In Romblon, dead man casts vote
SAN FERNANDO, Romblon—A certain Beregaldo R. Romero has been dead for over a year now. Yet he was able to cast his vote and even affix his supposed thumbmark in last May’s elections, according to a copy of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) voters’ list.
In a 58-page election protest, Mayor Dindo Rios raised the case of Romero as among other election “irregularities” as grounds for the “revision and reappreciation of the ballots” cast for mayoral candidates here on May 13.
“This election protest is anchored on massive fraud and election irregularities, which vitiated the conduct of the election… and affected the legality thereof,” read a copy of Rios’ protest filed at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 81 in Romblon, Romblon, on May 23.
Rios, a member of the Liberal Party, lost his reelection bid to Salem Tansingco of the Nacionalista Party by a margin of 284 votes.
Attached to the protest was the sworn statement of Sammy Boy R. Bañares II, a grandson of the late Romero, who was also a poll watcher of Rios and a resident of Barangay Mabulo here.
In his statement written in Filipino, Bañares said he was surprised when his grandfather’s name was called out at precinct number 22, here, on Election Day.
“So I went to check the voters’ master list and saw that someone had voted for my grandfather. There was also a thumbmark affixed beside my grandfather’s name,” Bañares said.
Romero died in January 2012, according to his grandson.
In a phone interview on Sunday, Tansingco, quoting the municipal board of election inspectors (BEI), said Romero’s was a case of an “honest mistake” by the election officers.
He said a certain Bernaldo Romero, also from the village, by mistake had placed his thumbprint next to the dead man’s name instead of his.
Tansingco said the names of both Romeros could be on the same page of the voters’ list that was arranged in an alphabetical order.
Under the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996, the local civil registrar submits to the election officer a monthly certified list of persons, 18 years old and above, who had died. It is then the election officer’s duty to strike out the names of the deceased from the voters’ list of the town or city under his jurisdiction.
“But the problem is when, for instance, the person dies elsewhere and the death certificate is processed somewhere else,” lawyer Val Mendoza, Romlon election supervisor, said when asked to comment on the matter.
Mendoza said Romero’s death certificate could be proof to the allegation. But should the court find that someone else did vote in his place, “it would be very difficult then to trace to whom the vote went” and therefore from whom it would be stricken out, he said.
Tansingco garnered 5,637 votes while Rios got 5,353. Independent candidate Ricardo Aligo Jr. got 247 votes. According to Comelec records, the total number of actual votes was 11,694.
Aside from Romero’s vote, Rios also raised concern over the precinct count optical scan machines that malfunctioned during the election and instances when the BEI members “inserted their hands and even used sticks in fixing the machines.”
The RTC on June 13 ordered the board of canvassers to turn over the San Fernando ballots to Romblon town in time for the prehearing conference on the case set for today.