Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Arroyo lawyer: Padaca victim of Comelec clique

By Christian V. Esguerra, Villamor Visaya Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer Northern Luzon
First Posted 03:22:00 12/10/2009

Filed Under: Inquirer Politics, Elections

Original Story:

MANILA, Philippines—Embattled Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca Wednesday found an unlikely ally in the election lawyer of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her effort to keep her post.

Romulo Macalintal lambasted the Commission on Elections’ Second Division for ousting Padaca on Tuesday in favor of former Gov. Benjamin Dy, saying the decision was “scandalous” and “a shame.”

Macalintal said Padaca was victimized by a “syndicate” in the Comelec that purportedly nullified the election of certain candidates based on allegedly manufactured votes.

“What they did to Padaca was too much. That decision cannot be tolerated. I hope the Comelec will not issue an execution on this kind of decision,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Unless the Padaca case was corrected, Macalintal expressed doubt whether the Comelec could run clean elections in May next year.

“The elections may be clean in the precinct and board of elections levels, but not when the results reach the Comelec,” he said.

The Comelec Second Division ruled on Dec. 8 that Dy won the 2007 contest with 199,435 votes, a thousand votes more than what Padaca got.

The Comelec, after annulling Padaca’s 2007 election victory, asked her to vacate her post in favor of Dy.

Legal services offered

Macalintal said he had phoned Padaca to offer his legal services.

Padaca said she would continue to act as the province’s governor until her appeal reaches the Supreme Court.

“The capitol’s operation has not been disrupted by the (Comelec) decision. The other side (Dy) knows that the decision cannot be executed yet. There is a process and they know that I am within my rights to appeal the decision,” Padaca told the Inquirer on Wednesday.

She said her lawyers had started studying the decision in preparation for the filing of a motion of reconsideration within five days.

Should Dy’s motion for execution of the Comelec order be granted, Padaca said she might ask for a temporary restraining order (TRO).

“I am sure my lawyers will exhaust all legal means. A TRO, appeal at the Comelec en banc, and if [this is] not favorable, [we] appeal to the Supreme Court,” she said.

Padaca won her first term in 2004 when she ended the almost 30-year hold of the Dy family in Isabela politics by beating reelectionist Gov. Faustino Dy Jr., Benjamin’s brother and the acknowledged leader of the political clan.

One wrote on 18k ballots

Macalintal saw something fishy with the way Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer’s division declared Dy the winner of the 2007 gubernatorial election. Padaca won by 17,007 votes, but the Second Division later ruled that Dy had in fact won by 1,051.

Macalintal zeroed in on the Comelec’s argument that some 18,000 ballots had been written by a single voter, thus the nullification.

“The invalidation of thousands of ballots appears suspicious and incredible. Can you imagine one person writing 17,000 to 18,000 ballots all by himself? His hand would have swelled up,” he said, citing a similar election case he had handled in Cavite province.

Assuming that some 18,000 ballots had been manufactured, Macalintal said the same number of voters would have been disenfranchised and the Comelec would have received a lot of complaints right after the 2007 elections.

“There should have been pandemonium of some sort, but we didn’t see anyone complaining,” he said.


On the argument that ballots were written by the same people as was used in the Padaca case, he said the commission usually did not conduct penmanship tests to compare handwriting.

“It’s very whimsical, capricious, and arbitrary,” he said.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body was only doing its work when it ruled in favor of Dy in the recount.

Jimenez said the Comelec decision was based on records. “It’s all mechanical, nothing personal,” he said at a press conference.

“The decision is based on the ballots, on the recount and the appreciation of the votes,” he added.

Harassment of LP members

Opposition senators belonging to the Liberal Party (LP) see a pattern in recent Comelec decisions to unseat fellow party mates—Governors Padaca and Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan.

Senators Benigno Aquino III and Mar Roxas condemned what they believed was a “systematic effort” to trample on the rights of Palace critics.

In a statement, Aquino, the LP standard-bearer for the 2010 presidential election, said Padaca, who joined LP last month, was a “role model of an upright and trustworthy public servant.”

“The decision of the Comelec Second Division is one example of the systematic decimation by MalacaƱang of those criticizing its crooked and abusive governance,” said Aquino.

Aquino said Padaca’s unseating came weeks only after Mendoza, another LP member, suffered the same defeat in a Comelec recount.

The same Comelec division last week ruled that Roberto Pagdanganan of Lakas-Kampi-CMD coalition was the winner in the 2007 Bulacan gubernatorial race.

Disregarded votes

“They will continue to try to silence those who want change. Her (Padaca’s) political foes claim that they had been cheated (in the elections), but they can’t explain how they had been cheated (of poll victory).

“Besides, the Second Division of Comelec disregarded votes in 31 precincts in Isabela because they had been lost or were damaged by water,” said Aquino.

The poll body thrashed the evidence that could even double Padaca’s lead over Dy, he said.

Roxas said the Comelec ruling against Padaca was “political harassment of local government officials supporting Noynoy (Aquino),” Roxas said.

No Palace hand in case

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the Palace had nothing to do with the Comelec decision.

Macalintal also denied speculations that Ms Arroyo had a hand in the Comelec decision.

“I can tell you it’s not MalacaƱang’s handiwork. I don’t think the President would ever do that. She has so many things to do to bother with this,” he said.

Dy, in an interview on Tuesday, said he would abide by the legal processes until he reclaims the seat. With reports from Kristine L. Alave and Michael Lim Ubac

Original Story:

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