In Laguna, 2 Ejercitos on ballot stir confusion
SAN PEDRO CITY—When voters go to their election precincts in Laguna on Monday, they will find the names of two candidates surnamed Ejercito printed on the ballots, both vying for governor of the province.
The name of Emilio Ramon Ejercito, a former governor and United Nationalist Alliance candidate who is popularly known as “ER Ejercito,” appears on the bottom left-hand side of the ballot as the second of five candidates. But on the top right-hand side is another Ejercito, his son Jorge.
Jorge had already withdrawn his candidacy, but the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had not deleted his name from the official ballots, which were printed earlier.
This seems to present a problem for the Ejercitos’ camp, that votes for ER may go to Jorge instead.
During the final testing of the vote-counting machines in the province on Wednesday, where the Comelec tested 10 ballots per precinct, Jorge got eight votes against Ramil Hernandez of the Nacionalista Party, who received two votes in one precinct.
In another precinct, Jorge got seven votes, ER got three, while Hernandez had none.
Hernandez, the former vice governor who took over ER’s post after his ouster in 2014, is considered ER’s closest rival this election. The other candidates are Berlene Teodoro Alberto of Partido Bagong Maharlika and Nemesio Villarmia Sucano, an independent.
The Comelec has said votes cast for Jorge will be considered “stray.”
“That’s why we have to work double time in informing the public [about this situation]. We hope you [in the media] can help us in doing so,” said ER’s spokesperson, Gener Dimaranan.
Confusion created by the printed names on the ballots could cost ER 10 percent of the votes in Laguna, Dimaranan said. The province has 1.2 million voters.
In a telephone interview, Dimaranan said ER’s camp had decided to field Jorge in anticipation of a disqualification case that the former governor’s political rivals would file against him.
An actor-turned-politician, ER is facing a case over a purportedly anomalous contract with an insurance company when he was still mayor of Pagsanjan town in 2008.
“We just wanted to be sure [that someone from our camp would run for governor],” Dimaranan said.
ER’s camp waited for developments until Dec. 10 last year, the last day of substitution for candidates, when Jorge withdrew his certificate of candidacy (COC).
Jorge sent a letter to the Comelec’s law department, asking for the cancellation of his COC, but this was denied. “Under the rules, withdrawal of the COC must be done personally,” said Gloria Petalio, provincial election supervisor.
It was only in February when Jorge personally withdrew his COC, but the ballots had long been printed.
“Although ER Ejercito’s son lately applied for cancellation of his candidacy for governor, there was not enough time to delete his name from the already printed final, official ballot,” Petalio said.
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