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Senate poll body sees basis for Pimentel case vs Zubiri

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:07:00 06/20/2008

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2007, Protest

MANILA, Philippines?The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) has found ?sufficient cause? to continue with its recount of votes in the electoral protest filed by losing senatorial candidate Aquilino ?Koko? Pimentel against Sen. Juan Miguel ?Migz? Zubiri.

?Suffice it to say at this time that the results of the initial revision and appreciation proceedings ... show that the 14 May 2007 election in certain designated areas was characterized by proven irregularities,? the SET said in its decision released Thursday.

?From the results of the initial revision and the appreciation of the ballots and election documents, it appears that (Pimentel) has a prima facie valid cause of action,? according to the SET decision, signed June 17.

Reasonable ground

?Indeed, there is reasonable ground to believe that the final outcome of the case could affect the officially proclaimed results for the 12th senatorial position in the May 14, 2007 elections, hence the election protest case deserves further proceedings by this tribunal.?

The nine-member SET is chaired by Senior Associate Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing with Justices Antonio T. Carpio and Renato C. Corona and Senators Edgardo J. Angara, Ramon ?Bong? Revilla Jr., Pia S. Cayetano, Francis G. Escudero, Panfilo M. Lacson, and Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III as members.

Zubiri was ahead by 19,292 votes?11,004,099 against Pimentel?s 10,984,807?when the former was proclaimed the winner of the 12th and last Senate slot.

Zubiri confident

In a phone interview, Pimentel said: ?I?m happy that the SET acted swiftly. This is a quick resolution of the pilot stage. One year has been lost and maybe another six months would be lost for the remaining 75 percent of the precincts under protest.?

He claimed that a counter-protest by Zubiri ?is a sham and is really a delaying tactic.?

Zubiri?s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, welcomed the SET decision as it would erase all doubts about his client?s victory.

?He (Zubiri) is confident that at the end, his victory will be affirmed,? Macalintal said in a text message. ?He is not surprised by the said resolution to proceed with the revision proceedings as it is the usual procedure in an electoral protest.?

Spurious ballots

?The findings as regards some spurious ballots found during the revision proceedings will not affect Zubiri?s standing since it has to be established that these are the same ballots used during the election or the ones counted at the precinct level,? Macalintal said.

Koko?s father, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., claimed that based on the findings of the SET, his son not only wiped out Zubiri?s lead of 19,292 votes but was now ahead in the tally by more than 70,000 votes, based on just 25 percent of the total votes in the precincts covered by Pimentel?s protest.

?This is an affirmation that basically something wrong attended the elections where Koko lost to his rival. This means Koko has proved that even by 25 percent alone he has overtaken the lead of Migz,? Senator Pimentel said.

2,658 precincts covered

The young Pimentel?s protest covered 2,658 precincts, broken down into Maguindanao (1,078), Lanao del Norte (496), Shariff Kabunsuan (291), Basilan (134), Sultan Kudarat (282), Lanao del Sur (161), and Sulu (216).

The SET had 25 teams that pored over results in 25 percent, or 664 precincts, of Pimentel?s protest covering parts of Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Norte and Sulu.

Pimentel claimed that Zubiri?s votes were padded and distorted.

Zubiri listed a total of 73,265 precincts in his counter-protest, insisting that Pimentel?s allegations were false, speculative and baseless and that the lopsided votes in his favor simply underscored the reality that he was preferred by voters in the disputed precincts.

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