Congressman loses post less than 2 months before May polls

By DateLine Philippines

Less than two months before the May national and local elections, the Supreme Court en banc unanimously affirmed the ruling of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) ousting Navotas-Malabon Rep. Alvin Sandoval from his post.

The ruling proclaimed Sandoval’s political rival Josephine Veronique Lacson-Noel as duly-elected representative in the May 2007 elections.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, the Court en banc dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by Sandoval seeking the reversal of the HRET’s September 24, 2009 resolution which declared that Lacson-Noel won over Sandoval by more than 500 votes following the revision of ballots in more than 600 precincts.

The Court held that there was no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction on the part of HRET to warrant the nullification of its resolution installing Lacson-Noel as Navota-Malabon’s lone representative.

“It is quite clear that the tribunal acted in the best interest of the electorate, ensuring the determination of the latter’s will within a reasonable time. In sum, there is absolutely nothing in this case that would justify a finding that the HRET gravely abused its discretion,” the SC said.

Sandoval’s petition seeking the reversal of the HRET’s resolution was anchored on the latter’s denial of his plea for more time within which to present additional expert witnesses and other evidence

The SC, however, held that based on its review of the proceedings conducted by the HRET, the latter “acted in accordance with its rules of procedure and well within its jurisdiction.”

“It is quite clear from the foregoing narration of how the proceedings were conducted that (Sandoval) was given all the opportunity to be heard. So many hearing dates were set for his presentation of evidence but he merely wasted a good number of those days. He was granted an extension of time so he could file his formal offer of evidence, but he still failed to fulfill his responsibility,” said the court.

“Only (Sandoval) deserves to be blamed for the woes that befell him,” it added.

Records showed that Sandoval was proclaimed winner in the Navotas-Malabon congressional race on May 19, 2007 with 71, 490 votes while Lacson-Noel got 70,331 votes.

Refusing to concede defeat, Lacson-Noel filed an election protest assailing the election results in 623 precincts out of the total 1,437 precincts in Navotas and Malabon.

Lacson-Noel accused the Board of Election Inspectors of conniving with his political rival to defraud him by misreading, miscounting and/or miscrediting of votes; misappreciation of ballots; the use of either fake, spurious ballots or genuine but manufactured ballots to increase Sandoval’s votes; and manipulation, alteration and falsification of votes and related data in the election returns through vote padding in favor of his rival and vote-shaving from him.

Sandoval filed a counter-protest claiming he was deprived of votes in 1,006 precincts.

After the revision of ballots, the HRET declared that it was Lacson-Noel who actually won in the congressional race with 70,530 votes while 69,939 votes were counted for Sandoval.

The HRET denied Sandoval’s motion for reconsideration on November 12, 2009.

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