They believe former Rep. Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez will be denied his bid to vote in Bacolod because they have evidence to prove he is not a resident of the city, a battery of lawyers hired by Grupo Progreso leaders said Monday, July 19.
Lawyers Marcus Vaflor of Bacolod, and Jesi Lanete and Allan Dueñas of Manila at a press conference said they had submitted enough evidence to the Election Registration Board (ERB) to prove that Benitez is not a resident of Mountain View Subdivision in Barangay Mandalagan.
They also presented witness Geronimo Teofisto Estrella, who said he lives Mountain View Subdivision across from the Bantug compound and he has never met or seen Benitez there.
Vaflor said he and the Manila-based lawyers were hired by the leaders of Grupo Progreso (GP) to represent Hector Yula, Teordoro Abao and Jonah Abao who are opposing the registration of Benitez to vote in Bacolod.
Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia heads GP, the group that almost all of the incumbent Bacolod officials belong to.
Vaflor said there were Manila lawyers on their team “because we are facing not only one flying voter in the person of Mr. Benitez, we are facing more than 200 flying voters so I asked them for their help because they are noted election lawyers and experts in these kind of cases.”
They heard the report that Benitez has declared that he is running for mayor of Bacolod, Vaflor said.
“I believe that the increasing number of flying voters coming in from outside of Bacolod are in fact his because of that declaration,” Vaflor added.
They are opposing more than 200 voter applicants and there will be more, he said.
That is a libelous statement because Vaflor accused Benitez of an election offense that he did not commit, Andrei Saril, the former congressman’s lawyer, said.
Lanete said at the time that Benitez filed his application for transfer of his voter registration he had not established his residency in Bacolod City.
Saril, on the other hand, said under the law to register to vote one must establish that one is a resident of a place six months before the day of the national election.
Benitez said the testimony of neighbors has greater primacy and weight than the three oppositors so they presented Estrella as an additional witness, Lanete pointed out.
But Saril said Estrella in the past ran for councilor under GP and lost, and is closely affiliated with the group so it is not surprising that he volunteered to testify against Benitez.
Saril claimed that for several years Estrella has not been residing at his family residence at Mountain View Subdivision.
The fact Estrella has not seen Benitez in Moutain View is not conclusive proof that he is not residing in the subdivision, Saril added.
Jonah Abao, one of the oppositors, at the press conference insisted that Benitez is not a resident of the Bantug compound in Mountain View Subdivision.
Benitez said, “we complied with all the requirements and submitted evidence that my residence is in Bacolod City”.
He has been residing at a house within his family’s compound in Bacolod City and that the move by his opponents to have him disqualified to vote in the city was to be expected, Benitez said.
Benitez said he is sure there will be more opposition complaints lodged against him because his opponents do not want him to run for mayor.
Benitez, who announced that he is running for mayor of Bacolod on Monday, said “I would like to see that the people are able to decide for a better Bacolod”.
His opponents can throw whatever they want at him as he is standing on the truth, Benitez said.*