Presidential race winner Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday extended his hand of reconciliation to political rivals as he called for national healing following a bitter campaign in the race for the presidency that saw all candidates throwing mud at each other.
“I would like now reach my hand to my opponents and let us begin the process of healing,” Duterte said in a well-attended press briefing at The Royal Mandaya Hotel, where he went straight after casting his vote at the Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School in Matina.
Although acknowledging that the exchange of innuendoes is part of the election process in the Philippines, he admitted that the mudslinging during the campaign period was very intense and virulent.
“Let us begin to forget, and let us be friends,” he said.
The 71-year-old local chief executive is contesting the presidency against administration candidate Mar Roxas, Vice President Jejomar Binjay and senators Grace Poe and Mirriam Santiago.
When asked if he is also reaching out to vice presidential candidate and Sec. Antonio Trillanes IV – his most ardent critic during the campaign — Duterte said his peace offering is intended for everybody.
Should his rivals refuse his call, Duterte said he cannot do anything about it.
During the past three months, Duterte engaged Roxas and Binay in a fiery verbal clash over issues as they toured the countryside to court votes.
But, it was Duterte himself who absorbed the stinging blows in the final two weeks of the campaign when Trillanes went berserk and hurled baseless accusations against the presidential frontrunner.
Duterte was also a victim of a highly controversial political television advertisement allegedly paid for by Trillanes, although this was stopped after his running mate, vice presidential aspirant Alan Peter Cayetano, was able to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO) that prohibited the television network from further airing the ad.
Meanwhile, Duterte said he is satisfied with the conduct of the national and local elections yesterday.
“So, far I have not received any reports of cheating and violation,” he said.
The mayor also made it clear to journalists that he is will not be presumptuous on the result of the electoral exercise.
“I remain only hopeful as of this time,” Duterte said.
Partido Demokratikong Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) president Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is “happy and optimistic” about the result of the election and echoed standard bearer Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s call for healing.
“We are reaching out to the other parties. We can start collaboration under the new administration,” Pimentel told reporters at a press conference a few minutes after polls closed on Monday.
Partial returns show that Duterte is leading the other candidates by a wide margin.
Pimentel, however, also expressed “extreme disappointment” at the high number of reported vote counting machines (VCMs) that malfunctioned on election day.
“These are supposed to be brand new VCMs. We rented them in two batches, at P39,000 per machine for the first batch and P48,000 for the next batch. These are brand new and yet they malfunctioned,” he said.
Pimentel, who is chair of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation as well as the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System, said he was assured by Smartmatic, the firm that supplied the VCMs to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), that the machines would work.
Pimentel said according to Comelec, only 70 VCMs malfunctioned, a small percentage of the 97,000 that were used on election day.
But he said in Mindanao alone, PDP-Laban documented 78 VCMs that malfunctioned.
“I don’t care about percentage, that this is a small percentage of the number of machines not functioning. I am looking at people, the number of voters who have been disenfranchised or greatly inconvenienced,” he said.
Pimentel said after the election, he will call on Comelec to require Smartmatic to explain properly and in detail the high number of VCMs that malfunctioned.
“In the meantime I am requesting Comelec to withhold payment from Smartmatic until it has satisfactorily explained what happened,” he added.
Pimentel said the party is also studying the possibility of asking the courts or the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue a form of hold departure order against executives of Smartmatic.
“They should not leave the country until they satisfactorily explain before the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System what happened,” he said.
For her part, PDP Laban spokesperson lawyer Paola Alvarez said the party is concerned regarding the “massive vote buying and selling” that happened on election day.
She also said her office has received numerous complaints about election offenses.
“We call on the Comelec to be more vigilant and act on these matters as soon as possible because they are a threat to the will of the people,” she said.