By Anthony Giron
IMUS CITY, Cavite – The City Prosecutor’s Office here has dismissed a case filed by a mayoralty candidate against a local election officer on the issue of alleged flying voters in the May 13, 2019 mid-term elections.
Imus City Prosecutor Rosa Elmina Catacutan-Villarin approved the resolution, dismissing the case filed by former Imus mayor Homer Topacio Saquilayan against Election Officer Jasmin Fernandez-Gilera “for lack of probable cause.”
The resolution was made by City Deputy City Prosecutor Alexander Eric R. Leveriza after scrutiny and evaluation of the affidavits, counter-affidavits, and evidence filed by both parties.
“After careful evaluation, the undersigned (Leveriza) finds the pieces of evidence at hand insufficient to support probable cause against respondent Gilera for the crime of Violation of Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code,” the resolution said.
Saquilayan filed the case against Gilera at the Office of the Ombudsman on January 15, 2019, on charges that the election officer had included in the official list of voters more than 2,300 persons deemed as “flying” voters.
He filed the case after he was issued a copy of the official voters’ list by the local Comelec, upon request, on December 3, 2018.
The Office of the Ombudsman referred the case to the Imus Prosecutor’s Office for the preliminary investigation.
Leveriza clarified that the Office of the Ombudsman for Luzon Adoracion A. Agbada referred the case to the City Prosecutor’s Office pursuant to the March 29, 2012, Memorandum of Agreement between the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice.
In his complaint against Gilera, Saquilayan said that some 2,365 individuals in the official list that she released were flying voters as many did not undergo the required six-month residency, with the others had “false/spurious” or incomplete addresses, among other discrepancies.
Saquilayan also said that that “the election officer tolerated and/or failed to cause prosecution of these flying voters which is a violation of Article 208, RPC.”
In her affidavit, Gilera categorically denied Saquilayan’s charges, saying that everything about the official voters’ list was just, right, and in order.
Gilera said that all the voters questioned by Saquilayan were duly registered as they have all passed the Election Registration Board (ERB) requirement and scrutiny.
The ERB, comprising the election officer, the local Department of Education superintendent and the Local Civil Registrar, conducts the hearing and approved or disapproved applications of voters’ registration, according to Gilera.
Gilera averred that the ERB conducted its proceedings with transparency, that is by giving notices and copies of applicants for registration to heads of political parties and posting of applicants publicly for easy verification, among others.
There is also the rule on the period set for filing of petitions for inclusion/exclusion of voters in court, which any complainants can raise questions or reject the voters, she said.
During the period, Saquilayan did not file any complaint about the flying voters in question, Gilera said.
Also to show the absurdity of the complaints, Gilera said that among the flying voters tagged by Saquilayan were some prominent residents of Imus that included Juanito Victor C. Remulla Jr., who ran as governor and won in the elections; his mother Ditas Remulla and Allesa Aliane C. Advicnula, daughter of Cavite third district (Imus) Representative Alex L. Advincula, among others.
The voters in question were all legitimate as they were duly registered voters of Imus, Gilera said.
The election officer submitted all her evidence that could prove her claims and disproved the charges of Saquilayan against her.
The Office of the Prosecutor had looked into the case for more than two months and had approved the resolution on September 23, 2019.
In his resolution, Leveriza said that the three elements for Violation of Article 208 of the RPC against Gilera were all not present, thus his recommendation for dismissal.
“The third element requires Gilera to have acted with malice or deliberate intent to favor the offender. In the present case, complainant Saquilayan failed to present any proof of any link and or affiliation between respondent Gilera or any of the alleged more than 2,300 flying voters, Leveriza said.
In the May 13, 2019 elections, Saquilayan of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP) lost to incumbent Mayor Emmanuel Leonardo Maliksi of Liberal Party by more than 8,000 votes.
Interviewed for reaction, Saquilayan said that he would no longer file an appeal on the case against the election officer.