Last June 1, the Commission ordered the canvassing of votes from Bacolod, Kauswagan and Maigo in spite of evidence that the boxes containing the certificates of canvass were forcibly opened last May 19 in the capital town of Tubod. Belmonte’s objections were ignored.
The Commission’s order was puzzling. As inferred from Section 237 of the Omnibus Election Code, the CoCs from the three towns should have not been counted but sealed in the ballot boxes for safekeeping. A comparison of the questionable CoCs with the authentic copies that had been given to the political parties and Namfrel positively indicated tampering by vote padding and shaving or dagdag-bawas.
The restrictive portion of the order to canvass – not to declare a winner – was toothless. The inclusion of the evidently tampered CoCs in the canvass clothed them with the authenticity that could be a legal basis for Dimaporo to petition for her proclamation.
That was what exactly happened.
Loser to Winner
According to the authentic copies of the COCs from the seven municipalities and Iligan City which compose the first district of Lanao Norte, Dimaporo was the poor third with more than 17,000 votes behind Belmonte. The questionable CoCs catapulted Dimaporo to 7,764 votes over Belmonte (INQUIRER.net, June 9).
Lawyer Elcid Javier, lead counsel of Dimaparo, has taken the offensive. In his quest to have the Comelec proclaim Dimaporo, he said that “the Comelec’s decision to canvass the disputed CoCs only indicated that there was no fraud”.
In the same INQUIRER.net report, “The commission on Elections (Comelec) has yet to decide whether or not to proclaim Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo as the winning candidate in the province’s first congressional district.”
The Comelec has put Belmonte on the defensive. Under the election laws, the Comelec orders contested votes counted after having resolved all questions of fraud. When it ordered counted the questionable votes, it strengthened the “no fraud” position of Dimaporo.
Can Belmonte stop the Comelec from eventually proclaiming Dimaporo? The burden now is very much heavier than before the counting of the questioned CoCs. Should the Comelec so decide, Belmonte will be left with the only remedy – election protest that will drag on forever.
After delivering the one-two-three punch, will the Comelec wield the coup de grace? Very probable – in the name of peace!
Two Lanao del Norte officials – Vice Gov. Irma Ali and Mayor “Nonoy” Mequiabas, president of the province’s mayor’s league – “have warned that prolonging the proclamation of the congressional winner might worsen the tension between opposing camps”.