LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 10 affirmed the earlier decision of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Itogon dismissing the petition seeking to exclude the name of Benguet caretaker congressman and Anti-Crime and Terrorism through Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Party-list Rep. Eric Yap from the list of voters of Luacan, Itogon.
In an 8-page decision, Judge George Manaois, Jr. stated that the court found that there is no cogent reason to overturn the earlier findings of the lower court in the said case, the dismissal of the instant petition seeking to exclude Yap’s name from the list of voters is sustained.
The court pointed out that voter registration is a requirement for any qualified Filipino citizen who wishes to vote in any election and it has been defined by law as ‘the act of accomplishing and filing of a sworn application for registration by a qualified voter before the election officer of the city or municipality where he or she resides and including the same in the book of registered voters upon approval by the election registration board.’
The court explained that the appeal filed by the petitioners reportedly patently lacks merit as it is a basic legal precept that he who alleges must prove and that mere allegation, by itself, would not be given weight because it does not amount to evidence, thus, the burden is on the appellants to establish through substantial evidence that Yap should be excluded from permanent list of voters of Itogon.
Further, the decision stipulated that the appellants miserably failed to discharge the said burden.
In seeking the exclusion of Yap as a registered voter, the appellants alleged that Yap only came to Benguet when he was appointed as the legislative caretaker of the province’s lone district on January 2020, he is from Davao City and residing in Quezon City, he comes to Benguet occasionally, he does not have bodily presence in Luacan, Itogon, he has no intention to remain there, and there is no intention on his part to abandon his old and original residence in Quezon city that would qualify him to register as new cotter in Luacan, Itogon, he is not a bonafide resident of the said place and not qualified to register as a voter in the area and that yap’s vacation house is not a residential home as commonly understood.
To support the said allegations, appellants submitted 3 documents, 2 undated petitions, and an affidavit of their counsel, lawyer Jerry Marave, where each petition bore 14 names and signatures of alleged residents of Luacan, Itogon and that the documents were duly subscribed.
The court argued that all together, the submitted documents do not have any probative value and utmost, the same are self-serving, speculative and conjectural aside from the fact that the petitions are unsubstantiated, at the outset.
According to the decision, quite interestingly, other than the submitted documents, all of the other documentary exhibits offered by the appellants as their evidence are those marked and submitted by Yap.
The court reminded the appellants that they must rely on the strength of their own evidence and not merely argue about the alleged inconsistencies in the documents of Congressman Yap as it has always been maintained that the burden of proof rests on who seeks the affirmative of an issue.
As with other election cases, the court said that the same is originally imposed and should be discharged by the appellants.
The court revealed that the MTC of Itogon correctly dismissed the earlier petition and that it also agrees that Congressman Yap has presented overwhelming evidence to show that he had been physically present and had taken overt actions demonstrative off his animus manendi in his residence at 32-D Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodge, barangay Luacan, Itogon, Benguet.
The court said that Marave’s affidavit and the unverified petitions of the appellants could not have taken precedence over the presumption of the regularity of proceedings, undertaken by the election registration board of Itogon, Benguet.
Finally, the court claimed that as to the issue of Yap’s citizenship, it again aptly ruled that appellants should have presented a predicate judgement to support the said ground and they presented none.
Earlier, the appellants sought the RTC to set aside the resolution of the MTC of Itogon which dismissed the petition they filed for the exclusion of Yap from the list of permanent voters of Itogon.
Appellants claimed that yap is not qualified to register as a voter of Luacan, Itogon, Benguet because he is not a Filipino citizen and he is not a resident of the said place as contemplated by law.
In support of their first contention, the appellants stated that since Yap did not deny in his answer that he is not a Filipino citizen, he is deemed to have admitted the allegation. Moreover, Yap made a declaration against interest when he made a personal admission to appellants counsel, Marave, that both of his parents are Chinese citizens and are from mainland China.
For his part, Yap disclosed that the instant action is a fishing expedition exercise for the appellants.
Subsequently, he submitted several documents, including public documents issued by the local government of Benguet and testimonies for almost all local chief executives of Benguet, to attest that he has established a new domicile of choice at his present residence.
He also disputed that the court has jurisdiction to properly gruel on the issue of his citizenship in an exclusion proceedings.