NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – A local court on Thursday, October 10, dismissed for lack of merit the electoral protest filed against Irene Montilla, the first-term mayor of Isabela, Negros Occidental.
The protest was filed by Joselito Malabor, the reelectionist mayor whom Montilla defeated in the 2019 election by just 48 votes.
In the 201-page decision dated October 10, La Carlota Regional Trial Court Branch 74 Judge Mila Yap Camiso upheld the election results.
“Considering that the court finds the protest to be not frivolous, no cost is awarded,” the judge said.
Irene Montilla is the widow of former town mayor Enrique Montilla III.
She garnered 13,892 votes in 2019 while Malabor got 13,844 votes.
After the recount of the votes, however, Montilla’s 48-vote lead dropped to 22, the court decision said.
Malabor sought the recount of 37 clustered precincts of the town as he claimed there were irregularities during the counting of the votes. During the court-ordered recount, only 24 clustered precincts were recounted as the other 13 were waived for the recount.
The judge also ordered the return of the ballot boxes and all election paraphernalia in the custody of the court to the election officer and municipal treasurer immediately after copies of the decision are furnished to the parties.
Montilla said she was glad it’s all over and that they could move forward and work for the development of the town, which is more than one hour away from the province’s capital city, Bacolod.
“Let’s heal wounds. It’s time to move on,” she said.
She is also hoping that with her confirmed victory, the opposition will rethink their positions and support her programs for their constituents.
“We have the same intention and objective – that is, to bring the town to a better place, make it progressive,” she said. – Rappler.com