The Most Outrageous Excuse by Comelec Yet

After many days of “delaying tactics” or “stalling” and ignoring the “memos for show”, the COMELEC finally thought of some stupid excuse which nobody would believe anyway. Here is the newspaper article which further explains this unbelievable and incredible excuse by Comelec…

Maguindanao poll supervisor: Namfrel volunteers got ERs
By Nash Maulana
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 06:24pm (Mla time) 05/21/2007
COTABATO CITY — The Maguindanao provincial election supervisor insisted on Monday that the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) has gotten copies of the election returns (ERs), contrary to claims by the poll watchdog group that ERs had been withheld from their volunteers.

Father Eduardo Tanudtanud, chairman of Namfrel Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan, said the “systematic withholding” of election results has “cast doubt on the integrity” of the tallied votes in the southern Philippine province.

But Maguindanao Provincial Election Supervisor Lintang Bedol, who figured in the infamous “Hello Garci” tapes, said based on reports he got from poll officers from the province’s towns, Namfrel volunteers had taken the 6th copy of the ER at the precinct level.

The “Hello Garci” tapes refer to wiretapped conversations allegedly between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano over efforts to rig the 2004 polls.

Bedol said those who retrieved the ERs on behalf of the Namfrel were given the 6th copy because they presented Namfrel identification cards.

Bedol said members of the board of election inspectors relied on the IDs presented.

“[Namfrel] has not provided us the list of its volunteers despite persistent request, even prior to the elections,” Bedol said, adding that they had no way to double-check the identities of those who claimed the ERs.

However, Bedol’s statements contradict those of Romy Guiamel, chairman of the Citizens’ Action for Responsible Elections (Care), an affiliate of Namfrel and the Church-based Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

Guiamel admitted that Namfrel volunteers failed to secure the 6th copy of the election returns as earlier claimed by the Comelec-accredited watchdog.

But Guiamel blamed this on a lack of coordination between volunteers and the Comelec.

Guiamel said the failure of Namfrel volunteers to secure their ER copies happened not only in Maguindanao but all over the region as well.

But Guiamel said elections indeed took place in Maguindanao. He said residents of Maguindanao trooped to their polling precincts on Election Day and cast their votes.

“Many people trooped to their precincts to cast their votes. There were elections in Maguindanao and we knew it took place because we have volunteers in the province,” he said.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and concerned individuals told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of the INQUIRER.net, that balloting did not take place in many parts of the province.

The reports surfaced when results showed that a 12-0 sweep by Team Unity in Maguindanao, with Ilocos Sur Governor Luis Singson topping the list.

Reelectionist Governor Andal Ampatuan’s slate was unopposed in all but one Maguindanao town.

Norie Unas, Ampatuan’s spokesperson, explained that there was nothing unusual in the TU sweep as bloc voting on the call of a leader was acceptable political action for Muslims in Maguindanao.

Unas said that among Muslims, the decision of the leader was highly respected.

In this case, Unas said Ampatuan supported TU senatorial candidates after conducting shura or consultation with the people.

He said the choice was respected by the voters because Ampatuan was both the governor and spiritual leader of Maguindanaoans.

Guiamel said his group was able to monitor the conduct of elections in Maguindanao, which was generally peaceful, because it fielded volunteers all over the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

He said the fielding of the volunteers was in cooperation with Namfrel and PPCRV.

By conceding early, Garci up to no good, say 2 senators

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Michael Lim Ubac
Inquirer
Last updated 06:14am (Mla time) 05/17/2007
MANILA, Philippines — Two opposition senators believe there is more than meets the eye in former Election Commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano’s decision to quickly concede defeat in his congressional bid in the first district of Bukidnon province.

“Either he wants to project that he’s not capable of cheating, which nobody will believe, or some Malacañang wise guys are up to something fishy that needs his full-time attention and hands-on expertise,” reelectionist Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a phone interview.

“In both cases, he had to concede early to be effective.”

In a statement, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said: “Garcillano’s concession of defeat this early is not a sign of sportsmanship but an offer of his availability to work for Team Unity (TU) candidates by means fair or foul, of which he has expertise.”

The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried to get Garcillano’s reaction to Lacson’s and Pimentel’s claims but text messages to him drew no replies.

Garcillano became an indelible part of Philippine election history after the release in 2005 of the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes dealing with his supposed wiretapped phone conversations with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on rigging the results of the 2004 presidential election.

In defense of Garci

Both Ms Arroyo and Garcillano denied they were involved in cheating.

Garcillano’s friend, Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr., who is running for the Senate, Wednesday took the cudgels for the former election official.

