July 6, 2008
Sabangan has two vice mayors!
Ex-cop - Ex army
SABANGAN. The political duel for the vice mayoralty post in this municipality is one for the books, where two men still remain standing after the gunsmoke.
That is if the claim of the camp of Vice Mayor Avelino Tolean is correct that the result of the recount is a tie.
However, the result of the vice mayoralty contest between two former law enforcers turned politicians is far from over even after over a year of undergoing a recount since the last ballot was canvassed during the last May 14, 2007 national and local elections.
Records of the Office of the Municipal Election Registrar show that during the last election, incumbent Vice Mayor Avelino Omaweng Tolean, a retired Police Investigator, garnered a total number of votes of 2,137 winning the vice mayoralty seat by just ONE (1) vote against his rival Joseph Bernardez, a former member of Philippine Army elite group Scout Rangers and a three-term councilor previously.
Nine days after the proclamation of Vice Mayor Tolean, Bernardez filed an electoral protest with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Bontoc Branch on May 24 alleging fraud and mis-appreciation of ballots in seven (7) precincts.
In his affidavit-complaint, Bernardez and his witnesses alleged that some ballots were not credited to his name inspite of the fact that there is a standing rule of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) allowing a vote to be credited in favor of a candidate whose name “sounds similar” to the name or vote being counted.
One witness also alleged that one spurious ballot at Precinct 15A, Barangay Gayang was credited in favor of Tolean. Similarly, the witness alleged that the same thing happened at precinct 10A, sitio Legleg, Barangay Camatagan, where five ballots reflecting the names of dead persons were cast and counted and seven ballots were also appreciated even if the voters concerned were out of the country.
The RTC then formed a revision committee chaired by Atty Romualdo Awisan and issued a subpoena duces tecum for the seven ballot boxes for recount. After more than a year of the recount process with both parties represented by their respective counsels, the result is in.
According to the proclaimed and incumbent Vice Mayor, Hon. Avelino Tolean, the result of the recount turned out to be a tie because three votes were deducted from his 2, 137 votes making it 2,134. However, two votes were also deducted from the total votes of his rival which is 2,136 making it also 2,134.
But the camp of Bernardez disputed the claim of Tolean saying that the protestant as a result of the recount is ahead by at least four (4) votes. Accordingly, in the appreciation of ballots, two (2) votes were deducted from Tolean’s total votes with still another three (3) possibly to be deducted as it was shown that the ballots carrying them were allegedly spurious as they did not have the embedded security markings.
The battle is now at the courtroom of Judge Agapito K. Lawagan Jr. of RTC branch 64 of Buguias, Benguet who was appointed by the Supreme Court to handle the case in lieu of Judge Joseph Patna-an who inhibited himself for being a native of Sabangan and a voter also in this municipality.
“It is funny because both of us now have the same move through our counsels to pray to the court for consideration and non consideration of our deducted votes. As to result, it will be up to the Court and I hope that it won’t reach the Supreme Court. As of now there are two vice Mayor in this town, me and my lawyer because he gets half of my monthly salary” the vice mayor jokingly said.
Tolean is represented by Atty. Pablo Wagtingan and Bernardez by Atty. Sergio Milan. GABRIEL T. MOGUET