Tuesday, June 5, 2007

TU hits NAMFREL trending even as Recto concedes


The Philippine Star

Team Unity hit Monday the early termination and apparent trending of the National Movement for Free Elections quick count showing eight winners from the Genuine Opposition, two from Team Unity and two independent candidates in the senatorial derby.

TU officials said it was “unfair” for the TU since the fight for the 11th and 12th places was still close and that at least two more administration candidates could make it to the Magic 12.

At the Senate, however, Sen. Ralph Recto bade an emotional farewell to the chamber, virtually conceding defeat in the midterm elections. Recto is currently ranked 14th in the tally, and is unlikely to serve a second term.

“The outpouring of votes is impressive, and warmly appreciated, but not enough to constitute the mandate to serve,” Recto said. “It is a verdict I accept without rancor or bitterness.”

TU media director Ben Evardone said NAMFREL secretary general Eric Alvia explained the counting was not finished yet but only moved to Makati City.

Evardone said Alvia likewise acknowledged that TU bets Juan Miguel Zubiri and Recto could still win as more than 500,000 votes remain to be counted.

“The 8-2-2 result of the NAMFREL tally is not final. Its decision to terminate its own tally with still about two million votes to be counted could be interpreted as trending,” Evardone said.

“Its bias in favor of the opposition can be seen with its decision not to proceed with its counting. It is totally unfair to TU. When the final tally shows that more TU bets are in the winning circle, the GO will surely protest,” Evardone said.

Now TU has reason to suspect the impartiality of NAMFREL, Evardone said, and that the Commission on Elections should review its accreditation as an independent watchdog body.

TU campaign manager Reli German said the NAMFREL should have made it very clear to the public that its canvass did not include several key areas yet and that the votes yet to be tallied could possibly alter the final standing of the last two places of the winning senatorial candidates.

German said the areas left uncanvassed by the NAMFREL were all administration strongholds with some 2.016 million registered voters.

He identified these areas as the provinces of Surigao del Norte, Basilan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.

“It is estimated that these six provinces could yield up to 1.60 million more votes and possibly result in the elevation of TU candidates Migz Zubiri and Ralph Recto to the 11th and 12 slots which are occupied at the moment by opposition bets Antonio Trillanes and Koko Pimentel,” German said.

“Let me point out that these areas are all located in Mindanao where the administration is historically strong and are bailiwicks of TU candidates Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, Migz Zubiri and Prospero Pichay. The three are all from Mindanao and it would be reasonable to expect that Team Unity would get more votes in these provinces, considering that the Genuine Opposition has only one Mindanaoan in its lineup and it has no Muslim candidate at all,” German said.

He said exit polls conducted by Pulse Asia had a 6-4-2 ratio which theoretically gave Team Unity four winning slots.

“If the certificates of canvass from these provinces are included, there is a strong probability that the final results would bear out Pulse Asia’s exit poll,” German stressed.

NAMFREL is set to come up this week with a terminal report on its parallel count of votes in the midterm election.

NAMFREL chair Edward Go said the terminal report would include the final tally and summary of its three-week quick count operations. It would also narrate poll irregularities experienced by NAMFREL volunteers nationwide.

He has maintained there would be no major changes in the rankings even if they continued tabulating remaining election returns as they moved operations to an undisclosed office in Makati City last Sunday.

“The incoming ERs are insignificant already. Although we are still trying to appreciate incoming ERs so we could reach higher percentage of tabulation, I don’t think it would affect the rankings considering the margin of votes,” he said.

In its 43rd tally released at 11:41 p.m. Saturday, NAMFREL had tabulated a total of 197,084 election returns, which represent 87.69 percent of votes cast in 224,748 precincts. This figure shows an improvement from the poll watchdog group’s performance in the 2004 election, where they finished the count at 82.98 percent.

GO bet former senator Loren Legarda topped the senatorial race with 15,200,169 votes. Fellow opposition candidate Francis “Chiz” Escudero, incumbent Sorsogon representative, finished second with 14,926,697 votes.