“If he cannot cheat for himself, how can he cheat for others? Tama na (Enough already),” Pichay said on the phone.

He called on the opposition to “stop prosecuting” his friend.

“He’s been persecuted too much. Let’s give him a rest. If he really cheated in 2004, he could have won this election by cheating,” Pichay said.

Vulnerable areas

With Garcillano’s defeat in the congressional race in Bukidnon, “the issue of Garci tapes should be laid to rest,” Pichay said. “Let us move forward.”

He added: “Natalo na nga aapakan pa nyo (Don’t kick a man when he’s down). Where is your heart?”

Lacson said the opposition’s poll watchers were training their sights on vulnerable areas during the canvassing, where he claimed switching of election returns, or vote tallies, was likely to take place.

These include the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and areas in Visayas and Mindanao where administration candidates ran unopposed, he said.

“ARMM itself has 2 million votes and it can make a difference between winning and losing for candidates hovering between the 10th and 15th spots,” Lacson said.

‘Cheating machinery’

“Based on past experiences, the elections there will only start after the counting has taken place. The elections are bid out there per vote for as much as you need to overcome the lead because people there normally leave the national posts blank and fill up only the governor and other local posts.”

Pimentel claimed the “cheating machinery” of the Arroyo administration was now at work in Mindanao.

“I have received information that operators identified with the Comelec (Commission on Elections) arrived in Davao Tuesday. They are farming out to Davao and other Mindanao provinces to cause delay in the canvass of the votes to save TU bets from a massacre,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel has lambasted Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. for his refusal to penalize election supervisors allegedly involved in “dagdag-bawas” (vote-padding and -shaving) operations in the 2004 elections.

Worse, Pimentel said, these poll officials were even promoted.

Foreign poll observers: We felt safer in Afghanistan

This is really so pathetic. It is a shame. This is where the major cheating will be made. There is no democracy in our country… it is “all-talk” and nothing sincere. The ARMM should have a separate voting where all eyes will be on them and quadruple the number of watchers and security.

Posted May 17, 2007 03:11:00(Mla Time)

Inquirer

Cynthia Balana
MANILA, Philippines — Despite the “fiesta” atmosphere during the May 14 elections, foreign observers who monitored the voting in Mindanao said Wednesday they worried constantly about possible violence and felt safer in Afghanistan.

They also reported incidents of intimidation, blatant vote-buying, candidates’ poll watchers dictating names to voters as they filled out their ballots and lack of voter respect for election institutions in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

In a statement, the team of 21 foreign observers from the Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel) said that while the government claimed the balloting was generally peaceful, it was not so in the ARMM.

It said the ARMM polling was “manipulated by outsiders” and that the culture of impunity for election and political crime may fuel calls for an alternative government that could provide justice for the people.

“The situation is not so comfortable especially if you have the military everywhere and also weapons everywhere,” said Somsri Hananontasuk, Anfrel director from Thailand.

Somsri, who said she saw confrontations between rival candidates and two bomb blasts, had also observed polls in 2004 and 2005 in Afghanistan.

She said she felt safer in Afghanistan than last Monday.

“Of course, we were also afraid of the underground Taliban … but at least we don’t have shooting… the threat from two sides when you go anywhere and the guns that sometimes are poised,” she added.

Hot in Mindanao

The observers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand spent eight days in six ARMM provinces and visited more than 500 precincts.

Mohamad Yunus Lebai Ali, director of the National Institute for Electoral Integrity (NIEI) in Malaysia, said it was “a hot situation” in Mindanao, particularly in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

“We are not passing judgment. We came here more as a fact-finding mission to learn from each other and observe. We have universal criteria of elections,” he stressed, including whether the exercise was peaceful, free and fair.

Ali said the observers agreed that the atmosphere was not conducive to elections in the visited ARMM provinces.

No secrecy in voting

“I did not feel physically safe, what more the voters?” he said.

“It’s not to say the election was fair. We saw how protection took place, many cases of vote manipulation. It’s very hard to say there was no cheating up to election day,” he said.

Ali said that being free meant the voting must be done confidentially, which was not the case in the precincts the observers visited.

“We observed a lot of coaching inside precincts where people were being commanded to write the names and I myself observed flying voters in truck loads with 20-25 of them coming to precincts,” he stressed.

Women participation

Somsri noted the deployment of military personnel outside the voting centers in schools.

But she also noted some positive things, such as more women participation in all aspects of the electoral processes, the festive mood in most polling precincts despite the long lines of voters and the vigilance of civil society.

“It is a fiesta of democracy and I take it as celebration of democracy,” she said.

