COMELEC Dismisses Lizares’ Petition, Orders Manual Recount
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) First Division dismissed the motion to dismiss filed by Talisay City Mayor Neil Lizares III paving the way for a manual recount of the votes for mayor during the last May 9 elections.
In a 20-page decision dated Sept. 20, Commissioner Robert S. Lim and Luie Guia said that the claims of mayoral candidate Shiela Saratan of “wholesale vote buying through his [Lizares] leaders and cohorts in attempt to win the elections” and that the examination of ballots in the protested clustered precincts “will show that several ballots for [Lizares] should be voided for being marked ballots because they contain signatures or identifying marks, drawings or unnecessary words prepared bought voters to identify their ballots are specific enough to mean that the supposed irregularities occurred in all the clustered precincts being protested.”
Lim and Guia noted that the allegations of Saratan to contest all the 97 clustered precincts “due to irregularities in the operation of and / or due to the malfunctioning of Vote Counting Machine” was “specific enough in accordance with the rule.”
They pointed out that the obvious “simplest most expeditious and the best means to determine the truth or falsity of these allegations are to open the ballot boxes and examine the contents “in accordance with the provisions of the election laws.”
The Talisay Board of Canvassers proclaimed Lizares as the winner on May 10 after he got 28,440 votes over Saratan’s 21,119 votes.
Saratan filed the protest within the specified 10-day required by the poll body.
Negrense Commissioner Ma. Rowena Amelia Guanzon, a member of the division inhibited herself.
The order also directed the Clerk of the Division to make the appropriate coordination and request with the Presidential and Senate Electoral Tribunals on the temporary custody of the ballot boxes and recount of ballots and other documents and storage devises as protested precincts in Talisay and also subject of protests in the two tribunals.
The order also gave Lizares three days from receipt to comment or move for exception or correction.
The COMELEC also ordered Saratan to pay P291,000 for the expenses of the recount of ballots and other incidental expenses amounting to a rate of P3,000 per contested clustered precinct.
Saratan in a press conference yesterday in Bacolod City said that the decision of the poll body has “long been awaited by the people of Talisay.”
Her husband former Mayor Eric Saratan said that for them, “it is not about if Shiela can sit as city mayor but about letting the people know what really happened.”
“The order is the first step towards our goal,” he said.
Saratan’s lawyer, Stephen Vehemente claimed that the ballot boxes they are contesting is scattered all over the Talisay City Hall.*