Padaca proclaimed; Leviste new Batangas vice gov

By Villamor Visaya, Melvin Gascon, Jerome Aning
Last updated 02:21am (Mla time) 06/30/2007

ILAGAN, Isabela, Philippines—After being kept hanging for nearly seven weeks, reelectionist Gov. Maria Gracia Cielo Padaca was finally proclaimed winner of the Isabela gubernatorial fight but her rival vowed to contest the proclamation, claiming it was “railroaded.”


In Manila, the Commission on Elections dismissed a petition to declare a failure of elections in the towns of Taysan and Sto. Tomas in Batangas, paving the way for the proclamation of provincial board member Mark Leviste as new Batangas vice governor.


In a 10-page decision, the Comelec’s six commissioners, voting unanimously, cited lack of merit in the petition of Leviste’s rival, candidate Edwin Ermita, who is a son of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita,


Padaca, 43, was proclaimed winner on Thursday night in front of cheering supporters, minutes after the provincial board of canvassers (PBOC) declared her as the winning governor.


The proclamation ended more than a month of delay, mainly caused by protests filed by Padaca’s rival, former Gov. Benjamin Dy, who claimed that elections in Isabela were marred by massive fraud.


Padaca received 237,128 votes against Dy’s 220,121 votes, or a lead of 17,007.


Reelectionist Vice Gov. Ramon Reyes was proclaimed a day earlier as winner of the vice gubernatorial race against former Ilagan Mayor Mercedes Uy.


Padaca, in a phone interview yesterday, said her proclamation “finally put to rest all the anxiety, apprehensions and sacrifices” that she and her supporters were made to go through.


Blames Comelec


She skipped the official proclamation by the PBOC as a sign of protest and instead chose to be proclaimed by her lawyers, Francisco Marallag and Glenn Abellon, and Provincial Prosecutor Franklin Pagurayan


“To me, it just did not feel right,” she said.


Padaca partly blamed the Comelec for making her “suffer the agony of waiting.”


She earlier accused the Comelec and Malacañang of trying to manipulate the results of the elections and install Dy as governor.


“But I still appreciate all the correct things done by the Comelec … I just have to express my frustration over all the exasperating things that we in Isabela have been subjected to. It has always been like this,” she said.


Beating another Dy


In 2004, Padaca won against reelectionist Gov. Faustino Dy Jr., Benjamin Dy’s brother, but her proclamation was also delayed due to protests filed by the Dy camp.


The Inquirer tried but failed to reach lawyer Abraham Johnny Asuncion, PBOC chair and acting Isabela election supervisor. He did not take calls on his mobile phone.


Lawyer Catherine Sardillo, Dy’s lead counsel, said she would file before the Comelec on Monday a motion to annul the proclamation of Padaca, saying the proceedings were illegally done.


Sardillo said their camp was not informed of the PBOC ruling that junked their motions to suspend proceedings and to exclude alleged spurious certificates of canvass (CoCs) from Ilagan town.


“We were not informed [of the board’s decision] despite our pleas for a written ruling on the matter,” she said. “There should have been no proclamation unless these appeals were resolved.”


Dy will sue


Dy said the CoCs used for Ilagan were “improvised” and were made inside the local election office without poll watchers from the Dy camp.


“We do not know what pushed the special canvassers’ board [to act like this]… the proclamation was railroaded,” he said.


He vowed to sue village chiefs and teachers who allegedly connived in carrying out supposed fraud in the first district of the province.


Padaca disputed Dy’s claim that the CoCs from Ilagan were manufactured.


Marallag said the motions filed by Dy’s lawyer were improper and aimed at derailing the proclamation so he did not receive them.


Ermita petition thrown out


“After a careful evaluation of the records of this case, the Commission en banc finds that there are no sufficient and convincing evidence presented to warrant the declaration of failure of elections,” Comelec ruled on the younger Ermita’s petition.


The body noted that a petition for failure of elections may only be declared if it could be proven that voting did not take place because of violence, terrorism or fraud.


A failure may also be declared if elections did take place but nobody emerged as winner.


“We take notice of the fact that the winning candidates for the municipal offices in Sto. Tomas and Taysan have already been proclaimed,” the commissioners added, citing the certificates of canvass and proclamation of certificates of winning candidates.


Not enough votes


They also said that votes involved in the petition were not sufficient to affect the results of the elections.


Comelec suspended the proclamation of the winner for the vice governor position last May 18 following Ermita’s petition for the declaration of election failure.


Ermita cited as grounds the burning of a school in Pinagbayanan, Taysan, that resulted in the death of a teacher and his poll watcher, massive vote-buying, bribery, employment of armed groups, and use of government funds and resources by the rival camp.


Others who joined Ermita’s petition were candidates Hernando Villena, who ran for Taysan mayoral post, Meynard Sabili, for the 4th congressional district, Noel Ascano, for Sto. Tomas mayor, and seven others.


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