MANILA, Philippines?Confident that he will win his election protest case against Sen. Miguel Zubiri, losing senatorial candidate Aquilino ?Koko? Pimentel III has declined an invitation from deposed President Joseph Estrada and Sen. Manuel Villar to join their senatorial slates in 2010.
?I am declining their invitation to run for senator. I?m a chess player and it?s already the endgame. I?m ahead of my opponent,? said Pimentel.
With Villar, the son and namesake of the Senate minority leader ran for senator in 2007 under the Genuine Opposition slate headed by Estrada. He filed an election protest against Zubiri, who won the 12th and last slot with a lead of 19,292 votes.
Villar and Estrada, who was convicted for plunder and swiftly pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, are aspiring to run for President in 2010.
At a press conference Wednesday, Pimentel claimed that he was already winning by a wide margin?96,400?in the recount of votes cast for seven of the nine municipalities covered by his protest.
?He?s [Zubiri] facing an uphill battle,? said Pimentel.
Pimentel said he had already proven ?without an iota of doubt? that he, and not Zubiri, won the 12th senatorial seat in the 2007 elections.
In a phone interview, Zubiri countered that it was too early to predict the outcome of the case as the recount was still ongoing at the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).
?My lawyers in my counter protest have (informed) me that I have recovered 150,000 votes. But I?m not calling for a press conference because we respect the Senate Electoral Tribunal?s final decision on the matter,? he said.
He said his opponent was giving out figures and claiming that he is leading in the recount ahead of a SET ruling and without any documents to back them up.
?His claim has no legal or factual basis, is misleading and at best wishful thinking,? Zubiri said.
Zubiri has until October to present evidence that he, too, was cheated.
Pimentel said he expected the SET, composed of three justices and six senators, to resolve the protest and counterprotest by November.
Asked why he was already claiming that he won, Pimentel said the ?revision of votes? was finished in February 2008.
The SET is now tackling Zubiri?s counterprotest, he said.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Pimentel showed that the SET had already declared that 98.15 percent of the ballots cast in six of the nine pilot municipalities he identified in his protest were spurious.
Based on the doctrine set by the House Electoral Tribunal in Loong vs. Tulawie, the ballots that were declared by the SET to be spurious in its Resolution No. 07-27 issued on June 17, 2008 would have to be nullified.
Pimentel said that the nullification of the votes in the six municipalities?Buluan, Ampatuan, Paglat and Guindulungan in the province of Maguindanao, and Sultan Naga Dimaporo and Salvador in Lanao del Norte?would gain for him a total of 65,261 votes, or about 96,400, if Sultan Kudarat is included.
Not counting the potential gains in the two other pilot municipalities included in his protest, he said this would be more than enough to eclipse Zubiri?s ?presumptive lead? at the start of the protest.