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Tolentino: Poll protest vs De Lima gaining steam

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino yesterday claimed several irregularities were uncovered on the first three days of the ongoing ballot recount by the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) in connection with his electoral protest against detained Sen. Leila de Lima.

Tolentino witnessed the counting at the SET building inside the Commission on Audit compound in Quezon City.

The former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman went to personally observe the recount of the contested 635 ballot boxes containing ballots used during the May 9, 2016 automated senatorial elections.

The recount started on Wednesday in response to Tolentino’s electoral protest filed last year seeking the nullification of De Lima’s victory. She placed 12th in the 2016 senatorial race, edging out Tolentino at 13.

Tolentino said several irregularities were observed by his legal team in the first three days of recount.

He said several ballot boxes in pilot precincts in Calbayog City in Samar contained ballots that were used during the 2013 midterm elections.

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“There are ballots for 2013 elections. We are referring to the 2016 elections. So, we are questioning why several ballot boxes contain 2013 ballots,” Tolentino said.

“The 2013 ballots have different color, they also contain different names of candidates to be shaded. And I’m not a candidate in 2013… how come those 2013 ballots are mixed up with the 2016 ballots? They should have been removed from the ballot boxes after the 2013 elections unless there was an electoral protest,” he added.

Tolentino said he will seek the nullification of vote results in the precincts where 2013 ballots were uncovered.

The former MMDA chairman, who ran as an independent candidate, lost to De Lima by 1.2 million votes.

Tolentino described De Lima’s lead over him as “dubious,” saying the gap between the 12th and 13th placers is usually just around 40,000 votes.

“If you would review the previous elections, it was usually a close fight between 12th and 13th placers… Last elections the lead suddenly ballooned to one million votes,” he said.

Tolentino said the ongoing recount also showed he got zero vote in several precincts in the areas of Isabela City, Sumisip, and Tabuan-Lasa in Basilan, in Datu Sinsuat, Parang, and Matanog in Maguindanao and in Turtle Island in Tawi-Tawi.

Tolentino said this seemed impossible and irregular as he won in these provinces.

“For instance in Maguindanao, province-wide I won. So, it’s statistically improbable that there are towns where you got zero vote because you won in the province,” he said.

Tolentino said a recount of the ballot boxes in one precinct in Bocaue, Bulacan also revealed that he won over De Lima, but the transmitted vote results on May 9, 2016 showed he lost the race.

Tolentino, through former University of the Philippines Law dean Pacifico Agabin, contested the results of the senatorial elections on various grounds, including but not limited to the change of computer hash codes which served as one of the grounds for the recent impeachment of Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista by the House of Representatives on Oct. 10.

De Lima, however, did not file any counter-protest.

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