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Tension grips Cavite town over mayoral row

/ 09:14 PM November 30, 2011

IMUS, Cavite—Tension that could lead to bloodshed is gripping this town after a court recently ordered the incumbent mayor unseated and his closest rival in the 2010 elections installed in a ruling that also cast doubt on the accuracy of results of the country’s first fully automated elections that year.

Supporters of Mayor Homer Saquilayan held ground at the town hall, defying an order issued by Judge Cesar Mangrobang of the Imus Regional Trial Court last Monday to enforce his Nov. 15 ruling unseating Saquilayan and declaring his rival, Emmanuel Maliksi, as duly elected mayor.

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The Nov. 15 ruling said a manual recount of 25,036 votes from 53 precincts showed Maliksi, a former mayor and party mate of President Aquino in the Liberal Party, to be the real winner of the mayoral race.

Saquilayan, a member of the Nacionalista Party, had been declared winner in 2010 by 8,499 votes, which Maliksi protested through a petition that demanded a recount.

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The court nullified 8,387 ballots, which were found to have been shaded twice, as stray votes. It said Maliksi won by 665 votes.

Saquilayan, interviewed at his office, said he would run to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to stop the enforcement of Judge Mangrobang’s order.

He also filed administrative charges against Mangrobang. Saquilayan said the ballots were shaded after the counting of votes and ballot boxes were tampered with before the recount to show that there was cheating.

“This is a challenge to President Aquino’s vision of tuwid na daan (straight path) regardless of political affiliations,” he said.

At least 2,000 supporters took turns to keep vigil in the town hall that has been set up since the Nov. 15 ruling.

Placards supporting Saquilayan were all over the place, except for one spot, the office of Vice Mayor Armando Ilano, an ally of Maliksi.

Some employees, however, said it was business as usual at the town hall despite the tension. “We just follow orders from the bosses, whoever they will be,” said an employee. “Office transactions remain normal,” said another.

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Saquilayan is facing his third electoral protest as mayor of this town. He was twice removed from office in 2001 and in 2004 after the Comelec favored the petition of his former rival Oscar Jaro.

Maliksi is the son of former Cavite governor and now Imus lone district Rep. Erineo “Ayong” Maliksi. He was vice mayor in 2004 before he defeated Saquilayan in the 2007 mayoral elections.

The Maliksis and the Saquilayans are longtime political clans and are distant relatives.

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TAGS: Cavite, Conflict, Imus, Local authorities, Politics
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