COMMENT: End of the race nearing

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BY THE WAY: The Commission’s Second Division – composed of Commissioner Florentino A. Tuason, Jr., presiding, and Commissioners Rene V. Sarmiento and Nicomedes Ferrer – in a resolution dated and issued July 10 ordered the re-canvass of the votes in three towns in the first district of Lanao del Norte using the Comelec’s copies of the Election Returns. (Violeta Gloria via Our Coop)  

To be re-canvassed are the votes from the municipalities of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan. The ballot boxes containing the ERs from the three towns had been forcibly opened and the ERs evidently tampered.  Yet, they were included in the canvassing – unbelievably on order of the Comelec.

The re-canvass will determine the winner between candidates Vicente F. Belomonte and Imelda Q. Dimaporo. In the controversial canvass, Dimaporo won although she was poor third in the unofficial tally of the National Movement for Free Election.

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Vote Statistics

The counting has been finished.  From Bogo City, Bais City and Pagalungan in Maguindanao, the final three to be canvassed, Zubiri had 27,253 votes and Pimentel got 10,647.  Before the final canvass, Pimentel was leading Zubiri by 2,026.  Hence, Zubiri has won by 14,580 votes but Pimentel is protesting.

The Maguindanao votes are most critical.  Zubiri’s 195,823 votes against Pimentel’s 67,111 have given him a lead of 128,712. If Pimentel is able to have the Maguindanao votes nullified, he will win by over 100,000 votes.  He is asking the Court a chance to nullify those votes.

Suppose the Court orders the Commission to re-canvass the Maguindanao votes based on its copies of the municipal CoCs or ERs, has Pimentel a chance?  If the voting trend in the 21 other municipalities of Maguindanao was similar to that in the eight barangays of Pagalungan — the boxes opened and the ballots tallied in Manila, Pimentel has a big mathematical chance.

In the 38 precincts of the eight Pagalungan barangays, Pimentel had 740 votes to Zubiri’s 1,216 or a ratio of 60.85 to 100 or 60.85 percent. The votes appeared authentic. All senatorial candidates got votes. While TU’s Jamalul Kiram III placed first, the top 12 were six from Genuine Opposition, four from TEAM Unity and two Independents.

If 60.85 percent is the authentic Pimentel-Zubiri ratio, Pimentel should have 119,158 votes in Maguindanao minus the eight Pagalungan barangays.  That would give Zubiri only 76,665 vote- margin.  But prior to Maguindanao canvass, Pimentel had led Zubiri by more than 111,000. This is only a possibility but a significant one.

Crucial

The nullification of the Maguindanao votes or a re-canvass based on the Commission’s copies of the municipal ERs and CoCs is Pimentel’s only hope of winning the race.  Today’s Court hearing is crucial. Can Pimentel convince the Court to order the Commission to hear his case?

Or much better: Can he prevail upon the Court to direct the Commission to re-canvass the votes using its authentic copies of the Maguindanao municipal ERs and CoCs?  If the Commission did this to resolve the Belmonte protest in the first district of Lanao del Norte, why will it not do the same in the Maguindanao case?

Unless technicalities bar the way, there is enough evidence of irregularities and anomalies for Pimentel to get favorable orders from the Court and to prove his case before the Commission en banc. Obviously, the Commission appears inclined to proclaim Zubiri and let the Senate Electoral Tribunal, should Pimentel file a protest, do the dirty work it is supposed to do.

See No Evil

Why does the Commission see no evil in the sea of frauds? Almost all, if not all, provisions of the Omnibus Election Code relevant to the electoral processes were violated.  Yet, it appears that the Commission has been exerting extra efforts to cover up the evil.

·         There’s nothing wrong with the statistical improbability. The votes were genuine not fabricated despite testimonies from a few courageous members of the Board of Election Inspectors.

·         The 38 precincts in Pagalungan boldly questioned the TEAM Unity 12-0 sweep. On the contrary, they showed 6 GO-4 TU-2 Independent trend. 

Most probably, that was the trend in many if not all municipal CoCs.  So, during the clandestine provincial canvassing, the Provincial Board of Canvassers fabricated the CoC showing a TU 12-0 sweep.  Election Provincial Supervisor Lintang Bedol must have taken care of all copies of the municipal ERs and CoCs.

This explains why the first provincial canvassing was clandestine — allowing no party representatives, no members of the media, no accredited watchers to witness.

This explains why the two dominant parties, Namfrel National Movement for Free Elections) and the accredited watcher PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) were not given their copies of the municipal ERs and CoCs. Were the third copies given to the Commission?

·         This explains why Bedol and the municipal election officers could not present to the National Board of Canvassers the municipal ERs and CoCs to support the provincial CoC.  Were they really stolen? Most probably, they had been destroyed.

·         The Commission did not question the integrity of the second and fourth copies of the municipal CoCs the municipal election officers presented to them in General Santos City last June 20. That was 26 days from May 25 when it asked for the documents.

Were these authentic? If these were the original – not substitute – copies, why were they not presented on May 25? The second copies were supposed to have been posted on the office bulletin boards but they bore no staple or adhesive tape marks.

·         When the second copies were canvassed by a Special Provincial Board of Canvassers on June 24, the GO lawyers were prevented from raising questions.  The same happened when the NBoC canvassed the second Maguindanao CoC last June 29. Those were Pimentel’s bases in complaining that he had been denied due process.

·         The Commission did not see anything wrong with the discrepancies between two CoCs – the first submitted to the NBoC on May 25 and the second canvassed by the SPBoC on June 25. In the first, Luis “Chavit” Singson topped; in the second, Zubiri did not only top but his votes increased from 133,321 to 195,823 –or, by 62,504. Nothing wrong?

In the light of the 38 precincts from Pagalungan – the boxes opened in Manila where the ERs were canvassed – both the May 25 and June 24 Maguindanao CoCs were most questionable.   

No Comfort

Until the Court rules in his favor, Pimentel cannot find comfort in the evidence on hand. Some technicalities may tie the hands of the Court.

Even if the Court allows him to argue his case before the Commission en banc, he will be on hostile grounds.  Obviously, the Commission only deferred to the Court; it was prepared to proclaim Zubiri last Wednesday, July 11.  And, obviously, too, it is partial for Zubiri.

Even if the Court directs the Commission to re-canvass the Maguindanao votes based on its copies of the municipal CoCs or ERs like it did to resolve the Belomonte protest, does it have those copies? If it has, why did it not refer to them when Bedol failed to give the municipal CoCs?

Zubiri has the edge.  Can Pimentel edge him out? (“Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You may e-mail your comments to [email protected]This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it )

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