The Election Registration Board (ERB) has approved the application of former Rep. Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez to transfer his voter registration to Bacolod City.
The ERB resolution released Wednesday, July 28, denied the opposition to his registration filed by three Barangay Mandalagan residents.
“We respect and thank the ERB for the decision. We have complete faith in the Comelec-ERB process. Now, I am a registered voter of Bacolod City. Bacolod, here I come,” Benitez said.
Benitez earlier announced that he is running for mayor of Bacolod in 2022.
Marcus Aurelian Vaflor, lawyer of the oppositors Hector Yula, Teodoro Abao, and Jonah Abao who are aligned with the Grupo Progreso of Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, said they will issue an official answer after reading the ERB ruling.
His clients on July 13 filed as an opposition against the transfer of the voter registration of Benitez from Victorias City to Bacolod City, saying the former congressman is not a resident of the Bantug compound at Mountain View Subdivision in Barangay Mandalagan, and presented witnesses to support their claim.
The ERB, in its resolution dated January 23 and signed by its chairman – Bacolod Election Officer Kathrina Trinio Caña, and members Local Civil Registrar Hermilo Pa-oyon and Assistant Schools Division Superintendent Gladys Amylaine Sales, noted that the three oppositors are not residents of Mountain View Subdivision.
The ERB also said the claims of the oppositors’ witnesses Su-Ann Bacan and Geronimo Teofisto Estrella that they are residents of Mountain View Subdivision were belied by the witnesses of Benitez.
Mandalagan Kagawad Paul Anieve said Bacan is not a resident of Mountain View Subdivision but actually resides in Porferia Subdivsion, which is an entirely different subdivision that is separated by a fence and a gate.
Estrella’s mother, Evangeline, also issued an affidavit stating that he no longer lives with her at Mountain View Subdivision but has a separate residence at City Heights Subdivision in Barangay Taculing, Bacolod.
The ERB said it was inclined to give more credence to the respondent’s witnesses who are residents of Mountain View Subdivision and in a much better position to prove the residency of Benitez.
Substantially weightier is the affidavit of Andres Ferrer, who is the president of the Mountain View Homeowners Subdivision, who said Benitez is a resident of the subdivision, the ERB added.
The ERB also said the oppositors contention in their position paper that Benitez must establish a new domicile before filing his application to register as a voter is gravely misplaced.
Section 9 of Republic Act 8189, an act providing for a general registration of voters, states that an applicant should be a resident of the place he proposes to vote at for at least six months immediately preceding the election, the ERB said.
The ERB said it finds Benitez to have met the residency requirement of six months on the day of the election. Even if the period of his residence at Mountain View Subdivision be reckoned from the time of his filing of application to transfer registration record on April 22 until the eve of the election day on May 9, 2022, Benitez would still be one year and eleven days a resident of Bacolod, the ERB added.
Meanwhile, Caña said they would correct an error in the dispositive portion of the resolution that referred to Benitez as Alfredo Abelardo B. Bantug. She said the error is not substantial since his name in the title of the case, which is Alfredo Abelardo B. Benitez, is correct.*