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SC split 7-7 on TRO, paves way for Zubiri win


By Benjamin B. Pulta

07/14/2007

A close vote among 14 magistrates of the Supreme Court (SC) has put off its issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from going through with the proceedings to determine the 12th winning senator during the last national elections.

At the end of grueling eight-hour oral arguments before the high court, the SC, through spokesman Midas Marquez, announced that the tribunal had been split equally, seven-seven, on deciding whether to grant the TRO sought by opposition candidate Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

“At the end of the proceedings, the court in the matter of the request for a TRO, voted seven-seven. There is no TRO. You need a majority of eight votes for a TRO,” Marquez explained.

The SC en banc is one man short since the slot left by retired justice Romeo Callejo is still vacant.

The SC spokesman did not say how the justices voted individually, but sources said the seven justices voted in favor of a TRO are chief justice Reynato S. Puno, associate justices Leonardo Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Gutierrez, Antonio Carpio, Alicia Austria-Martinez and Adolf Azcuna.

Those who voted against Pimentel’s petition reportedly were Justices Cancio Garcia, Antonio Nachura, Presbiterio Velasco, Renato Corona, Minita Chico-Nazario, Dante Tinga and Conchita Carpio Morales.

Marquez said the next logical question of whether to allow the proclamation of administration candidate Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri will be up to the Comelec.

Pimentel said he still pins his hopes with the main petition despite the absence of the TRO.” I am hoping that the Comelec will observe the principle of judicial courtesy pending the resolution of the main case.”he said.

“We will wait for the decision in the main case.” Leila de Lima pointed out.

The Comelec acted fast yesterday saying that Zubiri will be proclaimed as the 12th senator today.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the proclamation of Zubiri will proceed as the SC did not issue a TRO.

In the Comelec tally, Zubiri has garnered a total of 11,001,730 votes, a difference of 18,372 votes from Pimentel’s 10,983,358 votes.

In an interview with the media, Zubiri said he is excited to start his work as a senator.

“I’m so excited to go and buckle down to work, I already intend to set up a team for the legislative agenda,” he said.

Early during the oral arguments, the SC questioned Pimentel’s lawyer, Sixto Brillantes over apparent threats made by the latter that Pimentel supporters would troop to the streets to protest a Zubiri proclamation.

A number of magistrates also grilled Pimentel’s lawyers on the issue of whether the proper forum for Pimentel’s protest is to file a case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) after the Comelec proclaims a 12th senator.

Despite Pimentel’s lawyer, Leila de Lima, presenting evidence of electoral fraud in Maguindanao before the high court showing the mathematical discrepancies and the mismatch of the numbers of registered voters and the number of votes case, Associate Justice Cancio Garcia informed De Lima that the proper venue to lodge the protest should be the Senate Electoral Tribunal, stressing that the SC is being used as a forum for the ventilation of a pre-proclamation protest, which the justice claimed was not allowed under Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized Elections and Electoral Reforms Law of 1991.

But the opposition’s lawyer countered that RA 9369, the law allowing the Comelec to use the automated election system in 1998 amended RA 7166 by providing for a procedure in pre-proclamations.

She pointed out that “if the certificates of canvass are manufactured, pre-proclamation procedure is allowed.”

Cancio Garcia, however, appeared to be more concerned that two months after the elections, the nation still does not know who the 12th winning senator is, saying that if the high court grants Pimentel the TRO he seeks, there will be additional delays in the proclamation of the winning candidate.

De Lima, in presenting to the SC the opposition’s evidence of electoral fraud in the count, pointed out that out of 22 municipalities in Maguindanao, 14 municipalities were shown to have padded the number of voters.

In the old statement of votes (SoVs), the total number of votes in Maguindanao had been 194,882 but the new one showed the padding to 198,912.

The opposition lawyer also stated that in at least six municipalities, there was clear padding in the number of votes.

In Matimbang, DeLima said that if 5,212 voters would each vote for 12 senators, the total number should have been 62,544, but the CoC showed up an excess of 817, as the number had risen to 72,342.

De Lima also pointed out that some documents did not have the Comelec’s security seal.

Pimentel went before the SC the second time around on grounds that he was denied due process, as his lawyers who were questioning the irregularities found in the second copy of the municipal CoC which were being canvassed by a special canvassing board in Shariff Aguak. The board refused to entertain any objections or even questions from the opposition lawyers.

The same position was taken by the Commission, led by Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos, Jr. acting as the National Board of Canvassers, thus creating the perception that the Comelec was rushing the proclamation of administration candidate Juan Miguel Zubiri, despite evidence of fraudulent votes.

Meanwhile, Malacanang yesterday warned Koko Pimentel not to bring his “defeat”to the streets, with the SC paving the way for the Comelec to proclaim Malacanang bet, Migz Zubiri.

In a chance interview, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Pimentel should pity the Filipino people who are being abused by a slew of streets protests by the critics of Mrs. Arroyo.

“What’s happening is that every time the opposition suffers a loss, it resorts to street protests. Our problems are never-ending. We don’t have to resort to that. We are appealing to him to follow the standard process which is to file a complaint before the Senate Electoral Tribunal,” Ermita said.

Ermita stressed that the fight for the final slot in the Senate had gone on too long and it is time for the Comelec to proclaim Zubiri.

The Palace aide noted that with Zubiri proclaimed as the 12th senator, Malacanang would now have a leverage in the Senate, with Zubiri being a fair match against the opposition senator, resigned Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes IV.

“We can say that yes he (Zubiri) is our counterpart for Trillanes because Migz is an articulate person having been in Congress for very long years unlike Senator Trillanes who is new in the Senate arena.” With Sherwin C. Olaes and Kristine V. Torres

the slot left by retired justice Romeo Callejo is still vacant.

The SC spokesman did not say how the justices voted individually, but sources said the seven justices who voted in favor of a TRO are chief justice Reynato S. Puno, associate justices Leonardo Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Gutierrez, Antonio Carpio, Alicia Austria-Martinez and Adolf Azcuna.

Those who voted against Pimentel’s petition reportedly were Justices Cancio Garcia, Antonio Nachura, Presbiterio Velasco, Renato Corona, Minita Chico-Nazario, Dante Tinga and Conchita Carpio Morales.

Marquez said the next logical question of whether to allow the proclamation of administration candidate Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri will be up to the Comelec.

Pimentel said he still pins his hopes with the main petition despite the absence of the TRO.”I am hoping that the Comelec will observe the principle of judicial courtesy pending the resolution of the main case.”he said.

“We will wait for the decision in the main case.” Leila de Lima pointed out.

The Comelec acted fast yesterday saying that Zubiri will be proclaimed as the 12th senator today.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the proclamation of Zubiri will proceed as the SC did not issue a TRO.

In the Comelec tally, Zubiri has garnered a total of 11,001,730 votes, a difference of 18,372 votes from Pimentel’s 10,983,358 votes.

In an interview with the media, Zubiri said he is excited to start his work as a senator.

“I’m so excited to go and buckle down to work, I already intend to set up a team for the legislative agenda,”he said.

Early during the oral arguments, the SC questioned Pimentel’s lawyer ,Sixto Brillantes over apparent threats made by the latter that Pimentel supporters would troop to the streets to protest a Zubiri proclamation.

A number of magistrates also grilled Pimentel’s lawyers on the issue of whether the proper forum for Pimentel’s protest is to file a case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) after the Comelec proclaims a 12th senator.

Despite Pimentel’s lawyer, Leila de Lima, presenting evidence of electoral fraud in Maguindanao before the high court showing the mathematical discrepancies and the mismatch of the numbers of registered voters and the number of votes case, Associate Justice Cancio Garcia informed De Lima that the proper venue to lodge the protest should be the Senate Electoral Tribunal, stressing that the SC is being used as a forum for the ventilation of a pre-proclamation protest, which the justice claimed was not allowed under Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized Elections and Electoral Reforms Law of 1991.

But the opposition’s lawyer countered that RA 9369, the law allowing the Comelec to use the automated election system in 1998 amended RA 7166 by providing for a procedure in pre-proclamations.

She pointed out that “if the certificates of canvass are manufactured, pre-proclamation procedure is allowed.”

Cancio Garcia, however, appeared to be more concerned that two months after the elections, the nation still does not know who the 12th winning senator is, saying that if the high court grants Pimentel the TRO he seeks, there will be additional delays in the proclamation of the winning candidate.

De Lima, in presenting to the SC the opposition’s evidence of electoral fraud in the count, pointed out that out of 22 municipalities in Maguindanao, 14 municipalities were shown to have padded the number of voters.

In the old statement of votes (SoVs), the total number of votes in Maguindanao had been 194,882 but the new one showed the padding to 198,912, she said.

The opposition lawyer also stated that in at least six municipalities, there was clear padding in the number of votes.

In Matimbang, De Lima said that if 5,212 voters would each vote for 12 senators, the total number should have been 62,544, but the CoC showed up an excess of 817, as the number had risen to 72,342. She showed other padded votes as well.

De Lima also pointed out that some documents did not have the Comelec’s security seal.

Pimentel went before the SC the second time around on grounds that he was denied due process, as his lawyers who were questioning the irregularities found in the second copy of the municipal CoC which were being canvassed by a special canvassing board in Shariff Aguak. The board refused to entertain any objections or even questions from the opposition lawyers.

The same position was taken by the Commission, led by Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos, Jr. acting as the National Board of Canvassers, thus creating the perception that the Comelec was rushing the proclamation of administration candidate Zubiri, despite evidence of fraudulent votes.

Meanwhile, Malacañang yesterday warned Koko Pimentel not to bring his “defeat”to the streets, with the SC paving the way for the Comelec to proclaim Malacanang bet, Migz Zubiri.

In a chance interview, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Pimentel should pity the Filipino people who are being abused by a slew of streets protests by the critics of Mrs. Arroyo.

“What’s happening is that every time the opposition suffers a loss, it resorts to street protests. Our problems are never-ending. We don’t have to resort to that. We are appealing to him to follow the standard process which is to file a complaint before the Senate Electoral Tribunal,” Ermita said.

Ermita stressed that the fight for the final slot in the Senate had gone on too long and it is time for the Comelec to proclaim Zubiri.

The Palace aide noted that with Zubiri proclaimed as the 12th senator, Malacañan0g would now have a leverage in the Senate, with Zubiri being a fair match against the opposition senator, resigned Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes IV.

“We can say that yes he (Zubiri) is our counterpart for Trillanes because Migz is an articulate person having been in Congress for very long years unlike Senator Trillanes who is new in the Senate arena.” With Sherwin C. Olaes and Kristine V. Torres

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