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Manila mayor’s bet denies linking Comelec to election protest fraud

WE are writing this letter to request a correction from you on the erroneous headline, namely: “Manila Mayor’s Bet Links Comelec to Protest Fraud”, published in The Sunday Times on July 3, 2022. Your reporters, namely Franco Jose C Barona and William B. Depasupil, wrote this article which attributes to my client, the lawyer Alex Lopez, the bet of the mayor who linked Comelec to the fraud. We declare here categorically that Atty. Lopez does not link Comelec to fraud in his election protest. The true and correct content of the article, which was submitted without the titles, is actually as follows:

“As for attorney Alex Lopez, the election in Manila is not over as he escalated his protest against newly sworn in mayor Maria Sheilah ‘Honey’ Lacuna-Pangan, urging the Electoral Commission (Comelec) to take into account his keeping disputed ballots in more than 1,000 constituencies consolidated in the May 9 election while tying some poll workers into a “clandestine ballot box haul”.

Lopez, who came second in city polls, filed his protest against the Lacuna-Pangan election and proclamation alleging that massive voter fraud, anomalies and irregularities were committed in the 1,859 clustered precincts of Manila.

In the amended protest and petition he filed with Comelec, Lopez also asked the electoral body to take “immediate, appropriate and necessary precautionary measures for custody and custody as well as to safeguard the integrity of all the campaign paraphernalia tied to the May polls in the city.

In his motion, Lopez, the eldest child of former Manila mayor Gemiliano “Mel” Lopez, also alleged that on June 18, people identified at the Comelec were seen “clandestinely” transporting boxes containing the May 9 ballots from the Manila City Treasurer’s Office at the Manila City Hall at the Diamond Hotel Manila where a Randomized Manual Audit (RMA) was in progress.

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RMA is the review process to determine if the Automated Vote Counting Machine (VCMS) count as part of an Automated Election System (AES) is accurate based on a manual verification of said count.

Asked to react, Comelec spokesman John Rex Laudiangco said on Saturday that there was “no clandestine transport of ballot boxes”.

Laudiangco said Lopez may be referring to ballot boxes that were randomly selected and transported to the Diamond Hotel for the legally mandated RMA.

“All ballot boxes randomly selected and transported to the Diamond Hotel under the official and legal orders of Comelec are part of the ‘public processes and procedures’ of random manual audit, as required by law,” Laudiangco told the Manila Times.

Laudiangco said that the official procedures of the RMA committee have already been completed and therefore all ballot boxes submitted to the RMA are now returned to their respective custodians under the law – the treasurers of cities and municipalities – hence the said ballot boxes were recovered.

Regarding the disputed ballots in the 1,895 constituencies consolidated in Manila, Laudiangco said the manner of retrieving and returning ballot boxes from constituencies under election protest was covered by the rules of procedure of the Comelec, including resolution 8804, among other additional/modifying measures. resolutions.

Based on Comelec’s final tally of election results, Lacuna Pangan received 534,565 votes in the May 9 election out of Lopez’s 165,551 votes.

‘Surprise’

Lopez argued it was a “surprise” because RMA’s conduct should be made available to the public for viewing. He also expressed the belief that the RMA’s conduct at this stage violated Comelec Resolution 10774 prescribing the RMA’s Rules of Conduct for the May 9, 2022 elections.

He called on Comelec to summon the heads of the RMA committee and the electoral contest arbitration service to explain what really happened at the Diamond hotel.

Photos of the incident at the Diamond Hotel, as well as a transcript of an interview with a Comelec official confirming the report, were used as evidence and were attached to the last petition filed by Lopez.

Lopez also revealed that his camp had received reliable information that Mayor Lacuna-Pangan had used an “influencer” to pressure senior Comelec officials to reject his election protest case.

“Whether or not this is true, this is definitely alarming and has heightened the need to protect the integrity of all protested ballots,” he told the Manila Times in an interview over the weekend.

True and legitimate winner

In her verified response to the allegations raised at the election protest, Lacuna-Pangan said the vote difference between her and Lopez proves there is “nothing presumptive” about the election results.

Additionally, Lacuna-Pangan said she was the true and legitimate winner and that the overwhelming lead she has over Protestant Lopez is a “concrete manifestation of the true choice of the electorate.”

“The votes credited to the parties were in fact cast by legitimate voters, counted by the corresponding vote counting machines, correctly transmitted at the level of the grouped enclosure to the main Comelec server, the transparency server and the city council of canvassers of the City of Manila (CBOC) which in turn consolidated the results,” she said.

Additionally, Lacuna-Pangan said the allegations were not supported by evidence but were “just naked allegations” which Lopez did not substantiate. Regarding allegations of vote buying, Lacuna-Pangan argued that under electoral law, alleged vote buying is not a valid ground for election protest.

“The truth or falsity of vote-buying cannot be proven or disproven by recounting ballots. Allegations of alleged vote-buying constitute possible electoral offenses that are not subject to election protest,” she said.

In truth, the headline, “Manila Mayor’s Bet Ties Comelec to Protest Fraud” did not reflect Atty. Lopez’s true, sincere and honest belief because what he accurately stated there was simply the following:

Lopez said there are verifiable reports that on June 18, 2022, Comelec staff members were seen at the Diamond Hotel, Roxas Blvd., Manila, smuggling ‘urns’ from City Hall. Additionally, Lopez produced photos of the ballot boxes as well as an interview with a Comelec official confirming the report.”

We are confident that your office is one with us in pursuing the truth and ensuring that no one was allowed to cheat or violate election laws in the state and local elections on May 9, 2022, especially in the city of Manila.

In this regard, we respectfully request that you kindly let the public know the true intent of the mentioned article by publishing this letter in one of your future publications. To reiterate, said headline did not reflect my client’s true intentions and written and verbal expressions relating to the “election protest” he filed against Maria Sheilah “Honey” Pangan-Lacuna. This case is pending before the second chamber of Comelec under number EPC 025-2022.

Romeo M. Covarrubias

Jural advisor