Koko Pimentel: “No retreat, no surrender”

Saying that he has been “cheated twice”, lawyer Aquilino “Koko” L. Pimentel III, who was edged out of the 12th place in the 2007 senatorial race by Juan Miguel Zubiri, has vowed “no retreat, nor surrender” in his electoral protest.

Represented by his father, former Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr., Koko Pimentel urged in a petition for certiorari and prohibition filed before the Supreme Court on January 3, 2011, Pimentel urged the annulment of two resolutions of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) which he claimed violate his rights to due process of law and to the speedy disposition of cases, and that the SET decide on his election protest without any further delay.

Senate Resolution No. 07-105 dated June 4, 2010 ordered that further proceedings be conducted on the remaining precincts counter-protested by Zubiri, while SET Resolution No. 07-113 dated November 4, 2010 denied Pimentel’s Motion for Reconsideration of SET Resolution No. 07-105.

On July 14, 2007, Zubiri was proclaimed by the Commission on Elections as the twelfth placer and last winner in the May 14, 2007 senatorial elections with 11,004,099 votes as against 10,984,807 votes for Pimentel, or a margin of only 19,292 votes.

But Pimentel claims Zubiri won mainly on the basis of “falsified, fallacious, and fictitious election returns coming from the notoriously corrupt and brutal Province of Maguindanao under the vicious and vile grasp of the Ampatuans.”  The Maguindanao votes credited Zubiri with 195,823 votes out of the supposedly 198,912 votes cast.

Pimentel filed an election protest on July 30, 2007 with the SET questioning the proclamation of Zubiri and praying for its nullification. Pimentel’s protest covered 2,658 precincts.

On August 13, 2007, Zubiri filed a counter-protest questioning the results in 70,607 new precincts as well as the 2,658 precincts already covered by the Pimentel protest, for a grand total of 73,265 counter-protested precincts.

On June 17, 2008, the SET, by a unanimous vote, issued Resolution No. 07-27 which said that the results of the initial revision and appreciation proceedings showed that the 14 May 2007 election in certain designated pilot areas was characterized by proven irregularities, and that Pimentel had a prima facie valid cause of action.

On June 4, 2010, however, the SET issued Resolution No. 07-105 ordering that further proceedings on the remaining precincts counter-protested by Zubiri be conducted. This resolution was sustained by a majority of seven SET members, with SET Chairman and Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio filing a dissenting opinion along with member-senator Pia Cayetano.

In voting to dismiss Zubiri’s counter-protest, Carpio said: “In Zubiri’s pilot precincts, consisting of 18,227 precincts, he was able to recover only 11,948 votes, subject to adjustments, translating to 0.66 average vote recovered per precinct.  His projected total recovery is only 33,794 votes in his remaining 75% non-pilot protested precincts, or a total projected recovery of 45,742 votes in all his 70,607 counter-protested precincts…On the other hand, Pimentel’s net recovery in all his protested precincts is 257,401 votes.  Even if we deduct the number of votes contained in the fake ballots, Zubiri’s projected net recovery can not successfully overcome the net recovery posted by Pimentel.”

On June 24, 2010, Pimentel asked the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) to disqualify Senators Edgardo Angara, Loren Legarda, and Lito Lapid from taking part in the case based on the ground that the three SET members could not possibly “observe and maintain the cold neutrality of an impartial judge.”

The two SET Resolutions, Pimentel said, reveal an “obvious game plan” to delay the proceedings, exhaust the contested term of office as Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, and allow Zubiri to “illegitimately exercise the powers of the office which the Filipino people have not gifted to him.”

Pimentel reminded the High Court of its countless pronouncements that “in election protests, time is of the essence”, and that justice delayed is justice denied. D’Jay Lazaro

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