Tuesday, June 5, 2007

TU hits NAMFREL trending even as Recto concedes


The Philippine Star

Team Unity hit Monday the early termination and apparent trending of the National Movement for Free Elections quick count showing eight winners from the Genuine Opposition, two from Team Unity and two independent candidates in the senatorial derby.

TU officials said it was “unfair” for the TU since the fight for the 11th and 12th places was still close and that at least two more administration candidates could make it to the Magic 12.

At the Senate, however, Sen. Ralph Recto bade an emotional farewell to the chamber, virtually conceding defeat in the midterm elections. Recto is currently ranked 14th in the tally, and is unlikely to serve a second term.

“The outpouring of votes is impressive, and warmly appreciated, but not enough to constitute the mandate to serve,” Recto said. “It is a verdict I accept without rancor or bitterness.”

TU media director Ben Evardone said NAMFREL secretary general Eric Alvia explained the counting was not finished yet but only moved to Makati City.

Evardone said Alvia likewise acknowledged that TU bets Juan Miguel Zubiri and Recto could still win as more than 500,000 votes remain to be counted.

“The 8-2-2 result of the NAMFREL tally is not final. Its decision to terminate its own tally with still about two million votes to be counted could be interpreted as trending,” Evardone said.

“Its bias in favor of the opposition can be seen with its decision not to proceed with its counting. It is totally unfair to TU. When the final tally shows that more TU bets are in the winning circle, the GO will surely protest,” Evardone said.

Now TU has reason to suspect the impartiality of NAMFREL, Evardone said, and that the Commission on Elections should review its accreditation as an independent watchdog body.

TU campaign manager Reli German said the NAMFREL should have made it very clear to the public that its canvass did not include several key areas yet and that the votes yet to be tallied could possibly alter the final standing of the last two places of the winning senatorial candidates.

German said the areas left uncanvassed by the NAMFREL were all administration strongholds with some 2.016 million registered voters.

He identified these areas as the provinces of Surigao del Norte, Basilan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.

“It is estimated that these six provinces could yield up to 1.60 million more votes and possibly result in the elevation of TU candidates Migz Zubiri and Ralph Recto to the 11th and 12 slots which are occupied at the moment by opposition bets Antonio Trillanes and Koko Pimentel,” German said.

“Let me point out that these areas are all located in Mindanao where the administration is historically strong and are bailiwicks of TU candidates Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, Migz Zubiri and Prospero Pichay. The three are all from Mindanao and it would be reasonable to expect that Team Unity would get more votes in these provinces, considering that the Genuine Opposition has only one Mindanaoan in its lineup and it has no Muslim candidate at all,” German said.

He said exit polls conducted by Pulse Asia had a 6-4-2 ratio which theoretically gave Team Unity four winning slots.

“If the certificates of canvass from these provinces are included, there is a strong probability that the final results would bear out Pulse Asia’s exit poll,” German stressed.

NAMFREL is set to come up this week with a terminal report on its parallel count of votes in the midterm election.

NAMFREL chair Edward Go said the terminal report would include the final tally and summary of its three-week quick count operations. It would also narrate poll irregularities experienced by NAMFREL volunteers nationwide.

He has maintained there would be no major changes in the rankings even if they continued tabulating remaining election returns as they moved operations to an undisclosed office in Makati City last Sunday.

“The incoming ERs are insignificant already. Although we are still trying to appreciate incoming ERs so we could reach higher percentage of tabulation, I don’t think it would affect the rankings considering the margin of votes,” he said.

In its 43rd tally released at 11:41 p.m. Saturday, NAMFREL had tabulated a total of 197,084 election returns, which represent 87.69 percent of votes cast in 224,748 precincts. This figure shows an improvement from the poll watchdog group’s performance in the 2004 election, where they finished the count at 82.98 percent.

GO bet former senator Loren Legarda topped the senatorial race with 15,200,169 votes. Fellow opposition candidate Francis “Chiz” Escudero, incumbent Sorsogon representative, finished second with 14,926,697 votes.

The next three spots were also occupied by GO bets: Panfilo Lacson in third with 12,880,049 votes; Manny Villar in fourth with 12,537,728 votes; and Benigno Aquino III fifth with 11,965,505.

Independent bet Francis Pangilinan, an incumbent senator, was sixth with 11,930,557 votes.

Edgardo Angara was the highest ranked TU bet in seventh with 10,403,534 votes.

GO bet Alan Peter Cayetano finished in eighth place with 9,691,262 votes, followed by independent candidate Gregorio Honasan, who garnered 9,636,150.

TU bet incumbent Sen. Joker Arroyo had the tenth slot with 9,618,637 votes.

Two GO bets are in the crucial 11th and 12th spots: Antonio Trillanes IV and Aquilino Pimentel III, who had respective votes of 9,248,609 and 8,985,408.

