Ayaw patalo! Lobregat questions win of Zamboanga City mayor Beng Climaco

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ZAMBOANGA CITY — Outgoing Representative Celso Lobregat of this city’s first district has filed an electoral protest questioning the victory of incumbent Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar in the recently held mid-term polls.

Lobregat, who ran for mayor but lost, filed the electoral protest with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) central office on May 23, exactly 10 days after the midterm elections.

Lobregat named Salazar as primary respondent, with the members of the city board of canvassers composed of Atty. Jan Christian Babiera, Atty. Ricardo Cabaron, Dr. Felix Triambulo, and Arman Faustino, as co-respondents.

Lobregat has asked the Comelec to order the local board of canvassers to do a manual recount in 379 clustered precincts in more than 60 barangays. This city has 98 barangays, including eight island villages.

“We are protesting the results of the mayoralty race in Zamboanga City as they are not truly reflective of the actual and legitimate results due to electoral fraud, anomalies, irregularities and errors,” said Lobregat in a press conference Sunday.

In his protest, Lobregat alleged that Salazar used public funds, equipment, facilities owned or controlled by the government for an election campaign, which he said was tantamount to vote-buying.

The lawmaker also alleged non-compliance “as to the manner of voting and recording of objections by voters in relation to the Voters’ Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), which resulted in a massive disenfranchisement of voters,” as well as the “mandatory setting up of VRVMs (Voters Registration Verification Machines)”.

He also cited the supposed “corrupted SD (Secure Digital) cards malfunctioning Vote Counting Machines prevented the true and correct determination of votes cast during the local election, and the constitutional protection and guarantee on the right of suffrage”.

“This is worth fighting for. On the results, we have received much information, testimonies, documents, evidence and we have studied and analyzed the result on a precinct per precinct basis and we are really protesting the results. These are not truly reflective of the will of the people,” Lobregat said.

Salazar, in a press conference Monday, welcomed the electoral protest filed by Lobregat, even as she cited the “historical statistical data” to prove her victory was beyond doubt.

“It is his right,” said Salazar of Lobregat’s electoral protest.

Salazar prevailed over Lobregat in with a margin of 32,741 votes, getting a total of 140,362 votes over Lobregat’s 107,621 votes. (PNA)