POSTSCRIPT / November 18, 2014 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Unresolved issues in Paniqui poll row

IT’S RIVILLA!: The election protest filed against Mayor Miguel C. Rivilla (Ind.) of Paniqui, Tarlac, has been resolved by the Commission on Elections in his favor, thereby reinstating him, but many disturbing side issues still beg for resolution. Some of them:

• What is the liability of the judge from Benguet who ordered a revision of the ballots after allowing a belated motion of the loser Rommel C. David (NPC) for reconsideration of two decisions of the Paniqui Regional Trial Court declaring Rivilla the winner?

• Who worked out the assignment of Judge Agapito K. Laoagan Jr. from the Cordillera Autonomous Region to the Paniqui RTC in Region 3 after the NPC candidate (David) lost both the election and his first protest?

• How come the variance between the results of the Precinct Count Optical Scan computerized count and the manual revision was 70 percent when the PCOS system was certified as 99.995-percent error-free? Which was the wrong count: that of the PCOS or the manual revisors?

• Who double shaded 70 percent of the ballots cast for Rivilla, causing their setting aside as stray votes in the manual recount? Were they double shaded by the voters themselves or tampered with before the manual revision? If the ballots were double-shaded before they were cast, why did the PCOS machine fail to detect the error?

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SITUATION: Despite his victory, Rivilla still has to wait until Dec. 8, the end of his preventive suspension by Tarlac Gov. Vic Yap (NPC) on recommendation of the NPC-dominated provincial board for allowing the payment of wages of personnel.

Vice Mayor Genevieve Linsao, meanwhile, is the acting mayor. But salaries of municipal employees are still hanging because of the protracted dispute. The bank has frozen the town’s funds.

Everybody is guessing what action the Department of the Interior and Local Government would take. Still trying to take the temporary mayoral seat of Linsao, David points out that he had not received any order from higher authority to vacate the mayorship.

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IMMUTABLE: In a decision dated Nov 12, 2014, the Comelec Third Division — presided over by Lucenito N. Tagle with Commissioners Christian Robert S. Lim and Al A. Parreño as members — voided all orders of judge Laoagan since Dec. 23, 2013.

The Comelec said that David the loser had only until June 26, 2013, to appeal the adverse RTC decisions (declaring Rivilla winner) handed down by the previous Paniqui judge Serafin Cruz.

After that deadline, the Comelec said, the Cruz decision became final, executory and immutable. The poll body added that David’s second motion for reconsideration should not have been given due course.

Laoagan took some drubbing. In its decision, the poll body said: “Respondent judge gravely abused his discretion when he modified an immutable order of dismissal and acted without jurisdiction when he proceeded to hear the case despite the fact that its dismissal had long been final and executory.”

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WHAT NOW, PCOS?: On the PCOS supposedly committing a 70-percent error when it failed to detect and bypass double-shaded votes, will Comelec Chairman Jose Brillantes allow this blot on the reputation of his beloved PCOS go unchallenged?

The chairman is reportedly poised to buy thousands more of these election machines before his retirement early next year and the presidential elections the following year.

The least Brillantes can do to redeem the integrity of the PCOS used in Paniqui and, by extension, all over the country in 2013, is to order a no-nonsense probe into the technical details that led to the horrendous 70-percent variance between the PCOS count and the manual recount.

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SOLD OUT: We got word, meanwhile, from Holy Angel University in Angeles City that the maiden staging on Nov. 29 of “I Love Pope Francis The Musical,” a local theater production that features amateur actors, is sold out.

Its world gala presentation on Dec. 12 at the 1,000-seat HAU auditorium is now also fully booked, according to Andy Alviz, theater director-composer who collaborated the musical with writer-lyricist Randy del Rosario under the aegis of Teatru Kapampangan.

Sales of tickets and reservations for the musical’s Jan. 10 run next year, also at the HAU, have also been brisk, prompting upbeat observations that this home-grown production on the Pope might just become a blockbuster not only in the Philippines but overseas.

Pope Francis, who rose to the papacy with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, caught international attention because of his humble mien, and his unorthodox approach in reaching out to the more than a billion Catholic faithful and others of different religious belief.

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ARTISTARITA: Earlier highly-acclaimed musicals produced by the Alviz-Del Rosario team for the Pampango cultural group ArtiSta.Rita — Ima, Beauty Parlor, Perry the Musical, Ciniong and Tulaok: A Lenten Musical — focused on domestic themes and had popular appeal.

Alviz said there are plans for the musical’s presentation at the Cultural Center of the Philippines next year, in cooperation with Rotary International.

“Bookings are now also being made for the musical’s run next year in Cebu, Iloilo and other key cities and, hopefully, in London and finally Rome,” he said in last Friday’s weekly forum hosted by the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI), in partnership with the Social Security System, HAU and the Clark Development Corp.

The musical featuring 24 original songs will delve on the life of the Pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, from the point of view of a Filipino youth ministry. The production’s main sponsors are HAU and San Miguel Corp.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 18, 2014)

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