|Koko Pimentel gets proclaimed as winner of the 2007 polls by Senators Pia Cayetano and Francis Pangilinan of the Senate Electoral Tribunal. Pimentel is joined by his family led by Aquilino Sr., right and his wife, Jewel, and kids. Photo by Junny Roy for abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) finally proclaimed Thursday afternoon lawyer Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III as a winner in the 2007 polls.
The tribunal gave merit to Pimentel’s election protest, which raised questions of irregularity and fraud in the ballots and election returns obtained from precincts in Mindanao.
Based on the SET’s appreciation, Pimentel led Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri by 258,166 votes.
Zubiri announced his resignation from the Senate on August 3.
The tribunal studied a total of 384,680 ballots, of which only 69,811 were accepted.
The tribunal rejected a total of 254,222 spurious and fake ballots. These ballots were considered fake because of deformities in the watermark, no ultraviolet spots and after-glow spots, as well as chemical or solvent insensitive.
SET also said the fake ballots’ microprints were not readable even under a magnifying glass. It also noted these were shorter compared to the genuine ballots.
It also said around 60,000 genuine ballots were also rejected because they were prepared by 1 or 2 persons, based on the style and stroke of the hand-writing.
The SET’s findings put credence to allegations of new witnesses to cheating during the 2007 mid-term polls.
Suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol have signed affidavits saying they were ordered by Malacañang to pad the votes for Zubiri while reducing the votes for 3 opposition bets in Maguindanao and other controlled areas.
The tribunal also fast-tracked the appreciation of the ballots following Zubiri’s decision to drop a counter-protest. The latter had asked the SET to study a total of 73,265 poll centers.
After announcing his resignation in a privilege speech at the Senate last week, Zubiri subsequently pulled out his counter-protest.
Pimentel ran under the opposition ticket while Zubiri ran under the administration slate.
The newly-proclaimed senator was seen as early as 12:00 noon at Hotel Sofitel in Pasay where the SET later announced its decision. It was a unanimous vote by members, except for Senator Lito Lapid, who is abroad.
He was surrounded by family and friends.
In an interview with ANC, the new senator said being called “Senator Pimentel” not only sounds different, it sounds correct.
Pimentel said being a senator is something he had always aimed for.
“When I ran in 2007, of course, I wanted this job as a Senator, to participate in the law-making process, to participate in debates and discussion. Now it has finally come, 4 years later, I’m just hoping I’m more prepared now,” Pimentel said.
When Pimentel joins the Senate as a member of its ranks on Monday, he will have 2 years left in his term.
“Unfortunately, I will be a neophyte senator. But in the eyes of the law. I’m already a 4-year senator. If I win in 2013, that’s it, that would be my [2-]term limit already,” he said.
“I just need to focus because of my limited time,” Pimentel added.
Pimentel wants to become a member of the SET “to correct the loopholes [in its rules]," and intends to join the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Pimentel stressed that he would put his efforts on matters that he is passionate about, specifically electoral reform.
He advised the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to change the automated system to be one step ahead of syndicates who may have the intention to cheat in the elections.
“I will help fund the next election, it should be automated. I will just give Comelec an advice that we should adopt a different automated system. We should be one step ahead. There are syndicates, whether we like it or not, who will want to cheat even in automated elections. So to be one step ahead of these hackers, the technology used must always be changing,” he said.
'OK to any assignment'
Pimentel also said he is open to any assignment that will be given to him in the Senate, adding that he is willing to be part of any committee assigned to him.
The committees left by Zubiri, namely the Committee on Environment and Committee on Cooperatives, will not be automatically inherited by Pimentel.
Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto III earlier said the committee on environment will be temporarily shared with Sen. Chiz Escudero, and committee on cooperatives with Sen. Antonio Trillanes
Pimentel proceeded to Mati, Davao Oriental Thursday night.
He will take his oath at 10 a.m. Friday in Mati where he garnered the most votes during the 2007 polls even if he didn't campaign in the area.
He expects to join the Senate as a member of its ranks on Monday morning.
Malacañang hailed Pimentel's proclamation.
"We congratulate Sen. Pimentel. At the very least, the people's mandate has been served," said deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte. -- with a report from Jon Carlos Rodriguez, abs-cbnNEWS.com