Comelec affirms dismissal of election protest vs. Bacolod City mayor

By Nanette Guadalquiver

May 24, 2024, 4:42 pm

<p>Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez <em>(PNA Bacolod file photo)</em></p>

Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (PNA Bacolod file photo)

BACOLOD CITY – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has dismissed the motion for reconsideration filed by former Bacolod City mayor Evelio Leonardia on the dismissal of his election protest against Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez in September 2022.

Benitez unseated Leonardia in the May 9, 2022 elections with a total of 171,893 votes as against the latter’s 107,447 votes.

A copy of the Comelec en banc’s decision dated April 23, 2024, signed and certified by chairman George Erwin Garcia, was furnished by the mayor’s camp to reporters here on Friday.

“The Commission en banc resolved, as it hereby resolves, to dismiss the motion for reconsideration dated Sept. 19, 2022, filed by protestant Evelio R. Leonardia and affirms the order of the Commission’s 2nd Division dated Sept. 7, 2022,” the seven-page resolution said.

It stated that “(a)side from the fact that the petition is insufficient in form and content, the protestant failed to adduce evidence and to justify the need to open and revise all ballots of the 450 clustered precincts.”

“For this reason, the eagerness of protestant to seek revision of all 450 ballots of the clustered precincts in Bacolod City is misplaced. Unquestionably, the grounds recited in the protest will not require a revision of the ballots,” the resolution said.

In his election protest, Leonardia alleged that there were widespread fraud, irregularities, and vote-buying during the May 2022 elections.

However, the Comelec resolution pointed out that “(a)llegations of massive vote-buying before and after the casting of votes; threat or intimidation; and fake voters are averments in election protest that need to be proven, not merely alleged.”

The camp of Benitez welcomed the decision, saying that any doubts cast by the former mayor are now finally put to rest.

“The decision of the Comelec is a clear manifestation that the election protest was purely harassment and with no legal and factual basis, at all. It was purely made to save face in the aftermath of then incumbent mayor Bing Leonardia’s defeat in the hands of former congressman Albee Benitez,” said Singcang-Airport village chief Caesar Distrito, who is Benitez’s spokesperson.

“The denial of the motion for reconsideration will now put to rest any doubts to the victory of Benitez that were cast by the Leonardia camp. Mayor Albee won clearly and convincingly with a margin of 64,446 votes. The people had spoken, and so has the Comelec.” (PNA)