Cordova mayor cries cheating in polls, claims 100 witnesses

·6 min read

THE team of defeated reelectionist Cordova Mayor Mary Therese “Teche” Sitoy-Cho is set to file an election protest against the team of her rival, mayor-elect and incumbent Councilor Cesar “Didoy” Suan, and several individuals reportedly involved in “dirty politics” during the 2022 elections.

Based on Commission on Elections (Comelec) results, Sitoy-Cho garnered only 17,052 votes in the May 9 elections while Suan, currently the first councilor in the town, secured 21,222 votes.

In a press conference on Monday, May 16, Sitoy-Cho said they will file an election protest against the Comelec officials, barangay captains, tanods (watchmen), barangay health workers (BHWs) and teachers reportedly involved in the election irregularities that led to the defeat of the majority of her slate.

This is on top of the disqualification case with motion to suspend the proclamation filed before the Comelec against the Team Asenso Cordovanhon for the ground of vote buying around 10 p.m. of Election Day, or before the proclamation was conducted on May 10.

She said more than 100 witnesses, including the supporter of another candidate, have so far signified to submit their affidavits in support of their protest, citing more allegations came from them and not from her.

“They themselves are the ones who want to file a protest. I am just answering the clamor of the people, which is that they want to file a case but they can’t file alone. They think that they are very weak without me. So I will stand up for them,” Sitoy-Cho said in Cebuano.

The supporters, who staged a protest in front of the Municipal Hall on Monday, said some barangay officials, including the barangay captains, councilors, tanods and BHWs, stayed inside the polling places or precincts during the election despite this being prohibited by law.

They also claimed vote buying, adding that some voters were convinced by the opposition party to be brought to a hotel to prevent them from exercising their right to vote.

Other voters also reportedly voted several times, with Sitoy-Cho’s supporters saying the voters’ fingernails were not inked after casting a vote.

Sitoy-Cho said some teachers who served as poll workers, who she said were supposed to be neutral, also reportedly showed their support for her rival and even took a ride on the vehicles fielded by the opposition candidates.

About five to 10 teachers were reportedly involved in election irregularities, which is why they will file a case of abuse of power before the Department of Education and Office of the Ombudsman.

Barangay officials involved are also set to face charges before the Ombudsman.

The outgoing mayor further said voters encountered pre-shaded ballots while others were not able to cast their votes since their names were not on the list at the precincts, apart from the alleged transfer of names in most of the barangays where voters supposedly had to vote.

“All these are questionable on the part of the teachers. Not all the teachers, of course, but some of the teachers, why these were allowed to happen... Another question for the local Comelec is why many names disappeared during the time of voting,” she said, as she questioned how the local Comelec in Cordova made its report and transmitted it to the national office.

Among the 13 barangays in the town, Sitoy-Cho said one barangay reportedly had 40 voters who were not able to cast their votes while there were individuals who were able to vote even though they were not registered voters.

“I am not protesting because they won. I am protesting the election irregularities. I’m protesting against the government officials who did not follow the law, the teachers who did not follow the guidelines under the law,” she said.

Watchers of Team Teche were reportedly told to go outside the precincts while those with the allies of their rival stayed inside the polling place or precincts.

She also questioned why the teachers and the Comelec were not able to reprimand the doers of such acts, adding that paralegals from Team Asenso were also able to go inside the precincts.

With this, Sitoy-Cho said, they may ask for a special election.

“I’m not saying I won. I also won’t say that they won because of the anomalies seen. So if possible, let’s have a reelection,’’ she said.

Sitoy-Cho said she could concede defeat but stressed that the cases will continue as she said she did not want to agitate Cordova and protest that Suan will take the mayor’s seat.

“We are not protesting so that I will retain the mayor’s seat. No, they may take the seat. I just want to stand up for the concerns of the people, who themselves volunteered—they were not directed—to make their complaints. So I will just try to advance the case for them,” she added.

She further said there may be connivance amid the presence of the barangay officials alone, citing this as questionable.

The mayor also disclosed that the town’s Comelec elections officer Arvin Maghanoy was seen with Team Asenso, led by Suan, after the elections.

No anomalies

Reacting to the allegations, Maghanoy said there were no reported irregularities from the Philippine National Police during the elections.

“The Electoral Boards are supposed to report to us, but we did not receive any reports regarding that. So it seems those are just allegations,” he said in Cebuano.

As for the names of voters allegedly not in the list, Maghanoy said he had no idea if it was the manual cross-out which the protesters meant, which has basis and resulted in about 480 voters’ names being deleted.

The bases for cross-out, said Maghanoy, include the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (Afis), transfer out, and double multiple.

Under Section 58 of Comelec Resolution 10727, names in the Election Day Computerized Voters’ List may be manually crossed out for these reasons: (a) the voter has transferred residence to another district, city or town; (b) the voter has died; (c) the voter’s registration record was deleted based on the Afis, as approved by the Election Registration Board; and (d) the voter has availed of Local Absentee Voting.

Cordova town has about 46,190 voters.

Maghanoy also denied allegations that there were transfers of names among the barangays during the elections, citing this as already addressed two days prior to the election.

SunStar tried to get the statement of Suan, but the mayor-elect was not at his house during the attempt to interview him and he had not answered the calls as of press time. SunStar also attempted to interview vice mayor-elect Boyet Tago, the running mate of Suan, but he refused to comment on the allegations against their team.

Mayor Sitoy-Cho also clarified that she was not the one who pushed for the recent closing of the business of Suan, adding that it was the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) which made the move amid the issues on taxes.

“But if they will say I was the brains behind it, I really don’t have the time to dig into everything. What do I know about his business?’’ she said.

She stressed that she did not renew the business permit of Suan last January since the BIR already communicated with her office concerning the wrong income tax return that was attached.

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