Thursday, August 4, 2011

Zubiri may be charged for abandoning post – Santiago

Just another one of the "I can't believe this" or "only in the Philippines"   This Senator resigned because he may be under investigation for voter fraud, a claim made by another man who was running at the same time, and who felt this senator stole the votes along with the former President who was running for president.  From what you read about in the papers, and hear on the radio, the entire 2007 Presidential election was stolen by the former President.   Corruption is so wide spread here in the Philippines.

MANILA -- Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri's resignation from his post on Wednesday could constitute abandonment of office punishable under the Philippines' Revised Penal Code, said Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
"The Penal Code prohibits the crime of abandonment of office. It is committed by any public officer who, before the acceptance of his resignation, shall abandon his office to the detriment of the public service," she said in a press statement Thursday.
She said the offense carries a penalty of imprisonment from one month to six months.
Zubiri announced his resignation Wednesday, saying he wanted to spare his family from further pain due to allegations of vote fraud in 2007 elections. He denied being a part of cheating and said he would seek a fresh mandate in 2013.
Zubiri, an ally of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, won the twelfth and last Senate seat in 2007 midterm elections by a slim margin of about 18,000 votes over his closest rival, lawyer Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.
Pimentel has protested Zubiri's victory, saying several poll officials attested to fake ballots being used in the polls.
Santiago, a lawyer, said until the Senate accepts Zubiri's resignation, it will just be a "courtesy resignation," which she said is not a resignation "in the legal sense."
Citing the Supreme Court ruling on Joson v. Nario, Santiago said "acceptance is necessary for the resignation of a public officer to be operative and effective."
She said the Senate has to formally accept the resignation.
She said if the Senate votes on whether to accept Zubiri's resignation, she will vote against it.
She said Zubiri's resignation should only be effective after the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) decides on an election protest filed against him by Pimentel.
But Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday said the Senate has decided to make any resignation from the Senate irrevocable.
He added the Senate will inform the SET that Zubiri has resigned.
On Thursday, Zubiri's counsel George Erwin Garcia appeared before the SET to formally inform the body that Zubiri has resigned.
Former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., Koko Pimentel's father, confirmed to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro Thursday that Zubiri has withdrawn his counter-protest from the SET at exactly 1:40 p.m.
In said counter-protest, Zubiri alleged that Koko Pimentel cheated in Metro Manila and in Bulacan province in the 2007 senatorial race. Pimentel, meanwhile, alleged Zubiri cheated in Maguindanao.
Zubiri said Thursday night that withdrawing his counter-protest would render moot any evidence he had previously submitted to the tribunal.
SET is the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the members of the Senate. It is composed of Supreme Court justices and senators elected to the tribunal.
On Wednesday, Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Antonio Trillanes IV were elected as members of the SET. Senators Pia Cayetano, Gegorio Honasan II, Manuel Lapid Jr., and Francis Pangilinan are also members of the SET.
"If you ask me, we can decide at the soonest (in) one week, or two weeks," Pangilinan told reporters Thursday.
He said that if Zubiri withdraws his counter-protest against Pimentel as expected, the SET may be able to skip revising ballots claimed by Zubiri.
According to a television report Thursday, former SET member Senator Edgardo Angara said Pimentel might be proclaimed a senator "next week."
"Although all these proceedings still need to end with all the necessary formalities and paperwork, (Zubiri's) resignation from his post would likely prompt the SET to make an early resolution," Angara said in a separate statement.
Former senator Nene Pimentel on Thursday expressed gladness over the "brave" decision of Zubiri though he said "it’s long overdue."
"Many years have been wasted in his counter protest. But it's a welcome development so that Koko can rightfully take seat in the Senate," said Pimentel, author of the law creating the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (Armm).
The Armm region has been dragged into controversy following the reported fraud in the 2007 midterm elections where the younger Pimentel was believed to be among the "victims."
Two witnesses — an election supervisor and a former governor of an autonomous Muslim region — have alleged that former President Arroyo and her husband ordered the rigging of the 2007 senatorial elections to favor administration candidates like Zubiri.
Arroyo, now a congresswoman, has denied giving orders to cheat in the polls.
Since Zubiri’s installation in the Senate in 2007, Koko Pimentel contested the 12th and final slot in the senatorial race.
Zubiri announced his resignation from office on Wednesday through a privilege speech before the Senate, which was witnessed by his family.
Many government officials were amazed for his unusual "gentleman's move" as he earned praises from both national and local leaders for his "rare political act."
Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay (first district) lauded Zubiri's decision to resign due to allegations that he benefited from massive fraud in Maguindanao in the 2007 polls.
Magsaysay believed that Zubiri's decision to quit is not an admission of guilt but rather a means for the electoral body to decide freely on the election protest lodged by Pimentel and the counter protest filed by Zubiri's camp, especially with the surfacing of testimonies from former election officer Lintang Bedol and former Armm governor Zaldy Ampatuan.
"Migs has delicadeza. He is a true statesman and has served his country well. His four years in the Senate has not gone to waste because he has pushed many bills that favor not only the consumers but also the environment,” she said
She added Zubiri's move speaks of his strong moral fiber and integrity many public officials of today lack.
Even the younger Pimentel commended Zubiri for his "unprecedented" move.
However, the older Pimentel would not want Zubiri to think of getting free from charges of violating the election code following his resignation as the Pimentels believed that "somebody has to answer."
"As to my personal stand, whoever is liable should face the courts," the older Pimentel said.
Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Emano, for his part, admired the decision of Zubiri to resign from his post due to allegations of massive election fraud.
He said that this is not the end of Zubiri, saying that part of his privilege speech on Wednesday is his willingness to serve the public again.
Emano added there is no concrete evidence that Zubiri points to his involvement in the 2007 election fraud. "Not even Bedol and Ampatuan could directly pinpoint Zubiri on the fraud. That is really hard to prove," he said.
Also, Emano welcomed the possible entry of Koko Pimentel at the Senate to replace Zubiri.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes said Thursday that Zubiri can still run and serve as a member of the chamber for two straight terms -- the most allowed under the law -- if he is replaced by Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.
Zubiri's four-year stay as a member of the chamber will not be counted as a full-term in the event that Koko Pimentel is proclaimed 12th senator in the 2007 race.
"Kapag nanalo si Koko sa protest niya, considered one term ni Koko yun (since 2007). Wala pa term si Zubiri," explained Brillantes.
Pimentel, meanwhile, would only be able to run for another six-year term upon the expiry of his term in 2013. (AMN/AP/Cagayan de Oro/Sunnex)

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