PUP wants to undo San Pedro elections Print E-mail
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Thursday, 17 May 2018 00:00

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin has begun listening  to legal arguments in the election petition brought by the PUP to try to void the results of the 2018 Municipal Elections in San Pedro Town. The losing PUP 7 are alleging that there were discrepancies in the way the Elections and Boundaries officials oversaw the elections, and they suspect that they were cheated out of the Town Council Seats.

The first day in court, which took place on Monday, May 15, was a marathon 8 hours. The litigants in this case are the politicians from the PUP 7 team who tried and failed to convince the island town electorate to put them into office. Those include Abner Andre Perez, the Mayoral Candidate; Dianeli Aranda; Johnnia Duarte Graniel; Urbina “Dina” Graniel; Marina Kay; Ruben Navidad; and Ian Pou.

The respondents to the petition are the Incumbent UDP 7, who’ve been declared the winners of the election by the Elections and Boundaries Commission. They are Mayor Daniel “Danny” Guerrero, Hector “Tito” Alamilla, Flora Ancona, Ruben “Rux” Gonzalez, Gary Kristopher Grief, Severo “Severito” Guerrero, and Gabriel “Gaby” Nunez.

The PUP is also suing the Chief Elections Officer, Josephine Tamai, and Catherine Cumberbatch, the returning officer for the San Pedro Elections.

In the first half of Monday’s hearing, the court heard testimony from the PUP’s witnesses. Abner Andre Perez, and 2 of the PUP’s representatives observing the counting of the votes, were called to testify.

There were some attendees sitting in the packed courtroom who came to the conclusion that these witnesses weren’t particularly helpful in proving to the court that the PUP’s complaint had any merit.

UDP Chairman Alberto August emerged from the hearings and told the press, “It seems to me like it’s just a waste of time. We’re dealing with numbers. 1 and 1 is equal to 2. I am seeing it like they are putting these people on the stand, and they’re taking them for fools on the stand.”

Eamon Courtenay, the attorney representing the PUP, summarized for the press what their main complaint is against the San Pedro Elections. Contrary to Alberto August, Courtenay asserted that the witnesses were helpful.

After the case, he told the press, “The witnesses we called, we believe, gave evidence to show very clearly that there was a non-compliance with the law. A number of these incidents of non-compliance was actually confirmed by the returning officer, Miss Cumberbatch, and by the chief elections officer.”

Explaining the most important element of their complaint, Courtenay said, “Ballot Box CA is one of the most important pieces of evidence. What happened there is that there were 675 ballots that were made available… At the end of the balloting, they (the returning officer and her team) only put on the form 400. The question was, where was the additional 275 ballot? What they did - and this is the point we were making to the Chief Justice - what the Elections and Boundaries Commission, and Miss Cumberbatch, in particular, did was that they realized this mistake, and simply… strike out the numbers, and add 275. Change around the numbers and say… that is accurate. And I pointed out to Ms. Cumberbatch, you can only certify that if you went yourself, and checked the actual ballots… She did not do that, and therefore, her certificate of correcting it, in our submissions, cannot be relied on. That is just a mathematical correction to try to reconcile what they had on paper. This case is not about mathematics. It’s about the politics and the votes. And the question is, what were in those ballot envelopes with the ballots? And she didn’t count them, so she can’t testify to their accuracy.”

From the perspective of UDP attorney, Estevan Perrera, the PUP politicians from San Pedro have started a frivolous petition, which won’t be successful.

Perrera told the press, “I do believe that anyone who looks at the actual petition and the numbers will recognize that there was an error and an oversight in terms of minor miscalculations that were later remedied and that it’s not sufficient enough for court to set aside an entire election… We’re saying that the purported errors are so minor, that simply by looking at the forms, one can actually make those corrections, and recognize where the little errors were made on the actual forms.”

As to the PUP’s witnesses, Perrera thinks that they made disclosures which hurts their case, instead of actually helping it.

Chief Justice Benjamin has adjourned this case for continuation on Monday, May 28.