Opposition and administration lawmakers have called on the Commission on Elections (Co-melec) to act swiftly in resolving an election controversy that has resulted in a court decision nullifying 87 percent of the votes counted in favor of incumbent Paniqui Mayor Miguel C. Rivilla during the 2013 mayoralty race.
Reps. Edgar Erice (Caloocan City) and Jonathan de la Cruz (Abakada Partylist) warned that the continued inaction of the poll body could trigger the filing of an unprecedented number of court protests against winners in the 2013 elections.
Pending before the Comelec’s First Division is a petition for the issuance of a temporary restraining order seeking to stop Regional Trial Court Judge Agapito Laoagan from executing his decision in a poll protest that invalidated 3,684 votes counted in favor of Rivilla.
Rivilla’s camp is working double time for the immediate issuance of a TRO since Laoagan’s decision to unseat him is set to take effect tomorrow.
Rivilla was proclaimed mayor for his third and final term in May 14, 2013 after a landslide victory against his opponent, Rommel David, by posting huge margin of 3,233 votes.
However, ten days after Rivilla was proclaimed mayor, David filed an election protest before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Tarlac.
Laoagan then cited double shading and nullified the 3, 684 of the 4,238 votes counted by the PCOS machine in favor of Rivilla, and as a result proclaimed David as the real winner.
Rivilla for his part said that the Comelec should go back to manual counting if it found out that the PCOS machines had committed errors in the previous polls. He asked the Comelec to decrypt the ballot images used during the 2013 polls in Tarlac to fully determine who truly got the majority votes for mayoralty candidates in Paniqui.
Erice, vice chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, warned that any move to unseat Rivilla will have serious implications on the credibility of the 2013 elections and the trustworthiness of the precinct count optical scan system (PCOS) that was used in two past national elections.
“What happened in Paniqui is incredible. Comelec’s inaction is even more incredulous considering the serious implications the court ruling might have on the supposedly dependable PCOS machines,” Erice said.
Dela Cruz, a member of the House independent minority bloc, warned that the invalidation of the PCOS count of the Paniqui mayoralty race could spell trouble for the Comelec.
“This can be a portent of serious things to come, considering the fact that the Comelec vouched on the reliability and efficiency of the PCOS count,” he said.
David’s complaint was previously junked twice by then Paniqui RTC Judge Serafin Cruz.