Get Real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12 August 2011

First, IT was Ping de Jesus. Now, it is Bertie Lim.  That’s two resignations from the Aquino Cabinet in the less than 14 months since P-Noy’s watch started.  I haven’t checked, but this has got to be a record. I don’t recall any similar resignations so soon after an administration came to power.

One way of looking at it is that these resignations can be taken as confirmation of  the saying,  “Nice guys finish last.” That they are nice guys will be attested by their friends and close acquaintances.  And anyone observing how they handled their resignations will readily agree.  Their exits were done with grace:  resignations for personal reasons, not a word of ill will, not even the slightest of insinuations against erstwhile colleagues or the boss, sincerest best wishes for the success of the latter.

Unfortunately, that graciousness was not matched by Malacañang and its press.  In the case of De Jesus, he was rewarded for his loyalty and his no-nonsense competence with a vicious demolition job.  In Lim’s case, the accomplishments of tourism under his watch—and they are substantial (my information is that in the presentations prior to the State of the Nation Address, his was one of the most, if not the most, applauded by the Cabinet members)—were not even included in the Sona. The knives were already out against him.

Which leads to another way of looking at these resignations:  they may be the result of a consolidation process being undertaken by the dominant faction of the President’s men.  De Jesus and Lim were loners—not connected—and so were easy targets.

Whatever the explanation, the resignations do not reflect well on the Aquino administration and its management style.  Neither does it augur very well for the country’s future.

* * *

Before everybody moves from the Pimentel-Zubiri story on an “all’s-well-that-ends-well” note, we should all be apprised of some of the more salient facts, as well as highlight the roles, heretofore ignored, of certain personalities in a tale that ultimately is about how the will of the Filipino people can be ignored with impunity.

Let’s start by noting that Juan Miguel Zubiri defeated Aquilino Pimentel III by 18,372 votes for the 12th and last slot in the 2007 senatorial race (Pimentel was leading all the way until the Maguindanao votes came in):  11,001,730 vs. 10,983,358.

After losing his battle in the Supreme Court to invalidate the Maguindanao votes,  Pimentel brought the case to the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), chaired by  Senior Associate Justice  Antonio Carpio, with Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco and Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, and Senators Edgardo Angara, Loren Legarda, Pia Cayetano, Richard Gordon, Manuel Lapid and Francis Pangilinan as members.

Pimentel protested the results from 2,658 precincts (40 percent of them in Maguindanao) in the Autonomous  Region in Muslim Mindanao  and Lanao del Norte.  Zubiri counter-protested the results from—are you ready for this?—73,265 precincts:  the 2,658 precincts that Pimentel protested, plus practically all of  Metro Manila, plus 10 other Luzon provinces, plus Bogo City in Cebu and Zamboanga City.

SET Rule 79 provides that the parties choose 25 percent of the protested precincts which they deem as “best exemplifying or demonstrating the electoral frauds pleaded by each of them,” to be initially revised (read: recounted).  That initial revision will be the basis for the SET’s to either dismiss the cases or order a full count.

Pimentel chose the 664 precincts where he thought the cheating was worst, and Zubiri chose the 18,316 precincts which he thought showed the worst frauds.  And the initial revision began.

In June 2008, the SET ruled that on the basis of the initial revision of Pimentel’s precincts, there was reasonable ground to believe that the final outcome of his protest could “affect the officially proclaimed results” and ordered the other 75 percent of his precincts to be counted (which was accomplished by September 2008). It also ordered the initial revision of Migz’ 18,316 precincts—which began in November 2008, and ended in May 2009.

In June 2010 (see how slow?), the SET, with the chairman (Carpio) and one member (Pia Cayetano) dissenting, ruled that based on the revision of  Zubiri’s pilot precincts,  there were enough anomalies to warrant the counting of the remaining 75 percent of counter-protested precincts.

What did the SET find in Zubiri’s pilot precincts?  Here it is:  “The Tribunal’s own examination and appreciation of the ballots resulted in a finding that more than 50 percent of the ballots specifically cited in the revision reports were indeed spurious.”

An utterly baseless conclusion, said Carpio, who shows why with simple arithmetic. In the 18,227 pilot precincts of Zubiri that were revised, he was able to  recover only 11,948 votes—for an average of 2/3 vote per precinct—a far cry from 50 percent of the ballots. Carpio compared this with the results of Koko’s net recovery of 257,401 votes for all of his (only) 2,658 precincts.

Carpio gave  specific data for Zubiri’s pilot precincts in Manila, Batangas, Bulacan, Quezon City.  For example:  The total number of ballots counted for these cities was 795,401, of which 17,481—2.2 percent of the total—were judged spurious, another very far cry from 50 percent of the ballots.

How could the SET majority have made such a mistake?  But they did—two justices and five senators.  As the saying goes, you cannot wake up a person who is not asleep.

And that’s how the Filipino voters get cheated.