Negros Occidental mayoral bet, who lost by 48 votes, seeks recount
BACOLOD CITY – After losing by only 48 votes, a candidate seeking re-election as mayor of Isabela town in Negros Occidental filed an election protest against the winning candidate.
Mayor Joselito Malabor requested the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Bacolod City to conduct a recount of the votes in 37 clustered precincts of Isabela and to declare him the winning mayor if he should turn out to have received the most number of votes.
Malabor garnered 13,844 votes while his opponent, Dr. Irene Montilla, had 13,892 votes.
Sought for comment on the protest filed against him, Montilla said he believed that he won in the elections although by a slim margin.
“If Mayor Malabor wishes to petition for a recount, that is his right, but I’d like to think that our vote counting machines are both accurate and reliable. I urge him though to respect the voice of the people. The people have spoken. It is time to move on,” Montilla said.
In his election protest, Malabor asked the court to order the transfer of the ballot boxes in the contested precincts from the custody of the Isabela municipal treasurer to the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court.
Had the votes of his supporters been counted, Malabor said he would have easily won.
“There were voters who cast their votes for Malabor that were not reflected in their receipts, which must have attributed to the fact that his total number of votes and those of Montilla are far short of the total valid votes cast,” the petition said.
The petition also claimed that the SD cards delivered to the Comelec Provincial Office on May 16 from Isabela were only 46 and not 54, which was the total number used during the May 13 elections in the town.
Malabor’s lawyer Jose Max Ortiz said the margin of votes is very slim and it was possible that by simply reopening the ballot boxes of two or three precincts, they could already recover the entire 48 votes.
“We want to test the accuracy of the vote counting machines,” he said, adding that under Comelec rules, the petition should be resolved in 30 days.
Malabor said he originally filed his petition before the La Carlota City RTC, but the Supreme Court, in Administrative Order 07-2019, has designated special courts to hear, try, and decide election contests involving elective municipal officials.
Designated to handle election protests in Negros Occidental are Bacolod City RTC branches 42, 49, and 50, and Branch 59 in San Carlos City, as well as Dumaguete City RTC branches 33, 39, and 42 in Negros Oriental. (Editor: Leti Z. Boniol)
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