Senate Electoral Tribunal Tackles Tolentino’s Protest Against De Lima

Senator Leila De Lima is facing more serious problem than President Rodrigo Duterte’s wrath.

The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) on Thursday met former former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino, who filed electoral protest against De Lima.Tolentino, who ran for senator in the recent May, 2016, elections ended in 13th place, behind De Lima in 12th.

Reminiscent of the case between Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri in the May, 2010, elections, De Lima and Tolentino are now locked in a struggle for the Senate’s 12th-slot position as Tolentino, an independent senatorial candidate, urged the SET to nullify the lead of 1,332,972 million votes of De Lima and declare him as the rightful winning senatorial candidate.

Present at the preliminary meeting on Thursday were Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon, Senators Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar, and Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV sitting as members of Tribunal.

Drilon said they have been briefed on the petition filed by Tolentino and the response of De Lima, the timetable, and the process to be followed in the SET proceedings.

The senator said a preliminary conference will be held on Oct. 6 “in order that we can summarize everything, including definition of the issues” as they target having a decision rendered before the end of the 17th Congress.

Other members of the tribunal are Justice Antonio Carpio (chairman), Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Justice Arturo Brion, and Sen. Richard Gordon.

In his 60-page amended electoral protest submitted to the SET, Tolentino cited the need to annul the election results for the position of senator in the protested precincts with an impossible voter turn-out of 100 percent, precincts where votes for him were not counted, precincts with pre-shaded ballots, precincts affected by the bypass of the Automated Electoral System (AES) and/or use of pre-loaded SD cards.

He also urged the SET to allow and direct the recount, revision, and appreciation of ballots, as well as examination of the election documents, including a forensic audit of the AES, and the vote counting machines used in all the protested precincts.

De Lima secured the 12th spot in the 2016 senatorial race after garnering 14,144,070 votes, while Tolentino had  12,811,098 votes, per the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Senatorial National Canvass Report.

The SET’s preliminary hearing came on the heels of the ethics proceedings filed against De Lima that is now being heard by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges. Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, head of the committee, said the complaint, which seeks to expel her from the Senate, will be decided on Tuesday.

Election experts said if the recount favors Tolentino, there is a bigger possibility that the protest filed by former Sen. Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo will be successful as the vote difference is just over 200,000 votes. /Source/