MANILA – Good news to Manilans.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Second Division has dismissed the protest against Manila Mayor Maria Sheilah Honey Lacuna, filed by losing mayoralty candidate Alexander Lopez, for failure to present evidence to support the case.


The nine-page decision, signed by Commissioners Marlon Casquejo and Rey Bulay stated that Lopez failed to show solid proof of alleged massive electoral frauds, anomalies, misreading of ballots, and miscounting of votes, among others.

Lacuna won with 538,595 votes while Lopez was a far second with 166,908.

Lacuna and former Mayor Francisco Isko Moreno Domagoso, however, are still facing various criminal and administrative charges filed also by Lopez.

Lacuna and Domagoso reportedly shrugged off the new charges, saying they will have a chance to answer in the right forum.

The charges against Lacuna and Domagoso included plunder and graft and corruption filed before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the implementation of the no contact apprehension policy (NCAP).

Aside from plunder and graft and corruption, Lacuna and Domagoso were charged with violation of data privacy act, code of ethical conduct for public officials, oppression and abuse of authority, violation of due process and excessive penalties clause, and violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Lopez said the Manila city government implemented NCAP in 2020 through the City Ordinance 8676 when Domagoso was still the city mayor and Lacuna was still the city vice mayor.

“It is worth reiterating that the NCAP was carried out or implemented by the private sector through the private-public partnership in this case Mayor Lacuna and QPAX Traffic Systems Inc.,” said Lopez.

The Comelec said even if Lopez will be credited with the 31,608 votes he questioned, Lacuna would still emerge the winner.

Lopez filed the petition on May 23.

“It is clear from the above-quoted allegations that the instant protest case failed to comply with Section 7(g), Rule 6 of Comelec Resolution No. 8804, as amended, which requires that an election protest shall contain “xxx a detailed specifications of the acts or omissions complained of showing the electoral frauds, anomalies or irregularities in the protested precincts. Undeniably, the Protestant (in his protest) employed general and unsubstantiated averments without particularly specifying the circumstances relating to the alleged electoral frauds, anomalies or irregularities,” read the decision dated October 6.

The Comelec said nowhere in Lopez’s election protest or in his voluminous annexes was there an attachment of alleged joint affidavits of voters who supposedly claimed vaguely that they voted for him during the May 9 polls and that their votes were not reflected in the results.

“The alleged documented massive acts of vote buying perpetrated directly and indirectly by the Protestee to induce the votes in the City of Manila to vote for or against the Protestant thru the commission of vote buying are also bare assertions, uncorroborated by any other proof, whether testimonial or documentary,” the poll body added.

As for the allegations of illegal use of public facilities, equipment, funds and other resources in Lacuna’s candidacy, the Comelec advised Lopez to file an appropriate complaint before the Law Department “so that the same may be properly investigated.”

The 57-year-old Lacuna was Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domago’s vice mayor prior to the elections and is the first female mayor of Manila.

A medical doctor and former councilor, she is the daughter of former Manila vice mayor Danny Lacuna.

On the graft charges, Lopez, as Manila Times reported, emphasized that in the NCAP ordinance, there is no mention or even a hint on how the penalties will be divided between the city government and the collecting private entity.

“Further, there is also no mention as to a special fund to put the collected penalties paid from alleged traffic violations,” Lopez said in his complaint.

He said the purpose of the technology-based NCAP is to avoid “robbery-extortion perpetrated by law enforcers against traffic violators, to ease the traffic in Manila, and to unburden the local government of past methods in implementing traffic rules and regulations.”

However, Lopez, as Manila Times reported, argued that the “use of legal force” can be done only by the State and that a private entity, in this case QPAX Traffic Systems Inc., cannot exercise police power or law enforcement.

“There are three powers of the State and one is the police power. Private entities cannot be deputized to implement police power,” Lopez argued.

“Also, pecuniary penalties (money) due to law enforcement must go straight to the coffers of the government and it cannot be divided or given to a private entity as a form of percentage share,” he added in his complaint. “The money received by the State must be complete and its disposal is subject to so many other laws.”

Lopez, the eldest child of former Manila mayor Gemiliano “Mel” Lopez, said QPAX Traffic Systems Inc. is not part of the government and therefore cannot act as a law enforcement agency, unit, bureau, group or tool to apprehend and penalize traffic violators.

He pointed out the city ordinance that established the NCAP in the city is “patently unconstitutional” for violating various Bill of Rights under the Constitution and the Data Privacy Act.

In addition, Lopez said the illegality is even evidenced by a “contract and transaction” with a private entity and that law enforcement is actually implemented by the said private entity.

“What is even worse is that a percentage of the penalty will go directly to the private entity through a percentage arrangement,” he noted.

According to Lopez, QPAX Traffic Systems Inc. as law enforcers upon the imprimatur of Mayor Lacuna-Pangan is “patently in violation of laws and rules,” as it is given shares of the penalties of the traffic violations.