Canvass board scores Isabela gov for ‘boycott’
The now-defunct provincial board of canvassers of Isabela scored re-elected Gov. Maria Gracia Cielo Padaca for boycotting her proclamation on the evening of June 28, moments after she was declared winner in the controversy-plagued gubernatorial contest.
Lawyer Abraham Johnny Asuncion, erstwhile PBOC chair, expressed disgust over the decision of Padaca to skip the ceremonial declaration and raising of hands for the newly-elected governor.
“I believe what the governor did to the board was uncalled for. It was an insult to (PBOC members) who have worked hard just to resolve the controversies and pushed through with her proclamation,” said Asuncion, who was designated as Isabela elections supervisor for the May 14 polls.
Padaca shot back: “So what? I believe I did nothing wrong. If given the chance, I will do it again.”
Asuncion was reacting to a statement aired over local station Bombo Radyo dzNC in Cauayan City, Isabela which quoted Padaca as saying that she skipped her proclamation on purpose as a sign of protest against the “kapalpakan (blunders)” of the Commission on Elections that caused the six-week delay in her proclamation.
The PBOC declared Padaca as winning governor on June 28, but did not attend the proclamation rites at the amphitheatre of the provincial capitol.
Instead, she had her arms raised by her lawyers at the lobby of the building on the ground floor, and delivered a speech before a group of her political supporters.
“It was my first time as an election official to have been boycotted by a winning candidate (during the proclamation rites). Yet, the governor made it worse by announcing it over the radio, and making sweeping accusations against the Comelec as if it was deliberate on our part to have caused her all these troubles,” he said.
Padaca earlier accused local Comelec personnel in Isabela of intentionally delaying the canvass, which, she said, was part of a grand plot hatched by top election officials to rig the poll results in Isabela and install her rival, Benjamin Dy as governor.
Dy, for his part, has consistently denied the allegations, saying that he was the victim of alleged fraud and manipulation committed by Padaca’s allies.
In a pre-proclamation protest, the former three-term governor had earlier asked the Comelec to stop the proclamation of winners in the gubernatorial contest, to declare a failure of elections in the towns of Cabagan, Tumauini, Ilagan, Echague, Jones, San Agustin, and Roxas, and to proclaim him as winning governor.
This prompted the PBOC to order the transmittal of poll results to the custody of the national board of canvassers in Manila, which needed until June 6 to resolve and deny Dy’s petition.
Complying with an order from the Comelec en banc, the local board of canvassers of five towns with questioned results and the PBOC to re-convene and proclaim the poll winners.
But things would have been better, Asuncion said, had Padaca had been more magnanimous in her victory, and had been more prudent not to hurt the feelings of Comelec personnel who went on to perform their duties and proceed with the proclamation, amid the threats, pressure and intimidation “from all sides”.
“We just feel that we don’t deserve such treatment from an elected official. We did not do anything wrong; sure, there were delays, but it was because we had to follow processes,” the poll official said.
Asked for details about the threats, Asuncion declined to elaborate. “It might only aggravate the issues,” he said.
Padaca, however, said that her protest was not directed against any particular individual in the Comelec, but against “a rotten system”.
“Up to when do we have to live with this kind of (an electoral) system? It’s not because I won (in an election) that I would just sit down and let things happen this way,” she said.
It was a good thing, Padaca said, that at least, Asuncion still feels bad about being criticized, “unlike his shameless colleagues”.
“Personally, I don’t have anything against Attorney Asuncion. I’m happy that he said he did his job well, but unfortunately, he cannot say the same thing for the other people in the Comelec,” she said.