BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Defeated Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia has filed an election protest before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for alleged “massive vote buying” and “fake voters,” his camp announced Tuesday, May 24.
The mayor sought a manual recount of all 450 clustered precincts, and asked the poll body to declare a “failure of elections” and conduct special polls in Negros Occidental’s independent capital city.
Leonardia claimed there was massive vote buying and that “fake” voters were allowed to cast their votes in the May 9 polls that resulted in the “mysterious and unbelievable” outcome.
Leonardia, who got 107,447 votes, was defeated by former Negros Occidental Representative Alfredo Benitez, who garnered 171,893 votes.
The mayor’s complaint before the COMELEC central office, which was filed on May 20, was docketed as Election Protest Case No. 008-2022.
In a press conference Tuesday, Dr. Chris Sorongon, spokesperson of Grupo Progreso, stressed they have strong evidence that the rival group was involved in “massive and rampant” vote buying.
He also presented a photo showing P2,000 in cash with a list of candidates, allegedly of rival Team Asenso.
“The move of Mayor Leonardia to file a complaint was in response to the people’s clamor. The people of Bacolod want to know the truth,” said Sorongon, who also failed to bag a city council seat.
“For them, the results were unbelievable as they pointed out the longest caravan ever mounted during our opening salvo, the mammoth crowd that massed up during our miting de avance, the huge turnout of our daily campaigns and handshaking sorties and caucuses, the survey results both done internally and conducted by independent institutions on top of the achievements of the current administration and a clear platform of government,” said Sorongon, who was joined by lawyers Marcus Vaflor and Jireh Alimon in the press conference.
Rappler’s coverage of the two rivals’ proclamation rallies and respective miting de avance showed Benitez had much bigger crowds than Leonardia, though critics mocked his events for the presence of rock stars from the national capital.
Benitez was proclaimed mayor on May 10.
In a statement released to the media, Benitez called Leonardia’s electoral protest “an exercise of futility, and will surely be dismissed”.
“The baseless and frivolous complaint filed by the incumbent mayor is another desperate move of one who refuses to accept the truth,” said the mayor-elect.
He described the 2022 elections as “generally peaceful, credible and orderly.”
Benitez also said the defeated mayor did not show documented and concrete evidence of any irregularities at the voting precincts.
“The people of Bacolod have spoken and it is time to move on and buckle down to work,” he added. – Rappler.com