“The HRET should correct the grave injustice and uphold the true will of the voters.”
A year after Cory Aquino assumed the presidency in the aftermath of the 1986 People Power at EDSA, she created the Presidential Commission on Government Reorganization (PCGR) to streamline the bureaucracy that had by then grown too big and unwieldy during the martial law era and therefore resistant to reforms.
We were recruited as staff of that adhoc body for less than a year. We worked under the overall leadership of banking whiz Luis Villafuerte Sr., whose political career spanned five decades, serving as legislator for 17 years and governor for another 15 years. In 2019, he ran for congressman in the third district of Camarines Sur. He lost in the counting, but as it turns out, pending official confirmation, he actually won by a slim margin. While he passed on in September last year at 86, his family wants to set the record straight: that he prevailed over his closest rival in his last electoral battle.
The Villafuerte family says that the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) already completed in early December its manual revision or recount of the physical or actual ballots in the contested congressional fight in Camsur’s 3rd district between the late Villafuerte Sr. and former Naga Vice Mayor Gabriel Bordado Jr.
While Bordado was declared the winner in the 2019 elections, HRET insiders disclosed that a manual recount of the physical ballots in 25 percent of the protested cluster precincts conducted Dec. 6-15 last year by the panel showed that Villafuerte actually won over the sitting congressman by 776 votes: Villafuerte getting 94,830 votes against Bordado’s 94,054 votes.
With less than six months left in the 18th Congress, Camarines Sur voters want the House that resumes work on Monday (January 17) to declare the legitimate representative of the third district in the remaining months of the Duterte administration.
The HRET consists of nine members: three Justices of the Supreme Court and six members of Congress. It is chaired by the most senior justice in the panel—Justice Marvic Leonen.
The HRET can immediately decide on this poll protest in favor of the real winner on the basis of the just-concluded manual recount, since the Supreme Court itself had ruled in two similar cases— Torres vs House of Representatives and Garin in 2001 and Batul vs Bayton and Commission on Elections in 2004 —that the official ballots comprise the “primary,” “best evidence” or “most conclusive evidence” of the voters’ will.
It is important to point out that Bordado did not file a counter protest. He did not seek a recount by the HRET of other clustered precincts other than those listed by Villafuerte. Hence, CamSur voters feel there is nothing left for the HRET to do but declare the late congressman-governor as the winner in the May 2019 balloting.
Although Villafuerte passed away last September, the HRET should correct the grave injustice and uphold the true will of the voters of Camarines Sur by declaring the legitimate winner and designating a caretaker representative for the third district to serve for the last six months of the 18th Congress.
The timeline of events since after the May 2019 local elections shows that Villafuerte filed his election protest on July 12 that same year. Bordado did not file any counter-protest to question the results in other precincts.
The province’s third congressional district is made up of Naga City and seven municipalities that comprise a combined 186 barangays and 304,431 registered voters in the 2019 polls.
Based on the Statement of Votes by the Comelec, Bordado garnered 102,929 votes as against Villafuerte’s 81,269 votes and Sulpicio Roco’s 31,446 votes. Based on 100 percent of the clustered precincts in Naga and the 7 municipalities, the presumptive margin of Bordado over Villafuerte was 21,660 votes.
Villafuerte questioned the poll results in three municipalities—Calabanga, Bombon and Canaman—and, in accordance with the HRET’s rules on revision, only 25 percent of the protested clustered precincts were to be subjected to a manual recount. Eventually, the ballots in 100 clustered precincts (75 in Calabanga, 15 in Bombon and 10 in Canaman) were the subject of HRET’s revision move.
According to HRET sources, the manual recount of the ballots in the 100 clustered precincts took place from December 6 to 15, and the results showed that Villafuerte’s total recovery after the revision was 22,436 votes while Bordado lost his 21,660-vote lead—hence leaving Villafuerte with a final margin of 776 votes against Bordado.
Based on the results of the Dec. 6-15 HRET manual recount, Villafuerte racked up 94,830 votes against Bordado’s 94,054 votes—or a margin of 776 votes.
In fact, 696 fake ballots, or those without the official watermark, with Bordado votes, were found in the ballot boxes and objected to by the Villafuerte camp during the manual recount, which means that the actual recovery or vote gain of Villafuerte was 23,132 votes in just the 25 percent of protested clustered precincts.