The second division composed of Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer and Jaime Tuazon asked lawyers of both parties to write their positions in a memorandum and submit it within five days.
Lawyer Voltaire Rivera, who attended the hearing for congressional candidate Vicente “Varf” Belmonte of the Genuine Opposition, said the Comelec will now decide whether to use the authentic copies they brought or the alleged tampered CoCs “in proclaiming the genuine representative of the 1st District of Iligan and Lanao del Norte.”
The GO asked Comelec to “set aside the tampered CoCs from Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan towns.”
Lawyer Dino Quijano of Lakas-CMD who also attended the hearing in Manila, told DXLS that Lakas-CMD lead lawyer Pete Quirino Quadra argued that the Comelec has no jurisdiction to hear the controversy and must deny the petition of the GO lawyers.
But while Quadra argued that Comelec has no jurisdiction, he also motioned that Imelda Dimaporo be proclaimed as the winner using the Statement of Votes based on the alleged tampered figures of Maigo and Bacolod towns.
According to the final, unofficial count of Namfrel as of 5 pm May 19, Belmonte got 58,962 votes against Team Unity-backed candidates Angelique Dawn Badelles (45,670) and Imelda Dimaporo (42,956).
In a statement, the Iligan Movement for True Democracy, Belmonte’s support group, alleged that on May 19, “poll watchers from the opposition were disallowed to enter the provincial legislative building where provincial canvassing was being done."
"The following morning, our lawyers found out that three ballot boxes from the towns of Bacolod, Maigo and Kauswagan were forcibly opened," the group related.
The group alleged the votes from the three towns were tampered and that based on these tampered votes, Dimaporo was now leading.
Ms Dimaporo, the outgoing governor, is wife to reelected 2nd district Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, the governor before her, and is mother to Khalid, the incoming governor.
The special provincial board of canvassers in Lanao del Norte has set aside the tampered CoCs of Kauswagan because the padded figures for Dimaporo exceeded the total number of voters in Kauswagan, making it statistically improbable.
Lawyer Manny Salibay, counsel of Belmonte, explained to reporters that “Comelec has no power over pre-proclamation cases for representative except if there are manifest errors in the certificates of canvass which maybe corrected by the canvassing board motu propio or upon written complaint of interested person, or by the Comelec in a petition filed or upon proper appeal from the ruling of the board of canvassers.”
Lawyer Sixto Brilliantes, lead counsel of Belmonte, also said the petition to dismiss the case arguing lack of jurisdiction is a “prohibited pleading under the Rule of Procedures of Comelec.”
“Under the law, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, composed of three judges and six congressmen, will have jurisdiction on election protest only if there is already a proclaimed representative," explained lawyer Arthur Abundiente, counsel of GO.
In the case of Lanao, the special PBOC has not proclaimed a winner yet because Comelec made a directive to “proceed with the canvass… but not to proclaim the winner.” The directive was signed by Nicodemo Ferrer who also sits at the second division of Comelec now.
Meanwhile, Bishop Elenito de los Reyes Galido together with priests in Iligan city and Lanao del Norte celebrated mass at Saint Michael's cathedral Monday night “for truth to prevail.”
Bishop Galido urged the faithful to pray for the Holy Spirit to intercede, "enlighten and inspire those who are working for truth.”
“We may have fears, doubts and uncertainties but the Holy Spirit is our only refuge and our salvation. We must continuously pray,” he said in his homily. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)