In the same tally, Juan Miguel Zubiri was in 13th place with 8,811,731 votes. NAMFREL officials refused to confirm if he would be able to overtake Pimentel if the tabulation was completed.

TU bets Ralph Recto finished 14th with 8,599,532 votes; Michael Defensor 15th with 8,075,073; and Prospero Pichay 16th with 7,938,313 votes.

Rounding up the top 20 were: Sonia Roco, Cesar Montano, John Henry Osmeña and Vicente Sotto III.

Earlier, NAMFREL officials said they would not be able to collect all ERs from polling precincts after excluding votes cast in Maguindanao where returns were reportedly withheld from their volunteers.

“This means we can’t complete 100 percent collection and tabulation. But our performance this year is an improvement as compared to the 2004 election,” explained Go.

So long, farewell

An emotional Sen. Ralph Recto, who ran for re-election under the administration’s Team Unity, bade farewell to the Senate Monday in an emotional valedictory speech where he stressed the need for politicians “to be right than popular” for the sake of the greater good.

Recto’s acceptance of his impending defeat in the senatorial race came as Team Unity and Malacañang still expressed optimism that Recto and Bukidnon Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri could make it to the Magic 12 with the uncanvassed votes from several Mindanao provinces.

Recto said he would have more time to be father and husband to actress Vilma Santos, who ran and won as governor of Batangas.

“I will gently go out of this institution, comforted in the thought that in every waking day that I had served out my mandate, I did it to the best of my ability, and always with the best interest of the country in mind,” Recto said.

Recto noted he would like to be remembered “as the one who did not hide in safe harbors but who sailed in open seas, sometimes against the gale of public opinion, out of the belief, like sailors of yore, that one can only make progress if he loses sight of the land.”

Recto was the principal author of the expanded value added tax, being the chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, and during the campaign, it was one of the issues that he had to defend most of the time.

“The duty of a member of this chamber is not to pander to what is popular but to uphold what is right, a senator who came before us said,” Recto stressed.

“That is true, otherwise those who will sit in this chamber will be a hostage to constant reinvention, depending on where the political wind blows, when duty requires adherence to core beliefs,” he said, adding: “I shall now pay the price of my intransigence. But I have no regrets.”

The senator, who is a mestizo, looked flushed while delivering his speech and was apparently trying to control his emotions. When interviewed by reporters later, he said he did not explicitly concede defeat because the counting was still ongoing.

Recto took the opportunity to say goodbye to the Senate during the first of the last three session days of the 13th Congress.

Recto said the “math” would show the unfavorable results of the senatorial elections based on the reports of his people on the ground.

“We know the numbers. All I’m saying is I’m prepared to lose,” he said.

Like his grandfather Claro M. Recto, he expressed optimism that history would judge him favorably.

“My grandfather practiced supply-side politics and that involved voicing contrary opinions when popularity contests – otherwise known as the elections– require a candidate to take the safest course to a new mandate, and that is to say what everybody is thinking but in the loudest voice,” Recto said.

The Genuine Opposition (GO) welcomed Monday the move of Senator Recto to concede defeat.

Adel Tamano, GO spokesperson, said Recto has proven himself worthy of his illustrious family name: “His act of conceding shows his commitment to the public welfare and is a step to protect the people’s mandate against cheating.”

Tamano added that the GO “salutes him” for the gentleman move. With Edu Punay, Christina Mendez

Abalos chides Namfrel over 8-2-2 GO win projection

06/05/2007 | 07:48 AM

Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr chided the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) Tuesday for making projections about an 8-2-2 opposition win in the senatorial race.

Abalos "reminded" Namfrel that its job is merely to conduct quick-count operations of the election based on its copies of election documents, and not to "extrapolate."

"I hope they stop issuing that kind of statement. Sila ay nandiyan para mag-quick count lang, di mag-extrapolate. Kung naging 8-3-1 baka mamaya masira sila, hindi maganda yan. Baka maging 7-3-2 ibig sabihin may himalang ginawa ang Comelec (I hope they stop issuing that kind of statement. Namfrel is there just to conduct a quick count, not to interpret the data. If the final count turns out to be 8-3-1, their credibility may suffer. Or if it turns out to be 7-3-2, we will be accused of hocus-pocus)," he said in an interview on dzXL radio.

He said there are still some 1.2 million votes yet to be counted, and the vote difference among those in the 12th to 13th places may be between 28,000 to 30,000.

But Namfrel chairman Edward Go said his group never said its figures were "certain."

Go said he merely said that Juan Miguel Zubiri (Team Unity) can still mathematically catch up with Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III (Genuine Opposition), with a difference of just 171,000 votes.

In contrast, he said Zubiri has little, if any, chance of catching up with former Navy Lt. S.G. Antonio Trillanes IV (GO).

