Persons affiliated with Grupo Progreso filed their opposition to the applications of former Rep. Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez and 220 other persons to become registered voters of Bacolod claiming they are not residents of the city, their lawyer Marcus Aurelian Vaflor said Wednesday, July 14.
Election Officer Kathrina Trinio Caña has directed Benitez and the 220 others to answer the opposition lodged against their applications for registration before a hearing set by the Election Registration Board in Bacolod City at 9 a.m. Monday, July 19.
A disqualification of the registration of Benitez would prevent him from being able to run for mayor of Bacolod in 2022 against incumbent Evelio Leonardia, who heads Grupo Progreso.
Benitez, who is being urged to run for mayor, has yet to confirm if he will go for the post.
When asked if the filing of the opposition to the registration of Benitez is politically motivated, Vaflor said “we leave in to the public to decide.”
Vaflor, the lawyer of the three complainants against Benitez, said his clients contend that the former congressman is “not a resident of Barangay Mandalagan, hence he is not a resident of Bacolod City.”
“He (Benitez) was not a resident when he applied for his transfer of voter registration here and he is not a resident of Bacolod City as of now…We have a boatload of evidence to prove that he has not lost his former domicile,” Vaflor said at a press conference.
Vaflor said included in their evidence is proof that Benitez bought a piece of land in Bacolod City three days before he went to the COMELEC to apply for the transfer of his voter registration. The property has no water and electricity that indicates that Benitez does not reside there, the lawyer added.
The complainants against Benitez are tricycle driver and mechanic Hector Yula, former kagawad Teodoro Abao and market supervisor Jonah Abao.
Vaflor said other complainants affiliated with Grupo Progreso also filed their opposition against 220 applicants to vote in Bacolod because they allegedly are not residents of the city.
They are also studying the possibility of filing criminal charges against them for lying under oath for claiming that they are residents in Bacolod City when they are not, he added.
Benitez, in response, said “The opposition against the transfer of my voter’s registration to Bacolod City is to be expected. I am confident those moves will not prosper as all requirements of the law have been fully complied.”
Lawyer Joemax Ortiz said the complaint against Benitez will not prosper, it will be an exercise in futility.
One does not need to buy property in Bacolod to qualify as a candidate, in fact, one can just rent a room, Ortiz said.
He cited Cicero Borromeo who only leases a room in Candoni and won as mayor of the town.
“Ownership of any property is not a requirement to qualify you as a voter and at the same time as a candidate,” Ortiz said, citing the status of numerous other elected officials.*