Zubiri: “many others benefited”

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/14 August) —  The Senate Electoral Tribunal says there definitely was massive cheating in the 2007 senatorial race but Juan Miguel Zubiri, who resigned as Senator on August 3 maintains that if, indeed, there was cheating, he was not the only beneficiary.

Zubiri resigned and withdrew his counter protest at the SET days after suspended ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol said the elections in Maguindanao in 2007 were rigged to favor him.

The SET on Thursday proclaimed as the 12th winning senator of the 2007 polls,  Aquilino Martin “Koko” Pimentel, Zubiri’s closest rival in the election four years ago.

Lawyer Irene Guevarra, SET secretary, was quoted by reporters as saying that the fake ballots and certificates of canvasses (COCs) found by the tribunal were enough to prove there was widespread cheating in 2007.

On Thursday, after his proclamation ceremony, Pimentel volunteered to sit in the SET and vowed to  focus on electoral reforms for the remaining 23 months of his term.

“I will ensure accountability. There have been many accused but no one has been charged for cheating,” Pimentel said after ribbing the
audience about how his experience had made him an “accidental expert on electoral reforms.”

Zubiri resigned and withdrew his counter protest at the SET days after suspended ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and former Maguindanao election
supervisor Lintang Bedol said the elections in Maguindanao in 2007 were rigged to favor him. In Manolo Fortich town in Bukidnon last Thursday, Zubiri said that if, indeed, there was cheating,  he would not have been the lone beneficiary.

In Maguindanao, he said Pimentel got 67,000 votes, Senators  Edgardo Angara and Joker Arroyo both got 190,000 votes and Senator Vicente Sotto, Senator Ralph Recto, “received as many votes as well.”

He claimed massive cheating happened in “Manila, Mega Manila and Bulacan.” “I feel sad that they singled out Mindanao. They concentrated on Maguindanao, ARMM. In Mindanao, only 10 ballot boxes were found empty. They say all people here are cheats. However, in Bulacan almost 400
ballot boxes were found empty,” he said.

He said 1,000 ballot boxes in Mega Manila and Bulacan were empty. In his privilege speech announcing his resignation on August 3, Zubiri said he had directed his lawyers to “make proper and immediate representation before the Senate Electoral Tribunal and convey my actuations today, with the end in view of expediting the proceedings and with the prayer that the Tribunal come up with a decision at the soonest possible time.”

“Without admitting any fault and with my vehement denial of the alleged electoral fraud hurled against me, I am submitting my resignation as a duly elected Senator of the Republic of the Philippines in the election for which I am  falsely accused without  mercy and compassion,” the resigned senator from Bukidnon said.

“I am resigning, not because I wish to evade the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal,” he said, adding in Pilipino that he was “ready to accept whatever the judgment of the Tribunal is.” (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)

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