"It doesn't mean to say the final result 100%, ang counting natin hindi official (It does not mean our counting is 100% the final result. Besides, our counting is not official)," he said in a separate interview. - GMANews.TV

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Namfrel protests Comelec count in Lanao polls

By Lino dela Cruz
Monday, June 04, 2007

ILIGAN CITY -- Hundreds of people held a prayer rally in front of St. Michael’s Cathedral Saturday to protest the results of the canvassing of three “tampered” ballot boxes from three Lanao del Norte towns.

The Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) reconvened Saturday afternoon and canvassed the election returns from the towns of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Maigo in Lanao despite earlier findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that the padlocks of the ballot boxes had been tampered.

Pinoy Votes: Sun.Star Election 2007 Coverage

View here the list of local winners

The PBOC headed by Gondino Salvana insisted in continuing the canvassing despite the manifestations from United Opposition (UNO) lawyer Arthur Abundiente that the seals containing the Certificates of Canvass were destroyed.

Abundiente further manifested that some of the votes were clearly altered and the figures did not match those in the Certificates of Canvass (COC) of the National Movement for Free Elections-Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (Namfrel-PPCRV).

In Maigo town alone, congressional candidate Imelda Dimaporo garnered 7,550 votes after the canvassing of the tampered ballot box compared to the 1,550 votes reflected in the copies of COC in the possession of Namfrel.

The total number of votes garnered by Dimaporo from the three tampered ballot boxes increased tremendously that it is more than the total number of registered voters of the three towns, UNO lawyers said.

The PBOC canvassing irked PPCRV chairman Fr. Albert Mendez, who slammed the thick pad of COCs on the PBOC table, to manifest his disappointment with the canvassing process.

The unofficial Namfrel count showed that congressional candidates Vicente Belmonte got 58,962 votes, Angelique Badelles got 45,670 votes, and Dimaporo garnered 42,596 votes.

The results of the canvassing immediately spread in Iligan City and people rallied with the priests in manifestation of their indignation.

Diocese of Iligan legal counsel Leo Zaragoza immediately called on the people to gather for a prayer rally in front of the St. Michael's Cathedral Saturday night.

Candles were lighted and they prayed that the winning candidate based on the Namfrel-PPCRV copies of the COCs be given justice and proclaimed as the newly elected congressman for the first district of Lanao del Norte instead of a candidate whose victory is based on the altered copies of the COCs.

The controversial ballot boxes and the allegedly altered COCs were brought by the PBOC to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) regional office in Cagayan de Oro City and these will be brought to Manila for further inspection.

The PBOC assured the public that no proclamation of winner in the congressional race in the 1st district of Lanao del Norte will be made on the local level but it is the Comelec commissioners in Manila who will make the proclamation of the winner. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sunnex)

NAMFREL COUNT: As of June 2, 2007 11:41pm

Precincts Tallied 197,084
Percentage of Total 87.69
1 LEGARDA, L. - 15,200,169
2 ESCUDERO, F. - 14,926,697
3 LACSON, P. - 12,880,049
4 VILLAR, M. - 12,537,728
5 AQUINO, B. - 11,965,505
6 PANGILINAN, F. - 11,930,557
7 ANGARA, E. - 10,403,534
8 CAYETANO, J. - 9,691,262
9 HONASAN, G. - 9,636,150
10 ARROYO, J. - 9,618,637
11 TRILLANES, A. - 9,248,609
12 PIMENTEL, A. - 8,895,408

Thursday, May 31, 2007

NAMFREL COUNT: As of May 31, 2007 9:26pm

As of May 31, 2007 9:26 pm
Precincts Tallied 190,251
Percentage of Total 84.65%
1 LEGARDA, L. - 14,939,914
2 ESCUDERO, F. - 14,709,244
3 LACSON, P. - 12,694,678
4 VILLAR, M. - 12,321,961
5 AQUINO, B. - 11,798,541
6 PANGILINAN, F. - 11,730,536
7 ANGARA, E. - 10,199,300
8 CAYETANO, J. - 9,559,416
9 HONASAN, G. - 9,491,028
10 ARROYO, J. - 9,480,224
11 TRILLANES, A. - 9,207,682
12 PIMENTEL, A. - 8,880,042

Namfrel exec survives gun attack in Makati

Article posted May 31, 2007 - 08:06 PM
Gunmen stormed Thursday the office of the spokesman of the National Movement for Free Election but the attackers failed to kill the poll watchdog official due to alert office staff.

According to Namfrel Secretary General Eric Alvia, lawyer Jose Bernas was unhurt in the shooting inside the latter�s office in Makati.

Alvia said four unidentified men introduced themselves as members of the press to gain entry into Bernas� office building along Buenavidez Street past 12 noon.

