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Coin-toss winner bows out to new mayor after recount

CITY OF CALAPAN—Salvador Py took over as mayor of San Teodoro in Oriental Mindoro on Tuesday, replacing Marvic Feraren, who was earlier proclaimed winner in a drawing of lots to break a tie between the two top candidates in the 2013 race.

Oriental Mindoro local government director Karl Caesar Rimando said Feraren, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, gave up his seat “peacefully” to Py, a member of the Nacionalista Party, in a simple turn-over rite before municipal department heads, Tuesday afternoon.

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Py, on Jan. 2, officially took his oath as mayor after a regional trial court (RTC) in Oriental Mindoro declared him winner in the 2013 elections “by a plurality of two votes.” The court also ordered Feraren to step down.

“They just shook hands and talked, with Feraren offering any help he could give Py [in running the town],” Rimando said in a phone interview Tuesday.

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‘Peculiar’ protest

It was the first time for Both Py and Feraren to run for the mayoral seat in 2013. Py is a businessman while Feraren is the brother of former San Teodoro Mayor Apollo Feraren, who won a seat as board member in the province’s first district.

Py’s counsel Rogelio Peig II said he considered this a “peculiar” election protest case, given that it started off with a coin toss, in which his client lost to Feraren.

The canvassing last May 13 gave both Py and Feraren 3,236 votes and they resorted to a coin toss, a form of “drawing lots,” to break the tie, which is allowed by the law, but so is the filing an election protest, Peig said.

Py’s camp filed an election protest on May 24 at the RTC Branch 40 on the grounds that the initial figure was not the final count as three ballots were “disenfranchised” by the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines. Py demanded a manual count of the three ballots.

The three ballots were earlier rejected by the PCOS machines because of the ink blotches on the paper. “But this did not mean the votes should not be counted anymore,” Peig argued in the election protest.

But as it turned out, two of the ballots, earlier rejected by the PCOS, were counted in favor of Py. The third one, although it went to Feraren, was ruled invalid by the court since the oval opposite the candidate’s name was encircled instead of shaded according to the automated election guidelines.

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RTC Judge Tomas Leynes on Sept. 16, 2013 declared Py the duly elected mayor but Feraren’s camp appealed the ruling that paved the way for a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO). The TRO lapsed in December prompting Py to file an urgent motion to be installed as mayor, which the court granted.

“Let it be clear that we do recognize the propriety of the coin toss. What if (the manual count) resulted in favor of Feraren? Then let him be declared winner by majority,” Peig said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Peig said the San Teodoro election case should not cast doubt on the accuracy of the automated election. As to the machine rejecting the three ballots, “we do acknowledge there could be technical (glitches) and the manual count is a remedy to this,” he said.

Automated shortcomings

Even before Tuesday’s turn over, Feraren had promised a “peaceful resolution” of the matter as he said he would “properly turn over” the position to Py. “For the sake of the friendship [between] our [deceased] parents,” he told the Inquirer earlier.

Asked to comment on the case, the Comelec officers in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) said they couldn’t comment much on case since it was the court which handled the case.

Comelec Region 4A (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) director Juanito Icaro, said the case should not reduce the public’s confidence on the automated elections.

“There are various technical reasons why the PCOS may reject a ballot. Even with the manual [voting], these things (glitches) happen,” he said.

He said that is a reason parties involved always have an option to file an election protest.

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