Former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino has asked the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) to nullify the result of the senatorial elections in some parts of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and hold a recount of more than 1.3 million votes.
Tolentino ranked 13th in the May 9 senatorial race, getting 12,811,098 votes. Senator Leila de Lima garnered 14,144,070 votes.
In a 60-page amended election protest dated July 25, 2016, the former MMDA chairman said cases of pre-shaded ballots and ballot snatching in the ARMM tainted the result of the senatorial election.
“The prevalence of pre-shading in certain areas in the ARMM region puts into doubt each of the votes cast therein, including the 6,890 votes cast in the 16 precincts from the municipality of Al-Barka,” Tolentino said.
He also cited in his complaint the reported security breach in the automated elections system (AES), particularly the alleged tampering of the script of the transparency server located in the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center Building in Manila City.
The former MMDA chief was apparently referring to the unauthorized changes introduced by Smartmatic Executive Marlon Garcia to the script in the transparency server hours after the elections.
Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who ran for vice president in May, also filed a complaint over the same security breach.
Tolentino said the “undisputed fact of breach in the AES” should be sufficient for the SET to open the ballots and declare him as one of the 12 winning senatorial candidates.
He claimed that there were votes intended for him that were not counted in some precincts in Samar, Lanao De Norte, North Cotabato, Lanao de Sur, Basilan, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu and he is willing to present sworn statements of registered voters saying that they voted for him.
Tolentino also stated in his protest the supposed illegal bypass of the AES and the use of pre-loaded secure digital (SD) cards used in the Vote Counting Machines (VCM).
According to him, unauthorized consolidation servers were set up in Lucena, Tarlac and Laguna where the transmitted results from precincts were altered and manipulated to favor certain national candidates from the Liberal Party, including De Lima.
“These altered and fraudulent results were then sent to an unauthorized main configuration center in Pasay City before being transmitted to the three official servers– the Canvassing Server, Central Server, and the Transparency Server,” Tolentino said.
Senator Franklin Drilon, one of the members of the SET, said members of the tribunal met Thursday but they only tackled procedural matters.
“We were briefed on the petition filed by Tolentino and the response of De Lima and the timetable,” Drilon said.
The other members of the SET are Senators Nancy Binay, Richard Gordon, Antonio Trillanes 4th and Cynthia Villar.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion are also part of the tribunal.
Drilon said they agreed that they should decide on the case before the end of the 17th congress which is on 2019.
He also said that the SET already scheduled a preliminary on October 6 in order for them to summarize everything.
The former MMDA chair failed to make it on the “magic 12” despite of the support of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, a religious group known to practice block-voting and the endorsement of Duterte during the campaign.
Tolentino was supposed to be included in the senatorial-line up of the Liberal Party (LP) but was allegedly ditched by the party after the controversial lewd performance by an all-girl group “The Playgirls” during the birthday party of Laguna Rep. Benjie Agarao, last year.
Tolentino denied being responsible for controversy, but issued an apology days after the incident was reported in the media.