The Supreme Court has decided to transfer the venue of the election protest filed by defeated candidate Lenin Benwaren against Tineg, Abra Mayor Edwin Crisologo Sr. to the Regional Trial Court in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.
In granting the plea of Crisologo, the 2nd Division of the SC noted the dangers facing Crisologo and his counsel, Atty. Estelita Cordero, and said the political turmoil in Abra is "publicly known throughout the country."
The July 28, 2008 resolution of the 2nd Division was received belatedly by Crisologo, who filed the petition on January 17, 2008, several months after his wife Brenda died nearly two months after she was shot by an assassin in Bangued, Abra.
Crisologo's victory in the May 2007 elections has been questioned by Benwaren in Election Case No. 2007-004, which was originally lodged at RTC Branch 2 in Bangued, Abra.
Judge Corpuz B. Alzate of the Bangued RTC did not object to the plea of Crisologo.
The resolution also directed the Branch Clerk of Court ofn RTC Branch 2 in Bangued to transmit the records of the case to the Executive Jduge of RTC in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.
It also ordered the Executive Judge of the Laoag City RTC to raffle the case to a branch of the court upon receipt of the case records.
The division also instructed the judge assigned to handle the case to hear the case with dispatch.
Crisologo welcomed the resolution while Cordero expressed relief since it represented a legal victory for her.
Benwaren earlier asked the same division to transfer the venue of the case to any court in San Fernando City, La Union but Crisologo objected, saying San Fernando City is near Baguio City, where the regional office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the Cordillera Administrative Region is located, and feared that his security and that of his witnesses might be at risk.
The head of the PNP in CAR, Chief Supt. Eugene Martin, is at logerheads with Crisologo and his counsel.
In a related development, Chief Supt. Ramon Gatan, head of the PNP in Region 1, has granted the request of Cordero for the assignment of five security escorts for her each time she attends hearings on the administrative cases filed against Crisologo in Bangued and Criminal Case Nos. 2007-08, 2--7-059-061 and IS Case NBo. 2008-D-138, all of which were described by the lawyer as harassment suits.
Cordero said threats to her life had been issued by a member of a powerful political clan in Abra and that she had reported the same to the police in Ilocos Sur and to Brig. Gen. Loreto Rirao Jr., commanding general of the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, which is stationed at Sulvec, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. Cordero is a native of Narvacan who also handles cases in Abra.