TABUK CITY, Kalinga – The Second Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) found that the post-election protest filed by Kalinga gubernatorial candidate and former vice governor and Pasil Mayor James Edubba against proclaimed Gov. Ferdinand C. Tubban right after the May 13, 2019 mid-term elections is meritorious.
In an order date July 13, 2021, the poll body disclosed that the continuation of the aforesaid case and the recount of the remaining contested clustered precincts was order, thus the election records and statistics department was directed to print the images of the ballots of clustered precinct No. 32080016 for its inclusion in the recount proceedings.
As can be gleaned on the results of the pilot tested recount of certain precincts, Edubba gained a total of 46 votes, while Tubban was credited with an additional 17 votes.
The poll body stipulated that considering the earlier figures, it is Edubba who is now leading the gubernatorial race by 19 votes which was arrived by subtracting the margin of 10 votes and the additional 17 votes gained by Tubban from the 46 votes increase of Edubba., thus, there was more than substantial recovery in the said case and that the recount of the remaining contested clustered precincts is justified to finally remove any doubt that beclouds the will of the people of Kalinga during the previous elections in the province.
Edubba and Tubban were among the 4 candidates for the gubernatorial position of Kalinga during the May 13, 2018 mid-term elections.
After the canvassing of votes, Tubban was proclaimed by the provincial board of canvassers as the winning candidate garnering 39,148 votes while Edubba garnered 39,138 votes where there was a slim margin of only 10 votes.
On May 24, 2019, Edubba filed an election protest contesting the correctness of the election results in 100 clustered precincts out of a total of 250 clustered precincts in the province where the protested precincts cover all municipalities and a city in the province, namely, Balbalan, Lubuagan, Pail, Pinukpuk, Rizal, Tabuk City, Tanudan and Tinglayan.
According to him, there were massive fraud, widespread vote buying, and other irregularities that were committed in the said instances before, during and after the voting.
Edubba prayed for the issuance of a precautionary protection order directing the treasurers and election officers of the 7 municipalities and 1 city to take immediate steps or measures to safeguard the integrity of all the ballot boxes, list of voters with voting records, books of voters and other documents or paraphernalia used during the previous elections; order the exclusion of election returns from clustered precinct No. 32090028 in barangay Socbot, Pinukpuk and other canvassing of votes without the election return from clustered precinct No. 3290028 and order the opening of the ballot boxes and revision of the ballots, including the rejected ballots, of the protested clustered precincts to resolve the issue of fraud and irregularities in the election and to determine the true will of the electorate of Kalinga in the choice of their governor.
However, Tubban filed his answer with counter-protest denying most of the aforesaid allegations and raising special and affirmative defenses aside from arguing among others that there was no specific allegation regarding the miscounting or misappropriation of the ballots by the vote counting machine or substitution of votes at the transmission stage.
Further, he alleged that the complaint has nothing to do with the accuracy of the count of the VCMs which is the sole issue in an election recount.
He asserted that the election protest must be summarily dismissed for being insufficient in form and content and that it failed to state the protested precincts as required by the rules.
On October 12, 2019, the second division issued an order resolving Tubban’s special and affirmative defenses incorporated in his answer where it was ruled that the protest is sufficient in form and content to warrant recount proceedings.
The order explained that there is substantial recovery of votes by Edubba when he was able to recover at least 20 percent of the overall lead of Tubban and in the said case, the latter was credited a total of 39,148 votes while Edubba obtained a total of 39,138 votes where the former’s lead is only 10 votes, thus, only a recovery of 2 votes is need to merit the recount of the remaining contested ballots. By HENT