The Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) has dismissed the petition of three Grupo Progreso allies to exclude former Rep. Alfredo Abelardo ”Albee” Benitez from the list of voters of Bacolod City for lack of merit.
Bacolod MTCC Branch 4 Judge Francisco Pando on October 1 dismissed the petition filed by Hector Yula, Teodoro Abao and Jonah Tornea Abao to exclude Benitez from the list of registered voters of Precinct No. 0629A in Barangay Madalagan, Bacolod City.
Benitez’s lawyer, Andrei Norman Saril, said they received a copy of the 28-page “very comprehensive” decision on Monday, October 4.
The MTCC dismissal of the petition was expected as it was the same as the one filed before the Bacolod Election Registration Board (ERB) that was also dismissed, Benitez said.
The court decision should put a stop to the crazy attempt of his political opponents to prevent him from running for mayor of Bacolod, Benitez said.
He is filing his certificate of candidacy for mayor of Bacolod City along with his entire slate before the Comelec on Tuesday, October 5, Benitez said. He will be running against Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, who heads Grupo Progreso.
The petitioners sought the exclusion of Benitez from the voters’ list claiming that he is not a resident of Mountain View Subdivision in Barangay Mandalagan before the MTCC, after the Bacolod ERB dismissed their similar petition.
The petitioners are residents of Barangay Mandalagan but they do not live inside Mountain View Subdivision. For this reason, and as correctly pointed out by Benitez, they are not in the position to notice his presence or absence in his residence, the judge said.
“There is also no law or rule requiring residents of a place to first participate in community activities of the barangay, or introduce themselves to its officials before they can be considered bona fide residents of the place, and qualified to register as voters,” the judge said.
The conclusion of the petitioners that Benitez is not a resident of their barangay because they did not see him participate in barangay-sponsored activities is “flawed and fallacious,” the judge said.
The judge also did not take into consideration the testimonies of petitioners’ witnesses for lack of basis to claim that Benitez is not a resident of Mountain View Subdivision.
He upheld the ruling of the ERB approving the application of Benitez to vote in Bacolod City.
The ERB ruled that Benitez met the residency requirement of six months on the day of election.
Even if the period of residence f Benitez in Mountain View be reckoned from the time of his application for transfer of registration record on April 22, 2021 until the eve of election day on May 9, 2022, Benitez would still be a one year and 11 days resident of Barangay Mandalagan, the ERB had ruled.*