PCOS errs, mayor wins

Edwin Espejo
The 'defeated' mayor of Maasim town finally wins a hotly contested seat following a court ruling that discredits the tally of an automated machine

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – With barely a year left before the next local elections, newly proclaimed Maasim town Mayor Arturo Lawa can at least still savor his hard-fought victory after the newly convened board of canvassers finally announced him the rightful winner in the hotly contested May 10, 2010 elections.

Lawa “lost” to Jose Zamorro by one of the narrowest margins in local election history — 15 votes — or so said the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines which erroneously transmitted results of the canvassing of votes during a test run at Precinct 21 in Kablacan village of Maasim prior to the sealing of the machine. 

In the certified election returns from the precinct canvassed on Monday, May 7, Lawa actually received 136 votes against only 62 votes by Zamorro — bringing the total votes he garnered to 5,440, or 58 more than Zamorro’s 5,382 votes.

Since a Commission on Elections ruling prohibited pre-proclamation protests, Lawa had to file his protest with the commission en banc. Lawa won his case but Zamorro filed an appeal which eventually reached the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld Lawa’s victory. 

Armed with the Supreme Court ruling, Lawa tried to claim his seat last year but by then the municipal election officer who admitted to the PCOS machine error had already retired.

In March this year, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo ordered Zamorro to vacate his post and appointed Vice Mayor Uttoh Salem Cutan as acting mayor.

On May 7, Lawa, dressed in long sleeves, finally held office for the first time as Cutan immediately relinquished his post as acting mayor.

Lawa was one of two mayoral candidates from the Sarangani Reconciliation and Reformation Organization (SARRO) party who survived the onslaught of winning candidates from the People’s Champ Movement of Rep Manny Pacquiao.

His assumption to office comes on the eve of oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the validity of the contract between the Comelec and Smartmatic for the re-use of the PCOS machines in the 2013 senatorial and local polls.

The High Court has stopped the Comelec from implementing the contract pending the resolution of the petititons of groups which are opposed to the use of PCOS machines. – Rappler.com