Wednesday, January 15, 2014

HRET junks election protest vs Cong Dato

Cong. Dato Arroyo
The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) dismissed the protest case filed by Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Jr., against Congressman Diosdado Ignacio Jose Maria "Dato" M. Arroyo (Second District, Camarines Sur) for failure to state a cause of action.

It will be recalled that Luis Raymond  F. Villafuerte, Jr., on May 13, 2013, filed a verified protest against Diosdado Ignacio Jose Maria M. Arroyo. Arroyo was proclaimed as the duly-elected member of the House of Representatives, for the 2nd district of Camarines Sur, on May 16, 2013. 

According to the tally, he garnered 65,925 votes.

The protestant, Villafuerte, Jr., based his complaint on the following grounds: (1) the credibility of the results of the election on account of the higher number of alleged invalid votes cast; and (2) massive fraud and irregularities during the casting and canvassing of votes.

In the same protest, Villafuerte, Jr., prays for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction to enjoin protestee from discharging the functions and duties as congressional representative of the 2nd district of Camarines Sur during the pendency of the protest. In addition, he asks for the annulment of protestee’s proclamation, an issuance of an order for the COMELEC to release the audit log and all other accountable forms of all 211 PCOS machines in the 2nd district of Camarines Sur to determine the exact time of transmission results of each precinct. Lastly, he petitions for a manual recount of the votes.

Further, it was noted, that upon the evaluation of the protest, the individual and clustered precinct numbers and the location of the contested  precincts were not stated in the petition.

On August 25, 2013, the Tribunal issued Resolution No. 13-065 directing the protestant to show cause why his complaint should not be dismissed  for being insufficient in form and substance in accordance with Rule 21 of the 2011 HRET Rules.

Meanwhile, on September 13, 2013, protestant submitted a compliance dated September 12, 2013 claiming that he is contesting all the individual and clustered precincts per municipality or city. This was  evidenced by copies of election returns and the tabulated results of the individual and clustered precincts per municipality attached to his initiatory pleading.

However, a careful evaluation of the protest reveals that Villafuerte, Jr. questioned a total of 211 clustered precincts in the 2nd congressional district of Camarines Sur. This is contrary to his subsequent claim that he is protesting all the individual and clustered precincts in said legislative district, the tribunal said.

Likewise, a conscientious review of the copies of election returns, the tribunal further stated, shows a total number of 227 clustered precincts. However, the tabulated results indicate a total of 211 clustered precincts only. Furthermore, there are clustered precincts in the election results which are not included in the tabulated results, and vice versa.

The HRET also concluded that the protest violated Rule 16 of the 211 rules of the tribunal which provide that an election protest shall state: (1) the date of proclamation of the winner and the number of votes obtained by the parties; (2) the total number of contested individual and clustered precincts per municipality; (3) the individual and clustered precinct numbers and location of the contested precincts; and (4) the specific acts or omissions complained of consisting the electoral fraud, anomalies or irregularities in the contested precincts.

“In sum, the protest is insufficient in form and substance considering that it does not contain a statement as to the specific and total number of contested individual and clustered precincts per municipality and the individual and clustered precinct numbers and location of the contesting precincts, thus effectively failing to state a cause of action. [..] Wherefore, the instant protest is dismissed for failure to state a cause of action,” the resolution reads.

The said order of the tribunal was signed by Girlie I. Salarda, Secretary of the Tribunal.
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