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By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has affirmed unanimously the resolution of its 2nd Division declaring Alex A. Centena as the winner of the May 14, 2007 vice mayoralty race in Calinog, Iloilo over incumbent Mayor Salvador Divinagracia.


In a 50-page en banc resolution promulgated January 26, 2008, the poll body declared that Centena won 8,130 votes against Divinagracia’s 8,119 votes.


This latest Comelec ruling gives Centena the chance to assume as Calinog mayor after then mayor Teodoro Lao died March 2008 while the former’s election protest was pending.


Centena questioned the results of the elections through an election protest against Divinagracia before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Iloilo City.


His protest focused on marked ballots considered valid by the Boards of Election Inspectors (BEIs) causing him to narrowly lose to Divinagracia by 13 votes.


But the RTC dismissed Centena’s protest December 5, 2007 saying he failed to overcome the disputable presumption provided in the Rules of Procedure in Election Contest.


Centena, assisted by lawyer Francisco Sibayan, assailed the RTC decision before the Comelec 2nd Division presided by Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer.


On July 17, 2008, the Comelec 2nd Division reversed the RTC decision because it violated Section 2, Rule 14 of A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC.


“Instead of adhering to the mandatory requirements provided under the above-mentioned Rule, the trial court undertook to discuss, in a general manner, the reasons why the contested ballots should not be declared as ‘marked.’ This is not in accord with the Rule promulgated by no less than the Supreme Court,” the 2nd Division said.


The division found out that “protestant-appellant Alex Centena garnered 8,130 votes while protestee-appellee Salvador Divinagracia Jr. obtained 8,122 votes or a winning margin of 8 votes in favor of the former.”


“Considering that protestant-appellant Alex Centena garnered more votes than protestee-appellee Salvador Divinagracia Jr., there is no dispute that Alex Centena is the duly elected Vice Mayor of the Municipality of Calinog, Iloilo in the 14 May 2007 elections,” it said.


Divinagracia filed a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec en banc which reaffirmed the 2nd Division’s ruling.


The poll body said it is “disappointed over the deportment displayed by Divinagracia and his legal counsel” during the hearing on the motion for reconsideration “specifically on the baseless accusations they hurled against one member of the Commission.”


“This behavior showed disrespect to the dignity and authority of this Commission while performing quasi-judicial functions,” the en banc resolution said.


The en banc resolution also directed Divinagracia and his counsel to file their joint manifestation within five days explaining why they should not be cited for contempt.


The resolution was signed by Comelec chair Jose A.R. Melo and Commissioners Rene V. Sarmiento, Nicodemo T. Ferrer, Leonardo A. Leonida, Lucenito N. Tagle and Armando C. Velasco.


Centena said he is awaiting the instructions of the Department of Interior and Local Government regarding his assumption of the Calinog mayor’s office.


Centena also asked Divinagracia to take the issue in a professional manner to avoid disputes in their town.

January 2019
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