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Tawi-Tawi board bans judge over poll ruling

/ 05:26 AM November 07, 2020

ZAMBOANGA CITY—The provincial board of Tawi-Tawi declared a local court judge “persona non grata” over her recent decision on an election protest that cut a town mayor’s term short.

The judge dismissed the move by the local legislators as something done in “ignorance.”

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In a resolution, the board issued an order banning Judge Grace Tillah of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 26 in Sapa-Sapa town from entering commercial and public places.

It also discouraged hotels, resorts, restaurants and other public places from accepting her as a guest in their establishments.

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Delayed proceedings

In the resolution filed by board members Abduljamil Ishmael and Sabuddin Abdurahim, the provincial legislators said Tillah “[had] not been faithful in the exercise of her duties and functions.”

They said Tillah, who lives in Zamboanga City, reported for work irregularly and had not been conducting regular hearings in the RTC, resulting in postponements and delays in court proceedings, including the release of detainees and posting of bail bonds.

All these, they said, redounded to undue delay in the dispensation of justice.

‘Massive fraud’

But the resolution also underscored Tillah’s decision on an electoral protest filed against then Simunul Mayor Wasilah Abdurahman, who was later unseated and replaced by Benzar Tambut, who placed third in the balloting.

In a decision issued on Oct. 5, the judge nullified Abdurahman’s victory “on the grounds of massive fraud, anomalies and other electoral irregularities,” deducting more than 5,000 votes from the incumbent mayor’s tally and reducing it to 799.

It was less than Tambut’s revised count of 1,328. However, Tillah’s decision made no mention of the candidate who placed second, Pirza Bulante, who got 2,887 votes.

In declaring Tambut as the duly elected mayor of Simunul, the judge described him as “the winning candidate with the highest number of plurality of valid votes cast.”

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The Tawi-Tawi board members assailed the decision for being “unjust” and “a flagrant miscarriage of justice,” noting how Tillah’s ruling also raised tensions in Simunul.

Sought for comment on Friday, Tillah said the board resolution was “a disservice to the community” and borne out of “ignorance.”

Gov’t of laws, not men

“The executive and legislative branches should work in their own jurisdictions, only courts have the power to try and decide electoral protests, subject to an appeal process, including issuance of temporary restraining order. Ours is a government of laws and not of men,” she said.

“Just because a court decision is not to one’s liking is not license for the other branches of government to cast aspersion, hence eroding confidence in the judicial system,” Tillah said. “[Otherwise], people will just take the law into their own hands.”

“They who did not witness court proceedings arrogated unto themselves judicial power and sought the ouster of a judge who only followed the law,” she added.

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TAGS: Judge Tillah, mayoral race, poll protest, Tawi-Tawi
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