MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday, April 23, ordered the correct board of canvassers in Baybay City, Leyte, to convene and recanvass election returns for the mayoralty post during the May 13, 2013 polls.
The Comelec affirmed the Nov 28, 2013 decision of the poll body's First Division, and denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Mayor Carmen Cari.
Cari, who ran under the Liberal Party banner, was challenged by Marilou "Malot" Galenzoga of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in the 2013 midterm polls. (READ: In Leyte: 'Walk for change' vs 'Walk for progress')
Cari received 30,618 votes, while Galenzoga obtained 15,421 votes in the 2013 polls, according to the official city certificate of canvass.
The poll body found that the city board of canvassers (CBOC) during the midterm polls was illegally constituted.
"The Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Baybay City and a personnel from the Department of Education (DepEd) should have been appointed," the Comelec said in its November 28 decision.
At the time of the polls, the city had no auditor and register of deeds, the first two preferred substitutes as CBOC members.
Cari argued that "any other available appointive city official" can stand as a substitute, after the next possible substitute – the clerk of court of the municipal trial court in the city – was found to be related to a candidate for city councilor.
Appointed to complete the CBOC were the city civil registrar and social welfare development officer.
In her reply, Galenzoga commented that the clerk of court of the city's regional trial court and a DepEd representative were the legal substitutes, as stated in Sections 9 and 10 of Comelec Resolution 9648.
The mayoralty race in the city was hotly-contested. Galenzoga was the first major political challenger of Cari and her family in years. Mayor Cari's sons and her siblings and other close relatives have been swapping positions both at the city and provincial levels in the past.
During the campaign, Galenzoga, 38, survived an assassination attempt. Two men tried to kill her while she was monitoring the final testing and sealing of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
Mayor Cari, 83, denied the allegations that her family was behind the attack. She said, however, that she would only consider killing a rival if the rival was "winnable."
More than a month after the elections, at least 500 supporters of Galenzoga were detained after police violenty dispersed their "thanksgiving rally."