Tinga wants Comelec to cite Taguig mayor in contempt
MANILA, Philippines–Defeated Taguig mayoral candidate Dante Tiñga filed a petition to cite incumbent Mayor Ma. Laarni “Lani” Cayetano in contempt at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Tuesday for allegedly thwarting the poll body’s efforts to retrieve ballot boxes involved in his electoral protest.
This, despite the Cayetano camp’s denial that they ordered people to block the Comelec from entering the Taguig City Auditorium, where the boxes are kept and watched on 24 hours daily by watchers from the two sides.
Tiñga also filed at the Comelec Tuesday morning a motion to compel the immediate retrieval of the 43 disputed ballot boxes to be recounted.
In both pleadings, Tiñga claimed that Cayetano, who won by a slim margin of 2,420 votes in the 2010 mayoral elections, did not send a representative to oversee the first day of retrieval of ballots on Monday, while the city treasurer, who has custody over the ballots, also did not show up.
He also claimed that a barricade of buses, cars and other vehicles from the city government and the Southern Police District blocked the main road leading to the city hall, while “pedestrians were not allowed to enter the gates of the city hall unless for any other purpose aside from collecting and retrieving the ballot boxes.”
In a phone interview, Tiñga said that the Comelec team, led by Director Jubil Surmienda, were blocked when they tried to go into the city hall.
“I’ve been told that a number of men looking like goons at the city hall gate barred the Comelec from going into the city hall on Monday. That’s why their [Cayetano’s camp] claims that no one from the Comelec arrived is false,” he said.
He noted that Cayetano has on previous occasions used the same plan to thwart the recovery of ballots, noting that these were “clear acts of defiance and disobedience to this Honorable Commission which constitutes contempt.”
“This must be addressed. Proper sanctions must be made against the persons who show utter and grave disrespect to this Honorable Commission. No one is above the law,” the petition read.
He urged Cayetano and her administration to cooperate with the Comelec in the ballot retrieval process.
“The order is a lawful one which should be obeyed. We owe it to the people of Taguig to determine the result of the elections,” Tiñga said in the interview.
“We hope these filings will help the Comelec to finally implement the ballot retrieval immediately.”
Sought for comment, Darwin Icay, Taguig city government spokesperson, said Cayetano’s legal team will meet to discuss the options they have in the case.
“I will meet with the legal team to discuss our next move. We will pursue all the legal remedies available to us in the case,” he said in an interview.
Despite this, he reiterated that they did not order anyone to hinder the Comelec from getting the ballot boxes, denying Tiñga’s claims.
“There is no directive to any official or employee of the city government to prevent Comelec officials from retrieving the ballot boxes and defy the order of the poll body. There was no barricade against Comelec officials and as such, there is no basis to charge the camp of Mayor Lani of contempt,” Icay said.
In a Feb. 15 resolution, the Comelec First Division made up of Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Armando Velasco and Christian Robert Lim scheduled the recount of ballots from Feb. 20 to 23.
It also ordered the retrieval of 43 ballot boxes: 10 on Monday, another 10 on Tuesday, 11 on Wednesday and 12 on Thursday.