AT A GLANCE:
- Leonardia claims through counsels there were “massive vote buying” and “use of fake voters” during the 9 May 2022 polls
- Benitez says in a statement complaint is “baseless and frivolous” and a “desperate move of one who refuses to accept the truth”
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The first-ever battle of political titans in more than a decade here has headed to a new battlefield, the Commission on Elections, as sitting Mayor Evelio Leonardia’s lawyers confirmed the filing of a post-proclamation protest before the COMELEC national office in Intramuros, Manila.
Leonardia, standard bearer of ruling party Grupo Progreso, cited alleged “massive vote-buying” and the use of “fake voters” by his rival, Mayor-elect Albee Benitez, during the 9 May 2022 polls in this urban capital with over 300,000 voters.
Intramuros, the “Walled City” fortified by the Spanish centuries ago, hosts the Comelec national office and is expected to see legal combat between the two rival camps.
Grupo Progreso representatives – counsels for Leonardia Jireh Alimon, Marcus Aurelian Vaflor, and physician Chris Sorongon, party spokesman, took turns presenting their claims, among these a photograph taken with a camera drone that showed the crowd during the GP miting de avance on 7 May 2022 at the Reclamation Area.
Vaflor said they have witnesses to prove their claims.
The young barrister is also the counsel of three petitioners – Hector Yula, and Teodoro and Jonah Tornea – who had earlier sought to disqualify Benitez as a voter of this city prior to the filing of his candidacy last year.
A local court has since dismissed the protest for lack of merit.
See related story.
Benitez, in a statement sent DNX hours after the news conference of the GP representatives, said and we quote in full:
The baseless and frivolous complaint filed by the incumbent mayor is another desperate move of one who refuses to accept the truth.
The conduct of the 2022 elections was generally peaceful, credible and orderly.
No documented and concrete evidence has been shown to prove any irregularities at the voting precincts.
Such electoral protest is therefore an exercise of futility, and will surely be dismissed.
The people of Bacolod have spoken and it is time to move on and buckle down to work.