BAGUIO CITY (May 19) — Elected Baguio officials were proclaimed by the Comelec late afternoon Friday despite pre-proclamation protests on alleged poll fraud and other irregularities lodged against proclaimed Congressman Mauricio Domogan, Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. and his KAMPI team mate Vice-Mayor Daniel Fariñas.
Baguio’s new officials. (From left seated) Councilor Elaine Sembrano (GO), mother of TV broadcaster Bernadette; Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda; Congressman Mauricio Domogan; Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr.; Vice-Mayor Danilo Fariñas and Councilor Perlita Rondez. Standing at the back are: (L-R) Councilors Galo Weygan, Isabelo Cosalan, Nicasio Aliping, Antonio Tabora, Erdolfo Balajadia, Rocky Balisong, Nick Palaganas, Richard Cariño and Fred Bagbagen. Photo courtesy of Ace Alegre.
Domogan of the ruling Lakas-CMD garnered 47,488, a lead of 9,623 from Molintas (Genuine Opposition) 37,865 votes. A third bet got 521 -Thomas Tayengco (KBL) and fourth bet Ramon Kindipan (Ind) 465.
Bautista Jr. (KAMPI) with 26,910 votes, got a 9,263 lead over his closest rival acting vice-mayor Leandro Yangot Jr. (LP) who got 17,647. Former mayor Braulio Yaranon (GO) was third with 16, 148 votes.
Former mayor Bernardo Vergara was fourth with 14,441. Five other mayoralty bets trailed behind.
The vice mayoralty post was highly contested also with only a 1,293 margin of Daniel Fariñas to GO bet Faustino Olowan, also a former councilor. Fariñas got 21,709 while Olowan got 20,416. In the third place is Roberto Ortega, a former police colonel, with 18,738 and Domogan’s team mate Edilberto Tenefrancia, also a former councilor, with 15,029. Two other candidates for the post failed to even get five digits.
Proclamation despite protests
The Baguio Board of Canvassers (BOC) chaired by election officer Maribelle Uminga denied congressional candidate Jose Molintas’ and mayoralty bet Ramon Labo’s petition to stop the proclamation because of poll irregularities including a demand to disqualify Rep. Domogan because of alleged “vote buying” through insurance benefit cards issued to some Board of Election Inspectors (BEI).
Molintas of the GO here demanded that Domogan be disqualified and not be allowed to be proclaimed because “during the last days, hours before May 14, Domogan distributed and gave away money or other material consideration to influence, induce or corrupt the voters as public officials performing electoral functions in violation of Sec. 68 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines.”
He also claimed that Domogan solicited funds and received contributions from a local councilor bet who is also their team mate in the Lakas-CMD party that violates section 95 and 96 of the Election Code.
During the four day canvassing at the Baguio Convention Center, some BEI’s admitted to the BOC of being enrollees to the Lakas-CMD insurance cards which Uminga said were for the teachers and that they did not know they were membership cards but only as insurance cards.
Molintas and his counsels then questioned the impartiality of the BEI’s in conducting the elections because of these.
Molintas asked the local BOC to disqualify Domogan for the said election law violations. He even added that the BOC has no jurisdiction to proclaim Domogan as elected representative of Baguio since the representative is disqualified.
Meanwhile, mayoralty bet Ramon Labo (KBL) and his team mate Antolin Mascarenas also lodged a disqualification petition against Bautist Jr. and Fariñas for alleged poll fraud as they alleged “proceedings before BEI are illegal, if not anomalous, considering the fact that most of the BEI were promised some considerations or benefits specifically insurances.” Several of their poll watchers, they also claimed, were not allowed to enter polling centers. They added that election returns were incomplete and contained material defects and were tampered.
Labo and his team mate likewise charged Bautista Jr. and Fariñas of buying votes through promises of scholarships.
After discussing among the BOC for more than an hour however, Uminga and the BOC denied the petitions. Prosecutor Benedicto Carantes, BOC vice-chair said disqualifying Domogan and the other bets could not result from charges of poll fraud.
Carantes said Molintas and other petitioners can bring their complaint to the Comelec.
Molintas in reaction said they will appeal before the Comelec and nail down Domogan, whom he claimed has used public funds to “corrupt the electoral system”.
Domogan however had maintained that he had no absolute control over the issuance of the said insurance cards even as Molintas claimed it was at the Congressman’s office in City Hall that these cards were issued.
Molintas also chided teachers who served as BEIs for allowing (wittingly or unwittingly) themselves to be used for poll fraud. He even lamented how Comelec-Baguio under Uminga conducted itself in the face of these complaints of fraudulent activities when a week before the polls.
Uminga led a covenant signing against fraud at the city hall where Molintas and several other bets attended. Domogan did not attend the covenant signing.
Before the canvassing was done, now Councilor Elaine Sembrano filed a protest which sought to discontinue the counting of votes cast for the late Edgardo Bilog, also a former councilor, who was found dead one day after the elections. She also sought to disqualify Julius Mandapat questioning his citizenship. Both were not granted, however by the Comelec. Mandapat ranked 13th with 25,656 votes while Bilog was 15th with 25,611 votes, only a few hundred votes away from those garnered by Sembrano.
Despite these controversies, the Comelec proclaimed went on proclaiming also the winning councilors for the 12-member city legislature here.
They are former councilor Rocky Balisong (Ind), Betty Lourdes Taband (KAMPI), Galo Weygan (Ind), Perlita Rondez (Ind), Nicasio Aliping (Lakas), Antonio Tabora (NP), Erdolfo Balajadia (Lakas), Nicasio Palaganas (Lakas), Isabelo Cosalan (GO), Richard Cariño (Ind), Fred Bagbagen (GO) and a new comer Elaine Sembrano (GO), mother of TV broadcaster Bernadette. # Ace Alegre and Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS