mayor's camp had submitted 28,902 signatures.

The recall petition against Vice Mayor Capa, on the other hand, stemmed from accusations of disloyalty in the One Cebu party of Gov. Gwen Garcia. Seven municipal councilors filed the recall petition and submitted a total of 5,129 signatures, or almost double the required number of signatures of voters.

Lastly, Councilor Tayco is also facing recall petition after initiating a similar move against their Mayor Asuncion Arceno.

Meanwhile, the PET has also issued a show cause order against the municipal treasurer of General Mariano Alvarez town in Cavite in connection to the ballot boxes that were damaged during typhoon "Pedring" last year.

"The Tribunal further resolved to direct Ms. Mary Ann Clariza to show cause why she should not be disciplinary dealt with or held in contempt for violating the Precautionary Protection Order issued by the Tribunal in her cavalier decision to place the 96 ballot boxes at the 3rd floor rooftop of the municipal building, covered with thick plastic sheets and three-fourth plywood with string tied around them," reads the order.

Clariza already reported to the PET that 76 of the total ballot boxes were damaged during onslaught of the typhoon in their town.

Long wait

But despite actions of the PET, an insider said the resolution of the Roxas vs. Binay case was not in any way imminent. The source cited previous electoral protests in presidential and vice presidential contests, which took several years before they were resolved.

In his protest filed in July 2010, Roxas alleged that election results used for Binay's proclamation did not reflect actual votes due to what he described as "anomalously high incidence" of null and misread votes in the certificates of canvass in all precincts nationwide, especially in his bailiwicks, Regions 6, 7 and Caraga.

Roxas believes that he should have won the election if only the Comelec counted the null votes, which supposedly largely belong to him and would have made him overtake the final 727,084-vote advantage of Binay.

But Binay, in his answer, said that his camp documented null votes in the automated polls and found that they were the lowest as compared to the 2004 and 2007 polls.

The Vice President, who won by a margin of 727,084 over Roxas, also argued that the results of the Comelec canvass were consistent to the surveys. They were even further affirmed by results of random manual audit conducted by election watchdogs, which were released just last week and showed 99.6 percent accuracy rate of the poll results.

The protestee also dismissed as "baseless" the allegations of Roxas that there were fraud, anomalies, irregularities and statistical improbabilities in certain clustered precincts in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

He said they should also be dismissed for failure to cite specific precincts and present convincing evidence.

Binay not only answered the protest against him, but also filed a counter-protest against Roxas.

He contested results in over 40,000 precincts in Regions 6, 7 and Caraga - the same regions raised by Roxas - due to irregularities including alleged use of illegal ballots and failure to use Comelec stamps.

The PET started hearing the protest and counter-protest in September 2010 when it designated retired SC justice Bernardo Pardo as hearing commissioner. It already took custody of the ballots used in the automated polls.

PET's last action on the case was in April last year when it ordered both camps to answer a bid to allow the Comelec to use 5,000 ballot boxes for the ARMM elections set this August.