Proclaim real winner, Pimentel urges SET
MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Miguel Zubiri’s resignation on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, does not automatically ensure Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III a seat in the upper chamber.
Pimentel would have to wait for the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), which is handling the four-year-old case, to resolve his election complaint against Zubiri.
“Only the SET can proclaim the new senator,” Pimentel told ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel. “The SET should put a closure to the contest. The SET should proclaim the real winner.”
Zubiri’s lawyer, George Garcia, agrees that his client’s resignation does not automatically make Pimentel senator. “It is part of SET’s discretion to dismiss the case on the grounds that Sen. Zubiri’s resignation has rendered it moot and academic, or it could allow the proceedings to continue,” Garcia told Newsbreak.
Zubiri’s resignation came in the wake of renewed allegations that he cheated in the 2007 senatorial race—this time from no less than the suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Zaldy Ampatuan, as well as a former poll official assigned to the region, Lintang Bedol.
Observers say his decision to quit saves him from a situation wherein he would have to be booted out by the SET.
It was alleged that it was in ARMM where Zubiri got the votes that moved him past Pimentel. Records show Zubiri won over Pimentel by only 19,292 votes. Zubiri got more than 11 million votes, or 11,004,099, as opposed to Pimentel’s 10,984,807.
Pimentel filed an electoral protest against Zubiri on July 30, 2007.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said that the SET has to rule with finality before Pimentel could join the Senate.
On June 17, 2008, the SET issued a resolution stating that the 2007 election was marred by irregularities and that Pimentel had a valid protest. The SET said that 98 percent of the ballots from six of the nine municipalities in Maguindanao and Lanao del Norte “were found to be spurious.”
Two years after, however, the SET ruled in favor of Zubiri, allowing proceedings over his counter-protest involving 52, 380 precincts.
Those who voted in favor of Zubiri included senators Edgardo Angara, Loren Legarda, Richard Gordon, Francis Pangilinan and Supreme Court Justices Presbitero Velasco and Teresita Leonardo-De Castro. Justice Antonio Carpio and Sen. Pia Cayetano dissented.
Pimentel questioned the resolution before the Supreme Court in January 2011. The case is still pending with the High Tribunal.
Zubiri’s counter-protest originally covered 73, 265 precincts from 17 cities and 10 provinces.
On the other hand, Pimentel’s protest covered 2,658 precincts from Maguindanao, Lanao del Norte, Shariff Kabunsuan, Basilan, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, and Sulu.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Palace respects the decision of Zubiri. “It represents a way forward to start healing the wounds of the past. We thank him for the service he has
given our countrymen. We call on Mr. Zubiri to further demonstrate his willingness to help restore the dignity of our electoral process. Any contribution he makes can be vital in restoring the people’s mandate and in giving the Filipinos the meaningful electoral reforms they rightfully deserve,” Lacierda said.
According to Sen. Francis Escudero, Zubiri’s resignation in the wake of cheating allegations is unprecedented.
“It is a courageous and difficult decision, and I admire him for it. It must be a tough time for him and his family and I wish them well as they go through it.”—Newsbreak
TAGS: , Aquilino Pimentel III, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET)