In yet another twist on the long-running dispute over the mayoralty post of Araceli town, the First Division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) upheld Sue Cudilla as mayor.
In its final ruling issued on January 13, the poll body effectively put the dispute to an end. It is also because the opposing party, Noel Beronio, had already passed away due to cancer.
Last week’s COMELEC ruling in effect overturned a decision made by the Regional Trial Court that proclaimed Beronio as the winner in the 2019 mayoralty polls following a recount.
The RTC sided with Beronio, unseating Cudilla who was originally proclaimed by the COMELEC as the winner following a simple toss coin, as provided for under the rules for election tiebreaks. Both had received 3,495 votes.
Beronio served as Araceli’s mayor from March to September 2020 before he was stripped of the post by the Commission on account of Cudilla’s protest.
Cudilla was initially proclaimed winner after three coin tosses as provided under Comelec’s tiebreak rules. Beronio, however, filed an election protest before the Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Beronio demanded decryption and printing of ballot images, which was granted by the court. It took place on October 24, 2019, before the Election Records and Statistics Department of the COMELEC.
On February 14 of the same year, the court ruled declaring Beronio as the mayor.
Cudilla, however, challenged the use of ballot images in the revision despite the availability of the actual ballots, there was no show of actual ballots were tampered with or substituted and ballot images were admitted in evidence despite not having been marked or formally offered.
The Comelec granted Cudilla’s appeal in an order dated May 8, 2020, and declared the RTC ruling in favor of Beronio “null and void.” (With a report from Romar Miranda)