April 25th, 2011
By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) Updated April 25, 2011 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) is set to start this week the recount of the votes in the hotly contested congressional race in the lone district of Biliran.
The HRET is composed of nine members, three of whom are Supreme Court justices while the remaining six are House members chosen on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and the parties or organizations registered under the party-list system.
The senior justice in the HRET chairs the tribunal, in this case, Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.
The recount was prompted by the electoral protest filed by defeated candidate Glenn Chong against incumbent Rep. Roger Espina, former Biliran governor, before the HRET.
Reports said Chong’s camp had accused Espina of rigging the congressional elections in the province by allegedly using a secret precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine, a charge the lawmaker strongly denied and described as “ridiculous.”
Espina said the country’s first nationwide automated elections were seen as credible by both local and foreign observers as well as technical experts.
Espina, chairman of the House committee on population and family relations, won by a plurality vote of 360 and was proclaimed winner by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) a day after the polls.
Comelec regional director Jose Nick Medros dismissed the allegations of fraud, saying that if there were any, the margin of victory would have been large to discourage an electoral protest.
“I’m keenly anticipating the recount, whose outcome I’m certain of, so that we in Biliran can move on and work without being hampered by noisy politicking,” Espina said.
“I’m very confident the recount will validate the victory of the people of Biliran,” he added.
Espina said that seven out of the eight mayors in the province, who won in the same elections, belong to his party.
He lamented that Chong’s camp has been spreading “false and even funny” allegations in radio programs in the province just to discredit him.
Espina said his record as a governor for three consecutive terms would speak for itself.
Espina said he expects the recount, which would cover 132 barangays, to be brief since the HRET has a system of recounting ballots quickly.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a member of the HRET, said the tribunal may resolve all electoral protests by the end of the year.
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