Press Release
November 29, 2007


All the ballot boxes needed for the electoral protest of lawyer Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III against Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri have already been retrieved.

This was revealed by Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) in the course of the Senate floor deliberation on the proposed budget of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for fiscal year 2008.

The retrieval of the ballot boxes from 22 towns in Maguindanao, seven towns in Lanao del Norte, four towns in Lanao del Sur and one town in Shariff Kabunsuan in the ARMM and their turnover to the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) will pave the way for the recount of the votes.

"The ballot boxes have been retrieved without incident. This is a good sign," Pimentel said.

"At the very least, we are allowing the law to prevail and take its course, as it were, rather than use force or violence to frustrate the very ends of the law."

He noted that ARMM officials have extended cooperation to the officials of Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) in collecting the ballot boxes.

"ARMM officials have shown signs that they probably want to get into the bottom of the problem."

Koko Pimentel claimed that massive fraud in Maguindanao enabled Zubiri to dislodge him from the 12th slot in the May, 2007 senatorial election.

All the 12 candidates of the Genuine Opposition lost in Maguindanao, with most of them obtaining zero votes in the province which even Comelec officials admitted were "statistically improbable."

Sen. Pimentel, however, voiced extreme displeasure over the failure of the Philippine National Police in the autonomous region to track down and apprehend Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol who went into hiding after the Comelec ordered his arrest to serve a six-month imprisonment Bedol was found guilty of contempt for repeatedly failing to show up at the Comelec hearings on the missing certificates of canvass from the various towns of the province.

Bedol was believed to have connived with administration special operators in falsifying the election to make it appear that Koko Pimentel and other GO senatorial candidates lost to their Team Unity opponents in Maguindanao.

Pimentel suspected that Bedol is being hidden by local politicians identified with the administration to prevent the poll official from spilling the beans on the large-scale Maguindanao fraud.

He lamented that despite the grant of autonomy to predominantly Muslim provinces to enable them to manage their own affairs and enforce the law effectively, they have always figured in massive anomalies in every national elections. He said these cheating operations were believed perpetrated mostly by people coming from Manila.

"I am not at all certain that my brothers and sisters from the ARMM are the ones who are actually and on their own volition would want to subvert the electoral process in this country," Pimentel said.

"What happens is that operators coming from Manila would go there and induce them to agree to some shady operations that will alter the actual results of the elections."

Pimentel said well-meaning national politicians were frustrated over the notoriety of the ARMM provinces as the so-called "cheating capital" of the country that the late Sen. Raul Roco suggested that elections should no longer be held in those areas.

"That to my mind, is a solution that would probably produce more problems than it would intend to solve," he said.

But he said the efforts to prosecute and punish election scam perpetrators have been blocked by powerful government officials who themselves were catapulted to their posts through cheating.

"When somebody is elected through fraudulent votes, he would tend to protect also the people who caused the fraudulent count so he could be elected. Therefore it becomes a vicious cycle," Pimentel said.

He said it is time to put an end to this kind of anomalies otherwise, the whole electoral process will be considered a joke which inevitably weakens the foundations of democracy in the country.

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