By Glazyl Masculino
BACOLOD CITY – The Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 in La Carlota City, Negros Occidental upheld the election result that declared Mayor Irene Montilla as the winner in the May 13 elections in Isabela town.
It was stated in a 201-page decision dated October 10 signed by Judge Mila Yap-Camiso.
Montilla garnered 13,892 votes against former Mayor Joselito Malabor, who had 13,844 votes, or a slim margin of 48 votes during the May 13 polls.
After the elections, Malabor sought the recount of 37 clustered precincts of the town as he claimed there were irregularities during the counting of the votes.
During the court-ordered recount, only 24 clustered precincts were recounted as the other 13 were waived.
The court decision stated that after the recount, Montilla’s 48-vote lead dropped to 22.
The judge also ordered the return of the ballot boxes and all election paraphernalia from the custody of the court to the election officer and municipal treasurer immediately after copies of the decision were furnished to the parties.
Montilla said she is hoping that with her confirmed victory, those opposing her will rethink their positions and support her programs for their constituents.
“Let’s heal wounds. It’s time to move on,” she said.
Lawyer Jose Max Ortiz, counsel of Malabor, said the defeated mayor is appealing the decision of the local court on the vote recount that upheld the win of Montilla.
Ortiz said the notice of appeal was already filed before the RTC in La Carlota City which will send the motion to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc for review.
The legal department of the poll body is expected to review the court decision in the next two to three months before it decides whether or not it will sustain the outcome of the votes, Ortiz said.
Meanwhile, lawyer Jose Antonio Angodung, who represented Montilla, said the vote counting machines of the Comelec are 99.8 percent accurate.
“We trust the machines. Eventually, the machines were proven to be correct,” he added.