The newly-declared mayor of Simunul town in Tawi-tawi province, Benzar Tambut, has decried his political opponents’ use of media to cast aspersions on the Regional Trial Court’s decision regarding the real winner of the 2019 mayoralty elections in the town.
Tambut was declared the new Mayor, unseating Wasilah Abdurahman, by Judge Grace Tillah of RTC Branch 26, Tawi-Tawi in a decision released on October 5.
Tambut denounced a news item that appeared recently in a national newspaper (not the Standard), which quoted Abdurahman as saying that Tambut, “a losing candidate, a third placer at that, is trying to disrupt our march toward economic prosperity.”
The same news item also said Abdurahman “blasted (Judge) Tillah for siding with Tambut.”
In Simunul’s four-candidate mayoralty race in 2019, Abdurahman was proclaimed winner by the Municipal Board of Canvassers with 5,892 votes, followed by Pirza Bulante (2,887 votes) and then Tambut with 1,559 votes.
Tambut filed a protest with RTC Branch 26 on the grounds of fraud through vote-buying, ghost voters, inconsistencies in the Book of Voters and other irregularities.
Following an exhaustive review of the evidence presented, including the technical examination of official ballots and other election documents in 23 clustered precincts and a declaration by the Electoral Boards of the malfunctioning of 17 of the selected 23 Voter Registration Verification Machines, Judge Tillah ruled in favor of Tambut.
The judge cited, among other details, that “out of 8,257 total number of registered voters in the official list, only 6,734 were found to be with Application for Registration/Voters Registration, and 1,523 voters were without Application for Registration nor with Voters Registration Records.”
The judge tapped technical experts from the National Bureau of Investigation to assist her in appreciating the evidence.
Tillah also noted that the protestee, Abdurahman, did not file her Motion for Technical Examination, but sent her own technical experts to observe the conduct of the technical examination, and that after the technical examination, Abdurahman declined to make her Offer of Evidence, thereby waiving her right to present evidence prior to the decision.
Concluding her decision, Judge Tillah ordered that 5,093 votes for Abdurahman be deducted, leaving her with 799 valid votes against Tambut’s 1,559, giving the latter a winning margin of 760 votes.
The decision further ordered Abdurahman “to vacate her position and to cease and desist from further discharging the duties and functions officially vested in the office of the Municipal Mayor of Simunul, Tawi-tawi, which are now conferred in favor of Protestant Benzar Tambut….”
Asked why a candidate who previously garnered third place was declared the winner, Tambut, through his lawyers, said: “Our election laws state that any candidate with a valid certificate of candidacy may file an election protest and that a candidate who failed to file his protest or file for intervention shall lose any participation in the case, regardless of his number of votes.”
Tambut is urging the people of Simunul to unite and work as one for the town’s continued peace and progress