TWO years after the May 2004 elections, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) declared Nur Jaafar as the rightful winner in the congressional elections in Tawi-Tawi.
The HRET, in its June 30 ruling, upheld Jaafar’s protest against the sitting congressman, Anuar “Hadj” Abubakar.
Jaafar has previously served as congressman, and earlier, governor of Tawi-Tawi.
“It is a triumph of justice,” Jaafar told the Manila Times after HRET issued its decision. Jaafar added that the decision “reflected the fairness, impartiality, and independence” of the HRET.
In a 28-page decision, the HRET ruled that Jaafar won by 1,552 votes, after the tribunal conducted a recount of votes in the province.
The HRET is headed by Supreme Court Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing and has for its members, six congressmen and two other justices.
In May 2004, the Commission on Elections declared Abubakar as the duly elected congressman, winning by a wide margin of 2,040 votes.
Jaafar filed his election protest before the HRET on June 1, 2004, alleging that “fraudulent and illegal acts” were employed by Abubakar and his supporters, including members of the police and military.
Jaafar’s supporters were allegedly prevented “from voting through the use of force, violence (and) intimidation.”
“The voters (were asked) to simply affix their thumbprints on sheets of paper without giving them any ballot,” Jaafar said in his petition, adding that there was massive substitution of ballots with “ready-made (and) already filled-up ballots” in the name of Abubakar.
Abubakar denied the allegations, and filed a counter-protest before the HRET. He claimed that there were “irregularities” committed in favor of his rival, in nine of the 10 municipalities in Tawi-Tawi.
The office of Abubakar said it will appeal the case before the HRET.
Jaafar filed a similar petition before the Comelec on May 2004, asking that the electoral body annul the election results in six municipalities. The Comelec dismissed the petition for lack of merit.
Jaafar first sat as Tawi-Tawi congressman in 1992. Upon completing his term in 2001, his daughter, Soraya Jaafar, ran for congress and won. He was named Presidential Adviser for Muslim Concerns under the Arroyo administration but quit his post in 2002.
Jaafar ran under the Lakas-CMD, while Abubakar was affiliated with the Partido ng Masang Pilipino during the 2004 elections. Abubakar later joined the Lakas-NUCD-UMDP party.