Winner in Maasim election protest takes seat

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/07 May) – With barely a year left before the next local elections, Arturo Lawa assumed his seat as mayor of Maasim, Sarangani after the newly convened board of canvassers finally announced him the rightful winner in the hotly contested May 10, 2010 elections.

Lawa “lost” to Jose Zamorro by one of the narrowest margins in local elections, 15 votes or so, said the PCOS machine which erroneously transmitted results of the canvassing of nine votes during a test run at Precinct 21 in Kablacan village prior to the sealing of the machine.

But in the certified election returns from the precinct canvassed on Monday, Lawa actually received 136 votes as against only 62 votes by Zamorro bringing the total votes he garnered to 5,440 as against 5,382 of his chief rival – a margin of 58 votes.

As a Commission on Elections ruling prohibits pre-proclamation protests, Lawa was obliged to file his protest before the commission en banc.

Lawa won his case but Zamorro filed an appeal which eventually reached the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld Lawa’s victory.

Armed with the Supreme Court ruling, Lawa tried to claim his seat last year but by then the municipal election officer who admitted to the PCOS machine error had already retired.

In March this year, Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo ordered Zamorro to vacate his post and appointed Vice Mayor Uttoh Salem Cutan as acting mayor.

On May 7, Lawa, dressed in long sleeves finally held office for the first time as Cutan immediately relinquished his post as acting mayor.

Lawa was one of the two mayoralty candidates from the Sarangani Reconciliation and Reformation Organization (SARRO) party who survived the onslaught of winning candidates from the People’s Champ Movement of Rep. Manny Pacquiao who grabbed the lone congressional seat of Sarangani province. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews)

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