Losing vice mayoralty candidate files election protest

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BAGUIO CITY  – A losing vice mayoralty candidate petitioned the Commission on election to give due course to his election protest by allowing the opening of the ballot boxes used in the May 13, 2019 mid-term elections, the revisions of the ballots for purposes of determining cast in favour of the aspirants for the said position following alleged massive fraud in the conduct of the political exercise.

In his 13-page election protest, Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) president and incumbent City Councilor Michael Lee Lawana claimed that should it turn out that he garnered more votes than Vice Mayor-elect and incumbent Councilor Faustino A. Olowan, the poll body should declare him as the rightful winner in the said elections pursuant to law.

Based on the statement of votes for the position of vice mayor of Baguio city, Olowan garnered a total of 40,224 votes while Lawana received a total of 24,142 votes.

Baguio city is composed of 128 barangays and has 230 clustered precincts with a registered voters of over 165,000.

Lawana is particularly contesting the results of the counting of votes in all clustered precincts as reflected in the statement of votes per precinct for the position of vice mayor.

“Numerous anomalies and irregularities marred the conduct of the elections, and more glaringly obvious were the multiple technical difficulties met by the vote counting machines during the course of the voting process,” Lawana stressed.

He questioned the results of the political exercise since there were a lot of questionable acts in the conduct of the elections that were overlooked and were not corrected by the responsible election officers at the time that the irregularities were taking place which have drastically altered the results of the electoral process.

According to him, fraud, irregularities and numerous illegal acts that were committed before, during and after the casting and counting of votes marred the election and as a result, the will of the electorate was not followed as the protestee and other persons who were proclaimed are not reportedly the lawful choice of the electorate.

Lawana claimed in the Baguio City National High School, there were people who blatantly violated election laws which most voters saw such as in the case of a poll watcher, Rubilyn Valdez, who saw a group of people inside the school where the polling place is located, giving out sample ballots for congressional candidate Nicasio Aliping and his slate.

Valdez tried to dissuade them from handing out sample ballots within the polling place but the person handing them out still insisted on continuing her unlawful acts, thus, she had an argument with the one doing the illegal act.

She also saw 3 women who were denied the right to vote by the members of the board of election inspectors because of their supposed childish appearance, thus, disenfranchising the voters who could have casted their votes in favour of the protestant.

In cluster 14 where residents of AZCKO casted their votes, a volunteer, Denia Fayangcao, saw a poll watcher of other candidates complain to their poll leader about the action of the teachers in the polling precinct wherein the teacher allegedly transferred the vote receipts from a blue Tupperware to a black container, which was supposed to be the proper container for the receipts. The transfer of the vote receipts was done by the teachers without informing or calling the attention of all the poll watchers assigned in the classroom and was not done in their presence, thus, there is no certainty whether the receipts of the actual votes cast were the actual receipts placed in the proper receptacles.

When the casting of votes started in cluster 14, all the vote receipts were placed inside a blue Tupperware instead of the standard issued black receptacle where voting receipts are supposed to be placed.

In Burnham Legarda, 342 people voted out of the registered 489 voters in the area and that the number of used ballots reportedly exceeded the actual votes that were cast and that the objections of the poll watchers fell on deaf ears.

Lawana claimed that there were also reports that there were some voters who voted for only 10 councilors but when the vote receipt came out of the VCM, there were already 12 names in it as could be attested by witnesses.

During the conduct of the elections, witnesses claimed that there was a person who handed out sample ballots to the voters of Asin elementary School and that the barangay officials of Asin who were not supposed to be in the polling place except to cast their votes were in the area assisting and helping out in the polling place campaigning for their own candidates.

Based on the protest, there were also some voters who voted for a candidate but to their surprise, another candidate’s name came out of their vote receipts.

Numerous allegations of fraud and irregularities supported by the testimonies of volunteers and watchers were attached to the election protest to support the veracity of the same to help the poll body decide on giving due course to the petition.

Lawana questioned the integrity of the ballots and the votes that were casted in the different polling centers considering the numerous anomalies such as the rampant vote buying, electioneering, the distribution of sample ballots in the polling places which are clear violations of the country’s election laws and that added to the same is the fact that some of the voting receipts have not completely reflected the will of the voters.

Worst, he sought the investigation of the instances where the used ballots exceeded the voters who actually voted in the different precincts.

Herald Express tried to get in touch with Olowan for his comment on the election protest but he refuses to take the calls on his mobile phone.