VERA FILES FACT CHECK: ‘Comelec order’ disqualifying Abra Rep from midterm polls FAKE

A document saying the Commission on Elections (Comelec) supposedly barred lone district of Abra Rep. Joseph “JB” Bernos from running in the 2019 midterm elections is fabricated.

STATEMENT

Bernos, who won his re-election bid, wrote on his Facebook page on the eve of the May 13 polls:

“I am vehemently denying the rumors that I am disqualified from the 2019 Congressional race. It is yet another FAKE NEWS that they wish to spread to stain the good service we have done here in Abra. They should be ashamed of this dirty tactic, for they know they will never win against us that had proven many things for Abra. This is FAKE NEWS, my fellow Abreños.”

Source: Cong. JB Bernos Facebook page, May 12, 2019.

The solon’s post also showed two photos of what appeared to be an order from the Comelec en banc, superimposed with a “FAKE” stamp.

It received over 3,500 reactions and was shared 45 times.

The post came three weeks after Bernos published a Facebook status on April 21 decrying a question from a netizen on the Facebook group Abrenian.com Abra Community asking if he had been disqualified from running for office. The netizen’s post had 66 reactions and 55 comments. Bernos’ counter-post saying that this was fake and “black propaganda” had over 3,300 reactions and 94 shares.

FACT

The “Comelec order” in Bernos’ post was a combination of two different documents:

  • a March 11 order from the Comelec en banc saying they “consider respondent (Bernos) duly served” with a copy of a resolution upholding their decision on a case filed against him in 2013 for allegedly violating the Omnibus Election Code during that year’s midterm polls.

The Comelec en banc in 2016 recommended the filing of a case in court against Bernos and two policemen after reviewing the petition filed in 2013 by former Dolores, Abra mayor Robert Victor Seares. The poll body later on denied Bernos’ motion for reconsideration, and with the Certificate of Finality, concluded their decision on March 12, 2019.

Six days later, a petition seeking to disqualify Bernos in this year’s midterm elections was filed by Seares’ cousin, Jendricks Seares Luna.

Aside from merging two different Comelec issuances, the purported second page of the fake document posted by Bernos was manipulated.

It copy-pasted from the Certificate of Finality a portion quoted from the Comelec resolution, ordering the filing of a case against Bernos:

“WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission En Banc RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to ORDER the filing of Information against respondents Joseph Sto. Nino B. Bernos, PO3 Raymund Palope and PO2 Jithelo Panigan Tuazon for violation of Section 261, Paragraphs (e), (f) and (y) (9) of B.P. Blg. 881. As to Dante B. Guzman, the case against him is hereby DISMISSED by reason of his death.”

A fabricated provision was added:

“Respondent JOSEPH STO. NINO BERNOS is hereby ordered DISQUALIFIED as candidate for Representative of the LONE DISTRICT OF ABRA in the 2019 MIDTERM ELECTIONS[.]”

The Comelec’s Office of the Clerk of Commission told VERA Files there are actually two petitions seeking Bernos’ disqualification but both have only been “submitted for resolution” and are “yet to be decided on by Comelec en banc.”

The Provincial Electoral Board of Canvassers made official Bernos’ win for a second term on May 14.

Abra was declared by Comelec as a Category Red Election Hotspot for this midterm elections following reports of “election-related incidents in the past two elections” and “serious armed threats” posed by various groups.



Sources

@abragovph, “COMELEC-Abra proclaimed Cong. Jb Bernos, @govjoybernos, Vice-Gov. Ronald Balao-as, and Sangguniang Panlalawigan members,” May 15, 2019

Baguio Herald Express Online, “Abra solon, 2 cops face election raps,” April 21, 2019.

Manilastandard.net, “Luzon: Gov. Bernos, Balao-as win in Abra,” May 15, 2019.

Official website of the Commission on Elections, “Comelec declares entire Mindanao and other areas as election hotspots,” March 19, 2019.

Office of the Clerk of Commission, personal correspondence, May 14, 2019.

Philippine News Agency, “Congressman, guv and vice guv reelected in Abra,” May 15, 2019.

Politiko North Luzon, “Comelec denies Gov Bernos petition vs 2013 election complaint,” April 22, 2019.

The Manila Times, “Abra lawmaker faces poll raps,” April 19, 2019.

Inquirer.net, “In Abra, political rivalry heats up,” March 12, 2019



(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

(VERA Files is a part of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking initiative by the academe and the media for the 2019 Philippine midterm elections.)

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