Comelec 1st Division rules for status quo in Maguindanao town mayoralty

By Ali G. Macabalang

BULUAN, Maguindanao del Sur – The 1st Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has ruled momentarily for a status quo in the reign of Mayor Khadafeh “Toy” Mangudadatu of nearby Pandag town, advising a regional trial court (RTC) and other concerned parties to desist from recognizing the rival mayoral candidate’s succession.

The Comelec body, composed of presiding Commissioner Socorro B. Inting with Commissioners Aimee Ferolino and Rey Bulay as members, issued the injunction order on October 19, one day after Maguindanao Gov. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu swore in her protégée Mohajeran “Odjie” Balayman as Pandag town mayor.

The oath-taking followed the issuance on October 15 of a decision by Judge Annabelle D. Piang, presiding judge of RTC Branch 15 of Cotabato City, declaring Balayman as duly-elected mayor.

The court reportedly found that Balayman got 2,740 votes against Mangudadatu’s 2,070 after a recount of votes cast in the May 9, 2022 mayoral poll in Pandag town.

The RTC-15 decision ruled out an earlier votes’ canvass purportedly showing Mangudadatu having garnered 4,307 votes and prompting the canvass body to proclaim him winner on May 10.

Upon learning of the court decision and Balayman’s oath-taking before the lady governor, Mayor Mangudadatu, through legal counsels Israelito Torreon and Yasser Lumbos, petitioned for issuance of a temporary restraining order before the Comelec. The petition landed in the First Division after a reported raffle.

In its four-page decision on Oct. 19, the Comelec division said it found the petition indicative of a very serious nature, and deserving the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction.

It mentioned the petitioner’s posting of a 100,000-peso cash bond to “answer for damage that private respondent may sustain by reason of this injunction if it is finally resolved that petitioner is not entitled thereto.”

The Comelec special body enjoined the furnishing of copies of its decision with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and its field office in Maguindanao.  

It also directed the Maguindanao provincial election supervisor (PES), lawyer Udotg Tago, to serve a copy of the order to Balayman and the provincial DILG office.

In a private message to this writer, PES Tago clarified that the “order is for service to RTC Judge Piang and others which our office is doing.”

“I don’t know what the judge will do (about the Comelec order) because it appears that the court (has) already rendered a decision before the injunction,” Tago said. (AGM)

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