By Ali G. Macabalang
TACURONG CITY, Sultan Kudarat – Even a single vote cast on May 9 elections for beauty queen-turned-politician Sharifa Akeel-Mangudadatu would make her governor of this province, according to her legal counsel team.
“She is the only remaining (gubernatorial) candidate” in Sultan Kudarat after the Commission on Election en banc cancelled the candidacy of rival aspirant Pax Ali Sangki-Mangudadatu,” Atty. Yasser Lumbos, team leader of mostly Manila-based election lawyers, asserted at a press conference here on Saturday night.
The Comelec’s First Division cancelled the male rival’s candidacy last January, and the decision was upheld by the poll body in an en banc verdict with finality on May 2, lawyer Lumbos said.
The en banc decision was already communicated to field personnel of the Comelec for implementation, Lumbos said.
Supporters of Sangki-Mangudadatu uploaded on May 6 an e-copy of a purported temporary restraining order (TRO) allegedly issued by the Supreme Court (SC), through Clerk of Court Maritres Lombbao-Cuevas.
But Lumbos expressed doubt over the veracity of such TRO.
“It’s amazing,” he said, referring to the unprecedented speed of the rival camp’s alleged securing of a TRO from the Supreme Court purportedly involving about or less-than-a-day time element.
“We cannot speculate,” Lumbos said, pointing out that the alleged TRO was not announced by the Comelec, nor was it formally transmitted through official channels.
The TRO e-copy was published only in Facebook, something that Comelec field personnel and other stakeholders cannot rely on in the conduct of Monday’s gubernatorial contest in Sultan Kudarat, the Muslim election lawyer said.
Keen observers and other lawyers said the e-documents did not bear the usual initials in each page, a bar code and dry seal of the High Tribunal, among other usual “authenticating marks.”
The Comelec First Division, led then by now retired Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, cancelled last January Pax Ali’s certificate of candidacy (COC) due to perceived discrepancy in his required residency in Sultan Kudarat and in his being an incumbent mayor of Datu Abdullah Sangki in Maguindanao.
Mayor Pax Ali’s camp appealed for reconsideration of the Division’s decision, but the Comelec sitting en banc denied the petition and upheld its division’s verdict.
Lawyer Lumbos believed that the legal counsels of Pax Ali had misguided him in his filing of COC and in the crafting of arguments in the appeal for reconsideration.
He likened the rival camp’s situation to a case of relief-seeking persons “digging deeper inside a hole.”
Lumbos explained that gubernatorial candidate Akeel-Mangudadatu did not make up her petition for cancellation of her rival’s COC, but had rather stemmed from the making of Sangki-Mangudadatu’s camp.
Pending official restraining of the Comelec en banc decision, all votes that may be cast for Sangki-Mangudadatu will be considered stray votes, and a single vote for the lady candidate will make her an elected governor.
Before the controversial appearance in social media of the purported TRO, lawyer Cyrus Torreña said the candidacy of Sangki-Mangudadatu was not over because they would seek a restraining relief from the Suprem Court.
Torreña argued that Sangki-Mangudadatu’s votes in Monday’s polls would still be counted.
The beauty-queen-turned-politician is the wife of Maguindanao 2nd District Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, a cousin of her rival’s father, outgoing Sultan Kudarat Governor Suharto “Teng” Mangudadatu.
Rep. Mangudadatu vies for the gubernatorial post in Maguindanao, a position he held for three terms (2010-2019), against incumbent Gov. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu, mother of Mayor Pax Ali.
Noting the blood tie of her husband with her rival contender, Sharifa told the press conference here she would offer her conciliatory hand after Monday’s polls.
Good governance cannot take place in an environment of harboured hatred, the lady candidate hinted. (AGM)