MANILA, Philippines - Revelations made by suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol have sparked renewed hope for defeated 2007 senatorial candidate Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri narrowly edged out Pimentel by 18,372 votes for the last Senate slot, according to Commission on Election (Comelec) results.
The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), meanwhile, later established that Pimentel wiped out and even surpassed Zubiri's 18,000-vote lead.
In a recount in Maguindanao and 6 other provinces, Pimentel recovered more than 257,000 votes, according to the SET.
However, proclamation remained elusive for Pimentel after the SET voted 7-2 last year to proceed with Zubiri's counter-protest.
"Ako po'y nafu-frustrate at napapagod na kape-predict. Panawagan na lang at dasal sa lalung madaling panahon ay tapusin na nila kasi everyday na merong kumilos na senador na hindi naman pala nanalo ay injury and insult to the Filipino people," Pimentel said.
The SET allowed Zubiri's counter-protest despite SET chairman and Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio's arguments that there was no way Zubiri could regain the lead even if they are to reopen all 73,000 precincts covered by Zubiri's counter-protest.
Pimentel feels renewed hope with Ampatuan's allegation of massive vote-padding and shaving in Maguindanao that reportedly benefited Zubiri, who emerged number 1 senator in the province.
"Iyung malakas kong protesta, lalo pang lumakas. Pero at least, kung mabigay ko ang affidavit ni Zaldy and Lintang Bedol, ibibigay ko sa Supreme Court and SET para ma-complete ang picture," he said.
A member of the SET said he is willing to look into claims of large-scale fraud in the 2007 senatorial polls.
Senator Francis Pangilinan urged Ampatuan and others involved in the alleged election cheating to submit their affidavits to the SET.
"Doon mapupwersa ang electoral tribunal na busisiin ang kanyang alegasyon at tingnan kung meron bang bearing ito sa kasong patuloy nating tinatalakay," Pangilinan said.
There's no assurance these new revelations would speed up resolution of the Pimentel-Zubiri election protests, but it could give a clear picture of the massive cheating that marred the 2007 senatorial elections. - report from Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News