Did Rene Sarmiento resign because of this?

Look of the Year

The “Look of the Year” award should go to Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento when he was confronted by ABS-CBN News Channel correspondent Ricky Carandang with the video he got of election returns being transported to Maria Cristina Hotel in Iligan City last Monday.

That “look” was captured vividly on TV and seen here and abroad.

It was nakakahiya. A Comelec official caught covering up for something that his people were trying to hide.

Carandang and fellow ANC correspondent Noel Alamar chanced upon bundles of election returns being transferred to the hotel facilitated by Jubil Surmieda of the Comelec’s legal department.

Under Comelec rules, election returns should be under the safe-keeping of the provincial treasurer.

In Carandang’s explosive report, he asked Sarmiento about the transported ER’s and he denied it. When told that the ERS were in the hotel, he and Surmieda, who acted like more like a thug rather than a Comelec official, Sarmiento still denied it.

But when Carandang showed the video he took of the ERs being hauled to the hotel’s elevator, Sarmiento grappled for a justification. He looked pathetic. He said the transfer was upon his orders to make sure that the documents would not be used to rig the special elections in parts of the province. The provincial treasurer, however, said she did not know about Sarmiento’s orders.

When asked by Carandang, why he would entrust custody of the important documents to a group of Comelec officials that included Renault “Boy” Macarambon, Sarmiento reacted sharply and talked about “due process”.

Macarambon is a Comelec lawyer who was detailed in the office of Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano in 2004.

If Sarmiento is wondering why the public distrusts Macarambon, may we refer him to the transcript of the Hello Garci tapes especially the conversations on May 25, 2004, 7:52 p.m.

In that conversation that Garcillano was having with a certain “Danny”, they were talking about 40,000 more votes needed. And as of that day, they already had 39,000. Remember that this conversation was almost two weeks after election.

Danny and Garci were talking about Cotabato City and Lanao del Sur.

Danny said, in the six municipalities “panalo daw siya doon”.

Garcillano said, “Mananalo siya talaga. Nandoon si Louie…Macarambon eh.

For all we know, Sarmiento knows all these very well. Like he knew about the transfer of the custody of the ERs to Surmieda and Macarambon. He has become one of them.

Related report:

ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs condemned Tuesday the death threats received by its television anchorman and radio reporter in connection with stories they filed from the special elections held in Lanao del Sur over the weekend.

“ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs condemns, in the strongest possible terms, these attempts to intimidate the members of our Newsgathering team. We would also like to warn those involved that their identities are known to us,” said Maria Ressa, head of the ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs. Click here for full report.

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Rene Sarmiento: Why resign as Task Force Maguindanao Head?

 This looks highly irregular. This move by Sarmiento will be raising eye-brows…

Poll commissioner Rene Sarmiento resigned Monday as head of a Commission on Elections-formed task force investigating alleged election fraud in Maguindanao province.

Sarmiento, commissioner-in-charge for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said he is resigning as head of Task Force Maguindanao due to health reasons.

He said he cannot physically head the investigation after overseeing the conduct of special elections in some areas in ARMM, including 13 municipalities of Lanao del Sur province, over the weekened. He said COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos should turn over his task to another commissioner.

Sarmiento added that he would have to concentrate on resolving problems that occurred during the special elections. Aside from Lanao del Sur, he said he would have to resolve some problems in the elections held in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Sharif Kabunsuan provinces.

Abalos ordered the formation of the task force after the legal arm of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) revealed widespread cheating in Maguindanao.

The Legal Network for Truthful Elections, PPCRV’s legal arm, said the Board of Election Inspectors were forced to fill up blank ballots with the names of administration candidates, including members of the Team Unity senatorial ticket. Initial reports from COMELEC officers earlier revealed that TU senatorial bets swept the elections in the province.

NAMFREL said its volunteers in Maguindanao were barred from polling precincts and were not allowed to witness canvassing. GMANEWS.TV

The COMELEC is killing TRANSPARENCY

What is the COMELEC so afraid of? If they have nothing to hide, they should let the media in every single precint and to allow the media to give up-to-date reports… instead, the COMELEC is trying its best to “shut-up” people.

Now with this new article, the COMELEC is “scaring” away honest people who only want to do good… perfect example of shooting the messenger. It clearly shows that Abalos is threatening people in the way… “do not come out, do not say the truth, do not expose the COMELEC’s conspiracy”.

The COMELEC is 101% not being transparent and the COMELEC is not doing its job!

