Palace backs Comelec on proclaiming ‘Magic 12’
A Malacañang official on Sunday backed the proclamation of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of winning senatorial candidates ahead of the full count of votes, but said anybody could hale the agency to court.
“The Comelec is the Comelec,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a senior political adviser to President Aquino, said by phone. “At the end of the day, it’s the Comelec that oversees the election process. We should trust that it knows what it’s doing.”
Abad said that unless it could be proven that the Comelec violated its own rules, it should be presumed that it had been exercising its function with regularity. “People are free to go to the courts,” he said.
Election lawyers and watchdogs have argued that the proclamation of nine of the 12 candidates before all the votes could be counted was a breach of election rules. They pressed the Comelec to void the partial proclamation.
Section 20 of the Amended Automated Election System Law of 2007 provides that the certificate of canvass, which is to be considered official election results and used as a basis for the proclamation of a winning candidate, should be produced only upon completion of the canvass, they said.
Reelected Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said proclaiming winners based on a “grouped canvass report” could set a bad precedent across the country.
The elections body, acting as the national board of canvassers, completed its proclamation of the winning candidates on Saturday night, including nine from the administration coalition Team PNoy and three from the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
The last three—Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito and Gregorio Honasan—were proclaimed on Saturday night after the last local certificate of canvass from Lanao del Norte arrived hours before.
Abad, also the Liberal Party (LP) vice president for policy and platform, said the Comelec was aware that the numerical basis for its proclamation was solid.
“There’s also the stats that are involved. You’re talking of more than 60 percent of the votes. There’s a science to being able to project [results]; it’s not a question of rules. At the end of the day, it’s the constitutional body that’s mandated to oversee the process,” he said.
That Comelec proclaimed winners in five days, compared with eight days in the 2010 elections, “is an improvement,” Abad said.
While glitches attended the count, these did not affect the generally peaceful conduct of the midterm elections, he said.
“As we go along, things will get better. What people fail to appreciate is that there’s a general sense of feeling of empowerment. Nobody knows how you voted. The voting process is fast; even before schemers had time to act, their votes had been canvassed,” he said.
There’s no resting easy yet for UNA even after the proclamation of all 12 senators.
UNA is poised to conduct its own assessment of the elections after it shall have gathered reports from its local candidates and allies on the field, according to campaign manager Toby Tiangco.
“We will keep our eyes and ears open, but we will not jump to [conclusions],” Tiangco said in a phone interview.
He said any complaints of irregularities from UNA candidates must have proper evidence. He was also keeping tabs on reports that some precincts had a 100-percent voter turnout, a matter that could be considered improbable.
If UNA finds anything questionable, it might ask the Comelec to conduct further investigation, Tiangco said. If there was nothing amiss, he was more than ready to take a much-needed break from election-related matters, the UNA campaign manager added.
Earlier, UNA raised questions about the integrity of the election data and sought the deferment of the proclamation of the winning candidates.
No regrets for Zubiri
Juan Miguel Zubiri of UNA, who ranked 14th overall in a field of 33 senatorial candidates with 11.7 million votes, said he had no regrets about joining politics even as he accepted his defeat.
Zubiri, in a statement, noted that the campaign was not easy.
“And after a long and challenging campaign, one rocked with limited resources and, at times, the survival of constant mudslinging, which is part of the political exercise, the people have spoken and the votes have been counted and it seems fate is pointing me to another direction,” he said.
His 13 years in public service were “the best years of my life,” he said.
Zubiri said he was ready to move on and embark on life as a civilian. “I will continue to support and do my part to help heal the divisions of this nation and continue to work and pray for the success of our leaders.”
Zubiri resigned from the Senate in 2011 amid allegations that he benefited from cheating in the 2007 elections. At the time, the electoral protest of Pimentel was gaining ground, and a few days later, the Comelec proclaimed him senator.