LAGON IN DIAMANTE OUT
The Regional Trial Court in Toledo City has ruled that Daphne Lagon is the rightful winner in the 2016 mayoralty race in Tuburan town and ordered the sitting mayor, Democrito Diamante, to vacate the post.
Lagon yesterday told CEBU DAILY NEWS that she is ready to assume the post, but Diamante said he would not give up the seat and would contest the ruling.
This developed as Judge Hermes Montero of the RTC Branch 29 in Toledo City declared Lagon, a businesswoman, as the “duly elected mayor” of the town in the May 2016 elections following a court-supervised recount.
A manual recount of votes from at least 11 precincts in Tuburan showed Lagon won by 93 votes over Diamante, the court ruling said.
“Accordingly, the proclamation on May 10, 2016 by the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Protestee Democrito Diamante as the duly elected municipal mayor in the aforesaid municipality is hereby recalled and set aside,” said Montero, whose court in Toledo City has jurisdiction over cases in Tuburan, a northwestern Cebu town 83 kilometers from Cebu City.
The ruling was issued last October 10 but was released to the parties and the media just yesterday, a Friday.
Diamante, a member of the Liberal Party (LP), was directed to relinquish his post in favor of Lagon, of One Cebu Party.
Diamante earlier won over Lagon by just 46 votes and was declared as mayor of Tuburan by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
But an election protest filed by Lagon prompted the court to order a vote recount.
‘I am ready’
Lagon, in an interview, expressed elation over what she considered as a just decision by the trial court.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time already. I am happy that the truth came out,” she told CEBU DAILY NEWS over the phone on Friday.
Lagon said she could not hold back her tears as she saw her supporters celebrate her victory.
Despite the court ruling, Lagon, who runs a company that installs and maintains telecommunication lines, said assuming as mayor of Tuburan is easier said than done.
She said she is expecting Diamante to contest the decision of the trial court and do everything to remain as mayor of the second-class town that has a voting population of about 42,000.
“We’re waiting for their actions. We are ready for whatever legal move they will take. I just hope that the Comelec will recognize me as the duly elected mayor of the municipality,” Lagon said.
Although a ruling on her election protest was already released, Lagon said they will ask the trial court to issue a formal order acknowledging her as the duly elected mayor of Tuburan on Monday, October 16.
Sought for comment, Diamante said they will file a motion for reconsideration to contest the court ruling, and asked the Comelec not to declare Lagon as mayor.
“I will make sure that she (Lagon) won’t be able to sit as mayor and replace me. Maybe, she can but only after the 2019 elections,” said Diamante, who is in his last term as mayor of Tuburan.
“We will take all legal remedy even if she will go all the way to the Supreme Court,” he added.
Aside from serving as mayor of Tuburan, Diamante also sits as president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines–Cebu Chapter.
Lawyer Delon Urot, legal counsel of Lagon, appealed to Diamante to follow the rule of law and step down as mayor for the good of the people in Tuburan town.
He said they will ask the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement the decision of the court once the judge approves their motion to issue a formal order acknowledging her as the duly elected mayor of Tuburan.
“If the court grants our motion, then the DILG should implement it as part of their responsibility. I hope the Philippine National Police will also do its part to ensure a peaceful transition of the town’s leadership,” Urot said.
DILG-Central Visayas Director Rene Burdeos yesterday said they have yet to receive a copy of the ruling of the court.
“We don’t have that yet. Let us just wait for whatever order the court of the Comelec will ask the DILG to do,” he told CEBU DAILY NEWS over the phone.
Having lost by a margin of just 46 votes had prompted Lagon to file an election protest, also citing some irregularities such as vote rigging and fraud in the counting of votes in the different precincts.
Urot said they originally requested the court to recount all 79 precincts in Tuburan.
However, they decided to stick with just at least 11 precincts since the camp of Diamante purportedly did not file a counter-protest.
The ballots that were included in the vote recount came from the polling precincts in Barangays Kampoot, Marmol, Daan Lungsod, Malobolo, Sumon, Mangga and Putat.
When Lagon started to lead by 93 votes and felt that they were winning the vote recount, Urot said they decided to withdraw their protest in other precincts.
“We withdrew the others because Diamante’s camp has not filed a counter-protest, and they were just delaying the proceedings. So we had sole decision over the recount,” the lawyer said.
“On the 11 precincts where the votes were recounted, we were already winning, so we decided to no longer contest the other ballots,” he added.
Tuburan’s defeated mayoralty candidate Daphne Lagon, in this photo taken during the May 2016 elections, showed her finger with indelible ink after she voted at the Tuburan Central School. The Regional Trial Court in Toledo City that presided over the election protest filed by Lagon ruled she won the elections in 2016. But sitting Mayor Democrito Diamante (inset) will not step down and will question the ruling.