COMELEC junks Barbers’ protest


By Jun Lira

After two years of causing confusion in the minds of thousands of Surigaonon electorates, the issue of alleged ‘HOCUS-PCOS’ floated by defeated gubernatorial candidate Robert “Ace” Barbers was recently put to rest with the dismissal of his election protest against winning candidate Sol F. Matugas by the Second Division of the Commission On Election.

In its 12-page Order dated May 16, 2012, the poll body dismissed Barbers’ election protest after it found no merit or legitimacy in his pinpointed pilot clustered precincts and further found no more need to proceed with the recount of the rest of his protested clustered precincts.

Earlier, during the initial recounts and revision proceedings conducted by the COMELEC-constituted four Recount Committees (RCs), the poll body noted Barbers’ net gain of only one hundred fifty-five (155) votes from his pilot clustered precincts.

In the said Order, the Comelec made a significant finding when it said thus:
“Having said that, even if We accept the Protestant’s submission in its entirety and reject all allegations of the protestee, the protestant cannot overcome the protestee’s lead. In the twenty pilot precincts pinpointed by the protestant, only one hundred fifty-five (155) votes were recovered in his favor, assuming that all his claims are legitimate. That would be roughly 8 votes recovered by the protestant per precinct. Assuming that he would be getting the same amount of recovery per precinct with the rest of the protested clustered precinct, the total recovery would only be five hundred ninety-two (592), a far cry from the two thousand two hundred fourteen (2,214) votes separating the protestee from the protestant.”

The same Order also crushed Barbers’ allegations of election manipulation and irregularities using the PCOS machines after the poll body ruled that “the protestant failed to prove the alleged defects, malfunction, fraud or irregularities attributed to the PCOS machine and in the counting of the twenty (20) clustered precincts. All the more does this result affirm the accuracy of the PCOS machine used in the counting of votes during the May 10, 2010 Automated National and Local Elections.”

It can be recalled that on May 25, 2010, Barbers filed an election protest against winning candidate Sol F. Matugas after the latter was proclaimed as the duly-elected Governor of Surigao del Norte by the Provincial Board of Canvassers on May 15, 2010 with a margin of two thousand two hundred fourteen (2,214) votes.

Barbers’ protest was based mainly on allegations of irregularities and errors in the counting and canvassing of votes, possible manipulation of the Compact Flash (CF) cards in favor of Matugas, and the defects and possible malfunction of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine.

A former 3-term congressman and incumbent governor at the time of the May 2010 local elections, Barbers only garnered one hundred nine thousand and eleven (109,011) votes as against one hundred eleven thousand two hundred twenty-five (111,225) votes obtained by political neophyte Sol Matugas.

The said Comelec Order dated May 16, 2012, which dismissed Barbers’ election protest (docketed as EPC NO. 2010-87) for lack of merit, was promulgated pursuant to Section 6(b), Rule 15 of the Comelec Resolution No. 8804, ‘as amended,’ and was signed by Presiding Commissioner Lucenito N. Tagle and Commissioner Elias R. Yusoph of the Second Division.

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