De Lima wants election protest dismissed

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SENATOR Leila de Lima is asking the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) to dismiss the election protest filed against her by losing senatorial candidate Francis Tolentino, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

In a 34-page verified answer dated July 27, de Lima denied all allegations made by Tolentino in his election protest and branded it a harassment suit.

Tolentino is asking the SET for a recount and nullification of more than 1.3 million votes from various parts of the country because of alleged incidents of ballots being pre-shaded, “vote padding and vote shaving,” the use of pre-loaded secured digital cards and other supposed irregularities during and after the May 9 elections.

De Lima defeated Tolentino by 1,332,972 votes, winning the 12th and last senatorial slot after getting 14,144,070 votes.

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The neophyte senator, in her response to Tolentino’s claim that the results of the elections were fraudulent, altered and did not reflect the true votes cast, maintained that she beat Tolentino fair and square.

“The allegations in the protest relative to the election results in the protested precincts are bare, self-serving, unfounded and are mere conjectures, speculations and products of protestant Tolentino’s imagination brought about by his inability to accept electoral defeat,” de Lima said.

Tolentino’s request for the SET to conduct a recount of ballots and examination of election documents is not warranted and will just waste the tribunal’s and the parties’ time, energy and resources, she argued.

De Lima pointed out that Tolentino failed to identify, much less distinguish, whether those precincts he had enumerated were established or clustered, grouped and merged precincts.

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“Thus in a clear attempt to cure this obvious procedural lapse Tolentino filed his amendment disguised as a manifestation,” said de Lima, adding that the SET must not allow such because it was not in accordance with Rule 22 of the new SET rules.

Rule 22 of SET requires an election protest to state among others the total number of contested precincts per municipality or city; the precinct number and location of the contested precincts; and the specific acts or omission constituting the electoral fraud, anomaly or irregularity in the contested precincts.

As regards the alleged pre-shaded ballots from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), de Lima said Tolentino made no specific allegation on how she may have been responsible for it, or how she may have benefited from pre-shading.

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Tolentino moreover failed to attach to his protest affidavits of the watchers who supposedly witnessed the pre-shading.

De Lima also scored Tolentino’s claim that is was impossible for him to get zero votes in some precincts in ARMM and Samar because he was among those endorsed by religious group Iglesia ni Cristo, which is known to practice bloc voting.

If Tolentino’s logic is followed, it would mean she was also cheated because she got zero votes from other precincts in ARMM and Samar, de Lima said.

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