De Lima wants Tolentino cited in contempt as SET begins recount
MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima asked the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) on Tuesday, October 24, to cite losing candidate Francis Tolentino in contempt for media statements that violate the sub judice rule.
Tolentino made the statements on October 18 when the SET began its manual recount of more than 600 ballot boxes in the electoral protest filed by Tolentino, who is serving as political adviser for President Rodrigo Duterte.
Tolentino told reporters that "several ballot boxes" in Calbayog City, Samar contained 2013 ballots. De Lima said this was misleading because "Tolentino and his entire revision team knew that only one ballot box referred to the 2013 elections."
"We are questioning why several ballot boxes contain 2013 ballots," Tolentino had said, and added that he would move to nullify the results in the precinct that had 2013 ballots.
But De Lima told the SET that this was a violation of the sub judice rule, which "restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue."
De Lima also contested Tolentino's claim that his zero votes in some areas in Mindanao were "statistically improbable." The former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman was referring to Turtle Islands in Tawi-Tawi; Isabela City, Sumisip, and Tabuan-Lasa in Basilan; and Parang and Matanog in Maguindanao.
Tolentino won in the provinces but got zero votes in the particular areas.
"The doctrine of statistical improbability does not apply especially since she also garnered zero votes in the same precincts that Tolentino identified," De Lima's motion reads.
Tolentino lost to De Lima for the 12th and final spot of the 2016 senatorial elections by a margin of 1.28 million votes. He first turned to the Supreme Court (SC) but failed in his attempt to halt the proclamations of winning candidates Sherwin Gatchalian, Ralph Recto, and De Lima as the 10th, 11th and 12th placers, respectively.
Tolentino identified 751 ballot boxes, but the SET has only retrieved 681 so far. These include ballot boxes from vote-rich provinces Cebu, Bulacan, Iloilo, and Nueva Ecija.
The SET is doing a manual recount.
"In the 3 revision days, Tolentino made no recovery on physical count in the areas where he alleged the existence of fraud and irregularities and yet publicly he acts as though he was a victim of fraud," De Lima said.
De Lima added: "When Tolentino makes false and misleading utterances, the integrity of the Tribunal's proceedings is put in question."
The SET is a 9-member body chaired by SC Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio. Other members include SC associate justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Lucas Bersamin, and senators Joel Villanueva, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Richard Gordon, Franklin Drilon, and Antonio Trillanes IV. – Rappler.com