Amim Shah Bin Iskandor of Malaysia said he talked to some people who even tried to sell their votes, something he had never experienced in his country.

“To me, it is very cheap, just P20. This incident happened one day before the election. They’re not afraid and they showed money, they got it,” Iskandor said.

The observers blamed the “clan system” for the continuing political dynasties in the Philippines and said this was not good for the Philippines and other Asian countries.

Use symbols for candidates

Rashid Rashad of Sri Lanka’s People’s Action for Fair and Free Elections compared the Philippines’ antiquated voting process with the more advanced card system used in Sri Lanka’s elections.

“The people are not educated, the ballots are very big. Why don’t you introduce a card system where people just have to choose symbols (for candidates) to make it more simple for voters? The long paper is discouraging voters,” she said.

Proposals for reform

The team proposed several electoral reforms:

• Election offenses must be addressed swiftly.

• The law on campaign finance should be enforced. Overspending must be discouraged, and the source of funding should be clear.

• Cut down the cost of campaigning and enhance accountability and representation by having senators elected by region rather than nationwide.

• The anti-dynasty provision of the Constitution should be implemented to limit the number of politicians from the same family or political clan.

• The Commission on Elections must be more professional and those who misuse their power should be disqualified.

• The local election should be separated from the national to make the process simpler and more transparent.

• The law on modernization should be implemented in coming elections. With reports from Cathy Yamsuan and Associated Press

It’s about time someone officially complained!!!

Sen. Panfilo Lacson did an honorable act which honorable men should do.

He filed a complaint against Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez regarding the Justice Secretary’s recent controversial “incentives” for the province of Iloilo to give a 12-0 victory for the administration candidates. In short, what Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez did was simply “vote-buying” in any which way you look at it.

Criminal raps, disbarment sought vs DOJ chief

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez now faces criminal charges and a disbarment case over his recent statements about cash rewards for village chiefs and the death of US Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell.

Stressing public office is a public trust, opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson filed Monday graft charges against Gonzalez for the alleged P10,000 offer to village chiefs in Iloilo in exchange for 12-0 votes for administration senatorial bets.

Lawyer Ely Pamatong, meanwhile, lodged a disbarment complaint against Gonzalez before the Supreme Court over the justice chief’s “immoral statements” that Campbell was partly to blame for her death.

Lacson said he is filing the case as his civic duty to stop Gonzalez from “blatantly and arrogantly” violating the law.

“I’m filing this not as a senator but as a citizen. If we allow high officials to violate the law with impunity we are equally guilty. The Bible says that for evil to triumph, it takes just a few good men to do nothing. We’ve been a shame to other nations because our own officials violate the law,” he said in Filipino.

Lacson said he might file similar charges against other candidates who had made similar promises in past weeks, but not during the campaign period.

“There’s time for that. Once we get evidence after the elections I might file charges against them. But right now I don’t want to be accused of playing politics,” he said.

He also challenged Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to act swiftly and fairly on his complaint, after filing the case before her office.

“On a larger perspective, said offer of Secretary Gonzalez will have a far-reaching effect as this will make the officials concerned and the public in general complacent and look the other way even in the face of massive cheating that will be committed just to ensure the victory of Team Unity candidates,” he said in his complaint.

He added it was clear that the promise of P10,000 was designed to influence barangay (village) officials to vote and to work doubly hard for a 12-0 vote in favor of Team Unity.

This, he said, was “an act which is tantamount to vote buying and punishable under the Omnibus Election Code.”

Worse, he said Gonzalez remained defiant and claimed he did nothing wrong, by claiming non-candidates are not prohibited from buying votes, and that the funds will come from his own pocket anyway.

“Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice and lead modest lives,” he said.

Lacson pointed out that Gonzalez’s acts constitute the crime of attempted corruption of public officials penalized under Article 212 in relation to Article 6 (Consummated, Frustrated and Attempted Felonies) of the Revised Penal Code.

The provision penalizes “any person who shall have made the offers or promises or given the gifts of presents.”

He added Gonzalez is liable for violating Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft Law, which punishes “persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations.”

Meanwhile, Pamatong likened Gonzalez to a rampaging “elephant” with a loose tongue, dzBB radio said.

In seeking Gonzalez’s disbarment, Pamatong said the Supreme Court was the proper entity to punish the justice chief since the latter was the highest prosecutor in the government.

Gonzalez earlier said Campbell was a “little irresponsible” for walking alone at the mountain trail in Batad village at Banaue, Ifugao on April 8.

Campbell was bludgeoned to death by a 25-year-old woodcarver who claimed he mistook the American volunteer as his enemy in the same village. – GMANews.TV

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