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Negros Occidental mayor Malabor seeks recount after losing reelection bid by a hairline

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BACOLOD CITY — Mayor Joselito Malabor, who failed in his re-election bid in Isabela, Negros Occidental, has sought a recount of votes cast in the mayoral race during the May 13 elections.

Malabor lost by a slim margin of 48 votes after garnering 13,844 votes, compared with the 13,892 votes obtained by Irene Montilla, widow of former mayor Enrique Montilla.

“Protestant (Malabor) believes that he won the mayoral race and thus, questions the result or proclamation of protestee Irene Montilla as the duly-elected mayor,” Malabor said in his five-page petition filed before the Regional Trial Court in La Carlota City on Thursday.

A copy of the petition to contest the election of Montilla was also received by the Office of the Clerk of Court of the RTC in Bacolod City, where Malabor paid the required fees, in the afternoon of the same day.

Malabor is seeking a recount of votes in 37 out of the 54 clustered precincts in Isabela.

He said in the petition that “had the votes of his supporters been duly counted or considered, he could have easily won and be declared as the winning candidate for mayor.”

For her part, Montilla said in a statement to the media here that she believes it is time to move on after the people have spoken.

Moreover, Malabor said his belief that he won was bolstered by reports that there were votes cast for him not reflected in the receipts, and that his representative who accompanied the municipal election officer reported that only 46, not the total 54 secure digital (SD) cards used, have been delivered to the Commission on Elections Provincial Office on May 16.

Aside from petitioning for a recount of votes in the ballots of the questioned precincts, Malabor also prayed that the ballot boxes used in the contested precincts be transferred from the custody of the municipal treasurer to the RTC’s Office of the Clerk of Court.

“As far as I know, this is the first election protest involving an automated machine. Once and for all, the manual recount will test the accuracy of the vote counting machine,” Malabor’s legal counsel, Jose Max Ortiz, said in a radio interview. (PNA)