By Ellson Quismorio
The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) has dismissed the electoral protest filed against incumbent Northern Samar 1st district Rep. Paul Ruiz Daza by his May 2019 election rival, Harlin Abayon.
Penned by Supreme Court (SC) Justice Andres Reyes, Jr. the resolution dismissed protestant Abayon’s protest without further proceedings “for being insufficient in form and substance.”
All the other members of the nine-person tribunal concurred with the six-page decision, which was promulgated on December 12, 2019. The decision’s indicated release date was January 15, 2020.
Shortly after the May 13, 2019 midterm elections, provincial board of canvassers proclaimed protestee Daza as winner with a total over-all margin of 59,685 votes.
Alleging vote-buying in his protest before HRET, protestant Abayon sought to annul the results in five of the 14 municipalities of the district. In these five municipalities alone, Daza had a total margin of 36,875 votes.
The tribunal said that, even for the sake of argument, “the Tribunal annuls the election results in the foregoing five municipalities, after deducting the protestee’s margin of 36,875 votes from his total over-all margin of 59,685 votes, protestee will still emerge as winner by a margin of 22,810 votes.”
Moreover, the tribunal held that although Abayon claimed vote-buying in the five municipalities, he identified witnesses in only two of them.
Chaired by Justice Mario Victor Leonen, HRET includes Justice Andres Reyes, Jr. and Justice Jose Reyes, Jr., all three being from the SC, together with six House members, namely, Rep. Paulino Salvador Leachon (Oriental Mindoro), Rep. Vincent Garcia (Davao City), Rep. Lawrence Lemuel Fortun (Agusan del Norte), Rep. Alfredo Garbin, Jr. (AKO-Bicol Party-List), Rep. Resurreccion Acop (Antipolo City) and Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte).
Leachon serves as head of the House contingent.
Daza, who was represented by lawyers Napoleon Galit and Maria Bemadette Sardillo, thanked HRET for an early and expeditious decision of the case.