TACLOBAN CITY- The mayor of San Policarpo in Eastern Samar holed himself up at his office after a regional trial court directed him to step down from office declaring his rival as the duly elected mayor of the town during the May,2013 polls.
Since July 18, Mayor Conrado Nicart III did not leave his office, located at the second floor of the municipal hall, showing his defiance to the order issued by Judge Juliana White for him to vacate the post in favor of Virginia Acol. “I will not give up my seat as I strongly believe that I was the real winner and I was duly proclaimed by the Comelec,” Nicart said, adding that stepping down would do injustice to the people of his town who put him into office.
He said he would fight his post by filing an appeal before the Commission on Elections and even up to the Supreme Court. Nicart, however, said that he would only step down and leave his office if there is already a final order and a directive from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
The political impasse at the said town, 230 kilometers from the regional Tacloban City, started when White, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 5 based in Oras, also in Eastern Samar, issued a ruling on June 30 directing Nicart to step down in favor of Acol. Acol filed a petition before the court to conduct a recount of the votes of which the court ruled in her favor. Based on the recount of the votes involving 18 clustered precincts, the court declared that Acol had actually garnered total votes of 3,773 against Nicart’s 3,667 votes or a margin of 106 votes.
On May 14, 2013, the members of the elections board of canvassers proclaimed Nicart with winning votes of 3,945 as against Acol’s 3,857 votes or just a difference of 88 votes. Nicart, who is serving on his third and last term as mayor, ran under the banner of Liberal Party and son of Eastern Samar Governor Conrado Nicart, Jr. Acol, a businesswoman, ran under the Nationalista Party.
Acol, on her petition before the court, claimed that the election on their town was marred, among others, by fraud as the results were not reflective of the actual vote cast due to irregularities and errors which attended during the counting and canvassing of votes and that ballots containing her name were reportedly “rejected” by the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines but when counted manually, were valid on her favor. Nicart, however, denied that he committed fraud during the conduct of the May, 2013 elections. San Policarpo is one of the poorest towns in the region with a population of about 20,000 people and an income of P43 million, P2 million of which is source from its own local income as it remain reliant to its share on internal revenue allotment.(JOEY A. GABIETA)