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Pampanga vote recount finished

MANILA, Philippines - The Second Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) finished the revision of votes in the 2007 gubernatorial race in Pampanga on Wednesday but a ruling on who actually won may still take before yearend.

The recount stemmed from the electoral protest filed by former senior provincial board member Lilia Pineda against Gov. Ed Panlilio. The Supreme Court upheld it.

Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, who chairs the Second Division, said they still have to deliberate on the results of the revision of votes as well as evidence that rival camps may present.

“We will go through the objections... So nobody is qualified to predict what the outcome will be,” he said.

Lawyer Sixto Brillantes, legal counsel of Panlilio, said both camps are expected to present evidence and the revision itself is not enough to determine who won as Pampanga governor in 2007.

“Not because the revision has been completed, we will know who actually won. There will still be presentation of evidence and appreciation (of ballots),” he added.

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For his part, lawyer George Garcia, Pineda’s lawyer, said there were ballots in favor of his client and Panlilio that have been set aside by the revision committees.

Garcia said the Second Division still has to decide if the questionable ballots bearing “Among” and “Ed” as well as “Nanay” could be credited to Panlilio and Pineda, respectively.

Ballots from a total of 4,683 ballot boxes from Pampanga underwent the revision.

There have been published reports (not in The STAR) alleging partial figures favoring Pineda.

Panlilio’s lawyer Ernesto Francisco, however, dismissed such reports as mere “conditioning the minds of the people.”

“There are no results yet. The revision was only for the purpose of determining what ballots are being objected to or claimed by the parties. Then the hearing or trial for the presentation of the parties’ evidence will follow and thereafter, the appreciation of the evidence by the Comelec,” he said.

Pampanga’s Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), which was designated by the Comelec to release information on the recount to avoid speculations, quoted Ferrer as saying that at this time, “it is impossible for anybody to know how the Comelec will rule on the case.”

The PPCRV said Ferrer and Allen Francis Abaya, clerk of court of the Comelec’s Second Division, “assured the public that both parties will be given a fair chance to prove and disprove allegations based on concrete evidence to be presented during the hearings.”

Meanwhile, the PPCRV also quoted Ferrer as saying that the disqualification case filed against Pineda by a former supporter, Averell Laquindanum, is still pending.

The case was based on allegations that Pineda’s camp was involved in massive vote-buying during the 2007 polls.

The case, according to Ferrer, was “re-raffled” and is now with the Comelec’s First Division.

Ferrer was also quoted as saying that the case against Pineda would have no bearing on the recount of votes.

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