Comelec junks Tiñga poll protest vs Lani Cayetano
After more than two years of hostilities among Taguig City’s political elite, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) ruled that Mayor Ma. Laarni Cayetano can keep her post.
In a resolution issued on Friday, the Comelec’s First Division junked the electoral protest filed by former Supreme Court Justice Dante Tiñga against Cayetano, who defeated him by a slim margin of 2,420 votes in the 2010 elections.
The Tiñga camp accused the poll body of bowing to “political pressure,” as it vowed to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.
The division headed by Commissioner Rene Sarmiento ruled that a recount conducted on the more than 200 ballots contested by Tiñga showed that the votes he earned were not enough to overcome Cayetano’s lead.
It noted that 20 percent of the ballots under protest failed to show any “substantial recovery” based on the decrypted results from the computerized polls, which showed that Tiñga only had 12,011 votes compared to Cayetano’s 12,497 votes.
“Protestant failed to convince the commission that there is any possibility of recovery that may reverse the results of the elections in Taguig. On this score, the commission finds no cogent reason to dig deeper into the protest. The dismissal, thereof, is imperative,” the resolution said.
According to Comelec rules on electoral protests, one must be able to prove in the first 20 percent of the total number of protested ballot boxes that it can materially affect the results of the election, before the body allows protest cases to proceed.
The division last month ordered the decryption of the 2010 poll results from Taguig after Cayetano’s camp repeatedly refused to turn the ballot boxes over to the election body for the recount.
But going ahead with the recount, the Comelec just used the picture image of the ballots instead of basing the count on the actual ballots.
“It is clear from the computation that even if the commission grants protestant all his claimed ballots, it would still not be enough to overcome the lead of protestee,” the resolution added.
“This goes without saying, therefore, that no reasonable recovery from the pilot precincts had been established by [Tiñga]. Consequently, there is no reason to proceed with the recount of the remaining precincts,” it said.
In a statement, the Tiñga camp said the dismissal of his election protest was “appalling as it was totally unjustified and unfair.”
“The resolution is based on the decryption of the purported compact flash cards (CFCs) of the 43 pilot precincts instead of the ballots which are the primary evidence of the votes,” said the former magistrate’s spokesperson, lawyer Rommel Tiñga.
“The process resorted to is unprecedented and violates Comelec’s own rules which provide that the ballot, not the CFCs, have to be examined and serve as basis for the resolution. (It) also betrays the poll body’s lack of will to perform its task and smacks of political accommodation.”
Rommel Tiñga recalled that the Comelec had issued 10 orders for the retrieval of the ballots “but never did it make a concrete move to implement its orders.”
“Then all of a sudden, it switched its attention to CFCs in a bid to bypass the ballots,” he said. “Apparently, the Comelec succumbed to political pressure.”
Cayetano is the wife of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who is seeking reelection next year under the Liberal Party coalition.
The lawyer cited a document issued by Comelec Commissioner Robert Christian Lim on Sept. 11, 2012, in which the latter disclosed the alleged pressure coming from a person “believed to be closely associated” with Malacañang as the main reason why he inhibited himself from the protest case.
“Lim stated that the person, whom he did not identify, called him about the election protest of Justice Tiñga against Cayetano, which then was pending before the First Division of which he is a member. According to Commissioner Lim, the person ‘relayed’ to him that Malacañang is averse to the retrieval of the ballot boxes containing the protested ballots,” Tiñga said, adding:
“Lim’s disclosure brings to mind the unsuccessful three-day retrieval operation that the Comelec ordered last February. It failed on the first day because of the barricades set up on the streets around City Hall. The Marine contingent which the Comelec had engaged to provide security support did not show up reportedly because of the intercession of a Malacañang official.”