COMELEC TO CHARGE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE ALARMING REPORTS 

 

Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV

05/22/2007 | 04:25 PM

Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos on Tuesday warned that those giving “false and alarming” reports will be charged with violation of election laws.

“It is an election offense. Let us be cautious (with what we say with the media). Those who give this unverified and unvalidated reports should not be left unpunished,” Abalos said.

Carlos Medina, co-convenor of the lawyers group Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente), earlier exposed alleged poll fraud in Maguindanao where teachers, at gunpoint, were told to fill up ballots with the names of Team Unity senatorial candidates. The administration’s senatorial bets scored a 12-0 sweep, with masive leads over the opposition, in elections in the southern Philippines province.

Abalos noted that Medina got the information when a person who identified himself as a teacher called up a radio station, where the lawyer was a guest.

“We are not even sure if the person who called is really a teacher,” the Comelec chairman said.

“It was just a phone conversation. How did you know if he really is member of the Board of Election Inspectors. That is what we are looking at,” he added.

He said the Task Force Maguindanao will not only focus on the allegations but also on the possibility that there was an intentional effort “to destroy the essence of efforts to have a clean election.” -GMANews.TV

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/43404/Comelec-to-charge-people-making-false-alarming-reports

The COMELEC is digging its own grave

With the obvious cover-ups and “non-action” regarding election anomalies, the COMELEC is digging its own grave.

Abalos, instead of listening to the media and the various watch-dogs, is actually just “ignoring” all these obvious and blatant election anomalies.

Why does he want to see “proof” when even a non-lawyer layman can see the obvious signs all-over the news?

Instead of trying to save-face by creating TRANSPARENT ELECTIONS, Abalos is now censuring the media and this is another way of covering-up for this massive election-fraud. He blames the media for brain-washing the people when the media is just doing its job of being transparent by bringing news to the people.

It is in fact the COMELEC that is trying its hardest to brainwash the people into thinking that we have the most peaceful and cleanest elections ever. Well…. the COMELEC’s brainwashing is definitely not working because we the people very well see a major conspiracy of vote-buying, cheating and plain dishonesty which is being covered-up and protected by the COMELEC.

Abalos, resign

Abalos, resign


Editorial


Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos is bewailing the accusations of widespread cheating that took place in some places, especially in Mindanao, during the last elections. While he expressed alarm over the reports, he seems to be more sad over the controversy generated by the cheating than the cheating itself.

He said the allegations are putting into the question the credibility of the whole electoral exercise. The allegations are eroding the public’s trust on the Comelec.

We have news for Abalos. The people’s trust in the Comelec was eroded long before the May 14 elections. Has he already forgotten “Hello Garci”? Or the failure of the Comelec to thoroughly investigate the complicity of its officials in cooking the results to favor Gloria Arroyo? (Some of those officials were even promoted. One was assigned as provincial director for Maguindanao, with predictable results.) Or the gift by the Comelec of P1 billion in taxpayers money to Mega Pacific for an electronic vote-counting contract which the Supreme Court said was anomalously awarded, was overpriced and would not work?

In the run-up to the elections, the Comelec allowed itself to be used by persons who were out to deny Alan Peter Cayetano a seat in the Senate through the fielding of a nuisance.

It disqualified reelectionist Naga Mayor Jess Robredo, a Magsaysay awardee for government service, by declaring him a Chinese. Two of the commissioners who ruled against Robredo, it turned out, were former law partners of a Camarines Sur administration political leader who was fielding a relative against Robredo.

It accredited a clutch of newly surfaced party list groups with links to the Palace and one, purportedly composed of tricycle operators and drivers, whose president and No. 1 nominee is a medical doctor who just happens to be Abalos’ brother.

It played dumb to the suspicious surge in the number of registered voters in areas which were considered bailiwicks of administration. The biggest increases were in the Lanao provinces and Maguindanao where voting did not take place in many municipalities.

After the elections, we’re seeing more of the same. In Biñan, Laguna, canvassing was suspended for alleged irregularities committed by the leading mayoral candidate. Why Biñan when losing candidates practically everywhere were seeking the same relief for the same alleged offenses of the winners? It just so happens that a son-in-law of Abalos was trailing badly in the count.

Abalos and company should stop shedding crocodile tears for the lost credibility of the Comelec. If they sincerely want Comelec to recover its credibility, they should resign.

http://www.malaya.com.ph/may23/edit.htm

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