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Zubiri withdraws counter-protest vs Koko Pimentel

August 4, 2011 2:28pm

(Updated 4 p.m.) Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri on Thursday, through his legal counsel, withdrew his counter-protest against an electoral protest filed by lawyer Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III four years ago.

Zubiri, in a privilege speech on Wednesday, announced that he was resigning as senator.

Shortly past 2 p.m. Thursday, Zubiri's counsel George Erwin Garcia filed before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) in Quezon City a motion to withdraw and terminate Zubiri's counter-protest against Pimentel.

"Sinasabi po namin sa tribunal na wala na po kaming partisipasyon whatsoever sa kahit na anong proceedings na gagawin nila at sa kahit anong desisyon na gagawin nila," he told reporters after filing the motion.

Zubiri resigned amid allegations that he was the beneficiary of cheating in the 2007 midterm elections, particularly in Maguindanao province.

In his privilege speech, he vehemently denied the allegation and said he resigned because the issue was already affecting his family.

Resolution of protest

Garcia said that his client's decision to withdraw the counter-charges will likewise expedite the resolution of Pimentel’s election protest. "Kaya po kami nag-file upang mapabilis ang proseso at upang malaman kaagad kung sino ang nanalo," he said.

He said the case may drag on for six years if their camp will not drop the counter-protest.
The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET)

Under the Philippine Constitution, the SET is mandated to render judgment on all protest cases regarding the election and the qualification of senators. It is composed of three Supreme Court Justices and six senators, whom the members of the high court and the Senate elect among themselves.

The following is the current composition of the SET:

Justice Antonio Carpio - Chairman
Justice Teresita de Castro
Justice Presbitero Velasco
Senator Pia Cayetano
Senator Gregorio Honasan
Senator Lito Lapid
Senator Francis Pangilinan
Senator Ramon Revilla Jr.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV

- reported by Kimberly Jane Tan and Sophia Dedace, GMA News

SET Secretary Irene Guevarra, meanwhile, said the resolution of the case may still take two weeks to a month despite the withdrawal of Zubiri's counter-charge.

"This is a very tedious process. Hopefully, we can finish in two weeks to one month. That is our self-imposed deadline," she said in a separate interview.

Election protest

Pimentel named Zubiri as respondent to an electoral protest filed before the SET in July 30, 2007. Pimentel claimed that votes were rigged in favor of Zubiri in 2,658 precincts in seven provinces, including Maguindanao.

Pimentel ranked 13th in the 2007 elections with 10,987,347 votes. Zubiri scraped through at 12th with 11,005,866 votes.

In August 2007, Zubiri filed his counter-protest against Pimentel, claiming that he was also cheated in over 73,000 precincts covering 17 cities and 10 provinces, including the entire Metro Manila.

Proclamation of Pimentel

On Thursday, Senator Edgardo Angara said that as early as next week, the SET might declare Pimentel as the 12th winning senator in the 2007 elections.

In a report aired over GMA News TV's "News To Go," reporter Lia Mañalac quoted Angara as saying that the SET can rule on Pimentel's electoral protest once Zubiri withdraws his counter-protest against his rival.

"That's the trigger. Within one to two weeks the whole thing can be completed," Angara told GMA News Online in a separate interview.

Angara said the SET resolution just needs to be circulated for signature among the other members.

"Based on the count now, he (Pimentel) is ahead," added Angara, a former member of the SET who closely monitored the case.

Angara noted, however, that it is the Commission on Elections (Comelec) which will officially proclaim Pimentel as the 12th winning senator and administer his oath.

But according to Senator Francis Pangilinan, a member of the SET, the tribunal will be the one to proclaim Pimentel if ever they rule that he really won during the 2007 polls.

On the other hand, Pangilinan said the oath can be administered by anyone authorized to do so. - with Kim Tan, VVP/YA/KBK/RSJ, GMA News

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