• Samar lawmaker appeals ouster

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    Northern Samar Rep. Harlin Abayon has asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday to dismiss the ruling of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) ousting him from the position on protest by another candidate.

    In a petition for certiorari and prohibition, dated March 9, 2016, Abayon of the province’s first district, assailed the decision of the HRET dated February 3, 2016 in HRET Case No. 13-023[EP] entitled “Raul A. Daza vs. Harlin C. Abayon”.

    Abayon argued that there was grave abuse of discretion on the part of HRET’s majority members who voted against him.

    He pointed out that HRET has committed an error in granting the protest filed by Daza because its findings and conclusions were not supported by evidence as per records of the case.

    Abayon added that HRET has no jurisdiction to cause the annulment of the result of the election for the member of the House of Representatives in the clustered precinct numbers 9 (Barangay Chansvilla), 10 (Barangay Datag), 19 (Barangay Salvacion), 25 (Barangay Toog) and 14 (Barangay Lungib) in Victoria, Northern Samar because it falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Comelec en banc.

    It was also alleged that the annulment, which is tantamount to failure of elections, was a “massive disenfranchisement of votes” considering that Daza did not present any substantial proof that the alleged “terroristic acts” are extensive in character which caused the impossibility of differentiating the valid votes from the invalid ones.

    These views are supported by SC Justice Diosdado Peralta, a member of the Electoral Tribunal, who began the discussion in his Dissenting Opinion by stating that: “Basic is the rule in evidence that he who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it; mere allegations cannot be considered as evidence. In election cases, the burden of proof to establish the grounds raised in the election protest lies on the protestant.”

    Peralta added that Daza’s evidence is “utterly weak, unclear and unconvincing and that the same is not enough to cause the annulment of the election result.” He also asserted that since Daza’s action is essentially a petition to declare a failure of election in the contested precincts because of alleged terrorist acts, the HRET is fully divested of the jurisdiction over the case.

    The magistrate even recognized that even on the assumption that the HRET can take cognizance of the case, there appears to be no accurate manner on how the tribunal will segregate the valid and invalid ballots (on the ground of terrorism).

    Peralta emphasized that since the HRET cannot merely speculate which of the contested ballots will be nullified (or otherwise bear the grave consequence that is the disenfranchisement of the voters), the best way to determine the veracity of Daza’s protest is to open the ballot boxes and not to annul the election results.

    It will be recalled that after the completion of the revision/recount of the ballots, which commenced sometime in October 2014, Abayon emerged as the winner garnering a lead of 124 votes over Daza.

    Rep. Emerenciana de Jesus, of Gabriela Party-list, who is likewise a member of the tribunal, joined the Dissenting Opinion of Justice Peralta.

    Abayon argued that he remains to be the Representative of the First District of Northern Samar while the petition is pending before the high court.

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