2022 PH local races

‘Nuisance bet’ muddles Zamboanga del Norte congressional race

Gualberto Laput
‘Nuisance bet’ muddles Zamboanga del Norte congressional race

SUSPENDED. The board of election canvassers of Zamboanga del Norte suspends the proclamation of a winner of one of the province's congressional races.

Bert Laput/Rappler

The final count shows Representative Romeo Jalosjos Jr. trailing his challenger Roberto Uy Jr. by a mere 484 votes, and disqualified candidate Federico Jalosjos garnering 5,424 votes

DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines – Zamboanga del Norte’s board of election canvassers suspended the proclamation of the winner in the province’s 1st District congressional race because of a “nuisance candidate” who resembled and used the nickname of reelectionist Representative Romeo Jalosjos Jr.

The final count showed Jalosjos trailing his challenger Roberto Uy Jr. by a mere 484 votes, while disqualified candidate Federico Jalosjos garnered 5,424 votes.

The incumbent congressman, the son and namesake of former Zamboanga del Norte congressman Romeo Jalosjos Sr., garnered 69,107 votes while Roberto Jr., the son and namesake of the province’s outgoing governor, was ahead with 69,591 votes based on the final count on Wednesday, May 11.

The Uy political family already suffered a major setback with Jalosjos Sr.’s sister, Dapitan Mayor Rosalina Jalosjos, winning the gubernatorial race against Roberto’s wife, Evelyn Tang-Uy.

Despite being disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in April, Federico’s name appeared on the pre-printed ballots for Zamboanga del Norte.

Federico registered “Kuya Jan” – a nickname Romeo Jr. is known for – when he filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) in 2021, and his campaign materials showed photos of him resembling Romeo Jr.

On April 19, the Comelec 2nd Division disqualified Federico, ruling that it was “evident that (Federico Jalosjos) merely filed [his COC] to cause confusion among the voters by the similarity of the names….”

The local election board would have proclaimed Roberto Jr. the winner in the 1st District congressional race had it not been for the protest of Romeo Jr.’s lawyers.

The congressman’s lawyers claimed that the Comelec en banc had affirmed the ruling of the poll body’s 2nd Division that declared Federico a nuisance candidate. The lawyers also asked that the 5,424 that Federico garnered be credited to Romeo Jr.

Uy’s lawyers objected, asserting that the e-mailed copy of the supposed Comelec en banc decision was unacceptable since it was “not yet a complete order.” They demanded to see a hard copy of the supposed document sent via registered mail by the Comelec.

After debates that lasted from 3 pm to 9 pm on Wednesday, board of canvassers chairperson Verly Adanza said she received a call from Elections Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan who advised her to suspend the proclamation.

Adanza followed the advice, suspended the proclamation of the winner in the congressional race, but did not say when the proceedings would resume.

One of Uy’s lawyers, James Verduguez, however, claimed that they called up Pangarungan, and they were supposedly told by the Comelec chairman, “I have no idea about what you’re talking about.”

Adanza was unfazed and proceeded to proclaim other winning candidates.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III expressed concern about the legal dispute between the Uys and the Jalosjoses.

Pimentel posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday, “All lawyers who are concerned about the orderly administration of justice and the sensible application of the law, are invited to focus their attention on what is happening now in the First Legislative District of Zamboanga del Norte.”

The Uys are associated with the PDP-Laban faction headed by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi which was declared legitimate by the Comelec. Pimentel, who leads the PDP-Laban rival faction, is the son and namesake of the PDP-Laban founder. the late senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. – Rappler.com