Namfrel's copies of election returns help resolve protest cases

by  Nestor Malapajo, Jr., NAMFREL volunteer

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.18

Four years after the 2007 elections, Atty. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III was proclaimed on August 11, 2011, the winner for the 12th senatorial slot in the 2007 elections. The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) decision was hastened with the resignation of Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri. Sen. Pimentel will serve Zubiri's unfinished term of one year and two months.

Based on the SET’s recount, Pimentel got 10,898,786 votes in the 2007 elections while Zubiri got 10,640,620, or a difference of 258,166. The SET figures were reached after the revision and appreciation of ballots and election returns from Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabunsuan and Maguindanao. In Namfrel’s Operation Vote Count final tally in 2007, with coverage of 88.5% or 198,898 over 224,748 tabulated election returns, Sen. Pimentel was in 12th place with 9,173,819 votes, compared with Zubiri’s 8,949,451 or a difference of 224,368 votes.

When then-candidate Pimentel was preparing his protest case before the SET, he asked Namfrel, through a formal request, for copies of election returns in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, and Maguindanao. Except for Maguindanao, where Namfrel publicly announced during the Vote Count that it had not received a single election return, the rest of the ERs were provided to Mr. Pimentel. In one hearing of the SET, Namfrel Maguindanao chairperson Fr. Eduardo Tanodtanod, OMI, even testified to Namfrel’s zero ERs in the province.

Sen. Pimentel said that his protest case can be used as reference for electoral protest cases in the future. In one forum, he revealed that the ERs he presented and those of the Comelec manifested errors that one cannot imagine, which led to so-called “dagdag-bawas.”

The case of Sen. Pimentel was not the first instance wherein Namfrel’s 6th copy of the election returns were subpoenaed. Here are some of them:


On February 1, 2008, the Comelec issued a resolution (SPC No. 07-267 and SPC NO. 07-268) ordering the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan to immediately re-convene after due notice and re-tabulate all the election returns in the said municipality using Namfrel's copy. The MBOC, on February 19, 2008 re-convened and re-tabulated the 203 Namfrel copies of election returns.

The en banc ruled upon the report of the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) that the several manifest errors were found in the Comelec copies of the statement of votes and election returns, hence, the Namfrel copies were used during the re-tabulation and preparation of certificate of canvass.


On 7 and 9 July 2007, Father Mar Balili of Namfrel-Cebu Chapter was ordered to appear before the Comelec pursuant to the directives of Atty. Eddie G. Aba, Chairman of the Special Board of Canvassers for Bogo, Cebu. Fr. Balili was requested to bring with him Namfrel-CCIMPEL’s copies of the ERs, needed by the Board to determine the true winner between Benhur Salimbangon and Celestino Martinez III, candidates for the position of 3rd district representative of Bogo, Cebu. Namfrel-CCIMPEL’s copies were used by the Board in canvassing
the votes in view of the alleged submission of tampered and falsified election returns.

Thereafter, the Board compared Namfrel- CCIMPEL’s copy of the election returns with the Comelec’s copy and yielded the same results whereby Benhur Salimbangon won by a margin of 104 votes over Celestino Martinez III. On the basis of the said returns, Benhur Salimbangon was proclaimed accordingly by the Board of Canvassers as the winning candidate for the said position.

With help from Namfrel's copies of the ERs, these election protest cases were resolved.