The next three spots were also occupied by GO bets: Panfilo Lacson in third with 12,880,049 votes; Manny Villar in fourth with 12,537,728 votes; and Benigno Aquino III fifth with 11,965,505.

Independent bet Francis Pangilinan, an incumbent senator, was sixth with 11,930,557 votes.

Edgardo Angara was the highest ranked TU bet in seventh with 10,403,534 votes.

GO bet Alan Peter Cayetano finished in eighth place with 9,691,262 votes, followed by independent candidate Gregorio Honasan, who garnered 9,636,150.

TU bet incumbent Sen. Joker Arroyo had the tenth slot with 9,618,637 votes.

Two GO bets are in the crucial 11th and 12th spots: Antonio Trillanes IV and Aquilino Pimentel III, who had respective votes of 9,248,609 and 8,985,408.

In the same tally, Juan Miguel Zubiri was in 13th place with 8,811,731 votes. NAMFREL officials refused to confirm if he would be able to overtake Pimentel if the tabulation was completed.

TU bets Ralph Recto finished 14th with 8,599,532 votes; Michael Defensor 15th with 8,075,073; and Prospero Pichay 16th with 7,938,313 votes.

Rounding up the top 20 were: Sonia Roco, Cesar Montano, John Henry Osmeña and Vicente Sotto III.

Earlier, NAMFREL officials said they would not be able to collect all ERs from polling precincts after excluding votes cast in Maguindanao where returns were reportedly withheld from their volunteers.

“This means we can’t complete 100 percent collection and tabulation. But our performance this year is an improvement as compared to the 2004 election,” explained Go.

So long, farewell

An emotional Sen. Ralph Recto, who ran for re-election under the administration’s Team Unity, bade farewell to the Senate Monday in an emotional valedictory speech where he stressed the need for politicians “to be right than popular” for the sake of the greater good.

Recto’s acceptance of his impending defeat in the senatorial race came as Team Unity and Malacañang still expressed optimism that Recto and Bukidnon Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri could make it to the Magic 12 with the uncanvassed votes from several Mindanao provinces.

Recto said he would have more time to be father and husband to actress Vilma Santos, who ran and won as governor of Batangas.

“I will gently go out of this institution, comforted in the thought that in every waking day that I had served out my mandate, I did it to the best of my ability, and always with the best interest of the country in mind,” Recto said.

Recto noted he would like to be remembered “as the one who did not hide in safe harbors but who sailed in open seas, sometimes against the gale of public opinion, out of the belief, like sailors of yore, that one can only make progress if he loses sight of the land.”

Recto was the principal author of the expanded value added tax, being the chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, and during the campaign, it was one of the issues that he had to defend most of the time.

“The duty of a member of this chamber is not to pander to what is popular but to uphold what is right, a senator who came before us said,” Recto stressed.

“That is true, otherwise those who will sit in this chamber will be a hostage to constant reinvention, depending on where the political wind blows, when duty requires adherence to core beliefs,” he said, adding: “I shall now pay the price of my intransigence. But I have no regrets.”

The senator, who is a mestizo, looked flushed while delivering his speech and was apparently trying to control his emotions. When interviewed by reporters later, he said he did not explicitly concede defeat because the counting was still ongoing.

Recto took the opportunity to say goodbye to the Senate during the first of the last three session days of the 13th Congress.

Recto said the “math” would show the unfavorable results of the senatorial elections based on the reports of his people on the ground.

“We know the numbers. All I’m saying is I’m prepared to lose,” he said.

Like his grandfather Claro M. Recto, he expressed optimism that history would judge him favorably.

“My grandfather practiced supply-side politics and that involved voicing contrary opinions when popularity contests – otherwise known as the elections– require a candidate to take the safest course to a new mandate, and that is to say what everybody is thinking but in the loudest voice,” Recto said.

The Genuine Opposition (GO) welcomed Monday the move of Senator Recto to concede defeat.

Adel Tamano, GO spokesperson, said Recto has proven himself worthy of his illustrious family name: “His act of conceding shows his commitment to the public welfare and is a step to protect the people’s mandate against cheating.”

Tamano added that the GO “salutes him” for the gentleman move. With Edu Punay, Christina Mendez