By JOEL J. JABAL
The Mindoro Post
For failure to prove her allegations of election irregularities, fraud, terrorism and vote-buying, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 42 in Pinamalayan dismissed a losing mayoral candidate’s poll protest.
In an 11-page decision, Judge Recto A. Calabocal, presiding judge of RTC Branch 42, dismissed “for lack of merit” the election protest of former movie actress Ina Alegre, Jennifer M. Cruz in real life, of the Liberal Party against elected Pola Mayor Leandro “Kuya Dodjie” Panganiban of Lakas-NUCD.
In her election protest, Alegre sought to exclude the votes cast in the clustered precincts of Barangays Zone II, Matulatula, Bayanan, Misung and Batuhan due to alleged election fraud, violence, intimidation, terrorism and vote-buying.
Panganiban garnered 5,088 votes against Alegre’s 4,979 to win his first term as mayor of Pola, hometown of broadcast personality and former Vice-President and Senator Noli De Castro.
But Calabocal in his December 29, 2010 decision said: “There is no legal basis for the court to totally exclude from the Certificates of Canvass/Statements of votes per precinct the votes obtained by the protestee (Panganiban) and protestant (Cruz) in the questioned barangays.”
He said that doing so “would be violative of the constitutional right of suffrage of the electorate as it would result to the disenfranchisement of the greater number of them particularly the innocent voters, through the misdeeds of only a relative few.”
The decision, which upheld the electoral victory and proclamation of Panganiban, was promulgated on January 10 in a jampacked court room in Pinamalayan.
Calabocal also explained that Alegre failed to present evidence to back her allegations of massive poll cheating and violence. Alluding to those who committed election offenses, the presiding judge said “those who may have committed election offenses (must) be prosecuted in court”.
The court noted that Alegre did not present enough evidence to overturn Panganiban’s victory. The losing candidate, Calabocal said, did not even present the money used in buying some of the votes of Alegre supporters despite allegations that the envelopes containing the money used to buy the votes were turned over to the former actress.
“Even assuming for the sake of argument that there was vote buying, the court believes that it did not materially or substantially affect the result of the election because the number of voters who were allegedly bought to vote for protestee (Panganiban) was not shown to be sufficient to overcome the lead of protestee,” said Calabocal.
Calabocal also explained that Alegre’s other grounds have no basis as there was no evidence to support them.
“Worthy to take note is, there was no evidence of who in particular was intimidated, threatened or terrorized that gravely assails the mind of the court as to the existence of such fact,” the decision said in part.
“Besides, there was really no election-related violence and vote-buying that has been reported to the Police Station of Pola…” Calabocal said.” Neither was there a report of the existence of massive vote-buying, terrorism, threats and intimidation to the Comelec (Commission on Elections), a constitutional body in-charged of the enforcement of election laws.”
In a press conference, Panganiban said he is calling on his constituents to rally behind his administration now that the court has already dismissed the election protest of his rival.
“Let us move forward and work for a more progressive and dynamic Pola,” Panganiban said.