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HRET junks poll protest vs Northern Samar congressman Daza

Mara Cepeda
HRET junks poll protest vs Northern Samar congressman Daza
The tribunal says Harlin Abayon's election case against Northern Samar 1st District Representative Paul Daza was 'insufficient in form and substance'

MANILA, Philippines – Paul Daza stays as the representative of Northern Samar’s 1st District in the 18th Congress.

In a resolution dated December 12, 2019, but released to reporters over a month later on Wednesday, January 22, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) upheld Daza’s victory over his opponent Harlin Abayon, whom Daza beat by 59,685 votes in the 2019 elections.

Daza ran under the once-ruling Liberal Party, while Abayon was a Nacionalista Party candidate.  

The 9-member tribunal dismissed Abayon’s electoral protest “for being insufficient in form and substance.”

Abayon had accused Daza, who was Northern Samar governor before running for Congress, of buying votes. Abayon then asked the HRET to annul the results in 5 out of the 14 municipalities in Northern Samar’s 1st District.

The HRET argued, however, that even if the election results in the 5 municipalities were voided, Daza would still maintain a 22,810-vote advantage over Abayon.  

“[Assuming] the Tribunal annuls the election results in the foregoing 5 municipalities, after deducting the protestee’s margin of 36,875 votes from his total over-all margin of 59,685 votes, protestee will still emerge as winner by a margin of 22,810 votes,” the HRET said.  

The HRET also said Abayon identified only two witnesses for his vote-buying claim against Daza.

THE HRET is composed by the following:

  • Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen (chairperson)
  • SC Justice Andres Reyes Jr
  • SC Justice Jose Reyes Jr
  • Oriental Mindoro 1st District Representative Salvador Leachon
  • Davao City 2nd District Representative Vincent Garcia
  • Agusan del Norte 1st District Representative Lawrence Fortun
  • Ako Bicol Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr
  • Antipolo City 2nd District Representative Resurreccion Acop 
  • Lanao del Norte 2nd District Representative Abdullah Dimaporo

It was not Abayon’s first failed bid to return as Northern Samar 1st District congressman.  

In the 2013 elections, Abayon had beaten Raul Daza, Paul’s father, in the congressional race. But the elder Daza filed an election case with the HRET against Abayon for alleged electoral fraud in some clustered precincts.

The HRET favored Daza at the time, forcing Abayon to bring the case before the SC. The High Court then reversed the HRET ruling and recognized Abayon as the duly-elected congressman in the 2013 elections. 

But the House of Representatives, then led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr, did not allow Abayon to take his oath, claiming the lower chamber did not receive a copy of the SC ruling. – Rappler.com 

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.