The gunmen barged into Bernas� office and opened fire but failed to hit the Namfrel official who was able to duck behind his table.

One of the lawyer�s staff was able to slam the door shut to keep the attackers out. Building security men drawn by the gunshots rushed to Bernas� office but failed to catch the gunmen.

�We are still not sure whether the attack was related to his work with Namfrel. Bernas is a lawyer, he is handling many cases," Alvia said. - GMANews.TV

Namfrel may not count Lanao votes

Article posted May 31, 2007 - 03:44 PM
The National Movement for Free Election (Namfrel) may set aside the counting of more than 100,000 votes from the 13 towns and municipalities of Lanao del Sur where special elections were held on May 26.

In a press conference Thursday, Carlos Medina, co-convenor of the Legal Network for Truthful Election (Lente), said the copies of the election return (ERs) that they were able to collect in Lanao were all unreadable and had no signatures and thumb marks.

"We have more than 100 ERs but all of them are unreadable, kahit na gamitan mo pa ng lente (magnifying class)," said Medina. �If that was done in purpose, I don�t know. But you know that the ER copy for Namfrel is the 6th copy."

Namfrel chairman Edward Go, who was also present in the press briefing, said that the 13 towns and municipalities in Lanao Sur comprise of about 500 ERs and more than 100,000 votes.

�We will follow our general principles with regards to the ERs. If it is unreadable, don�t bear necessary markings like thumb marks and signatures, and if it is not authentic, then we will not count it," the chairman explained.

Medina added that they were unable to get ERs in five towns of Lanao including Butig, Bayang Sultan, Lumbayabao, Kuwalas and Marugong

Atty. Howard Calleja, legal counsel of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), also complained that their group was also denied access to get a copy of the statement of votes.

Namfrel has already counted 83.68 percent of the total 224,748 precincts. - GMANews.TV

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lawyers figure in car chase for election returns in Lanao Sur

05/29/2007 | 10:37 PM

In a scene straight out of the movies, lawyers from an election watchdog group figured in a car chase with election inspectors, in the former's furious effort to get the sixth copy of election in returns (ERs) from a town in Lanao del Sur.

Online newspaper MindaNews (www.mindanews.com) reported Tuesday night that the car chase took place Monday, ending up inside the campus of the Mindanao State University (MSU).

Lawyers from the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) were running after the BEIs to get the sixth copy of ERs from Lumbayanague town in Lanao del Sur.

The incident was only one of several reported “irregularities" that hounded last weekend’s special election in Lanao del Sur, which also included minors being allowed to vote.

Counting in the Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol gym was also stopped several times Monday night due to the obnoxious stench of leftover food, and the use of the gym as makeshift toilets by poll watchers.

Lente co-convenor Carlos Medina said local BEIs refused to comply with the order of poll commissioner Rene Sarmiento, who twice ordered them last May 19 and May 23 to give the sixth ER copy to the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel).

“It is really frustrating. The BEIs simply refused to give us ER copies. They are following their own law here. They are not even obeying orders from the national Comelec," Medina said.

He said that when they asked the BEI of Lumbayanague why she would not give them the ER copies, she said no such order came from the Lanao del Sur election supervisor.

Medina said he and the Lente lawyers finally got copies of 31 ERs from the Lumbayanague BEI member when she alighted from a van inside the MSU campus.

Lente, Namfrel and the Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms (C-Care), have been complaining against the refusal by BEIs to give them the ER copies.

Aside from the 31 copies from Lumabayangue, Medina said they retrieved 87 copies from the 13 towns in Lanao del Sur where special elections were held last Saturday.

A total of 494 ERs are supposed to be given to Namfrel.

Namfrel provincial chair Hajji Abdullah Dalidig said they were only able to retrieve 1,042 ERs out of 2,609 expected from the 26 towns where elections was held last May 14.

Medina said they were able to get hold of the ERs from Sultan Dumalundong town before unidentified men took away the ballot boxes Monday night.

He said the watchdog group members failed to get the ERs from the municipality of Madalum when the counting was finished Monday afternoon.

Medina said they are also baffled by the absence of a number of BEIs, many of whom had reported “sick" or were supposedly “taking a rest" in neighboring Iligan City.

On the other hand, another watchdog group said minors were able to vote and there was rampant vote-buying even inside the polling centers, right in front of policemen and election special action officers.

Salic Ibrahim, Lanao del Sur coordinator for the Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms (C-Care), said the presence of hundreds of soldiers, policemen and election special action officers did not deter flying voters and vote-buying during the special elections.

“They are not exactly the heroes the Comelec wanted the public to believe," Ibrahim said.

Lily Datu, a C-Care volunteer said policemen who acted as BEI members allowed poll watchers to assist disabled and illiterate voters in the casting of their votes in Butig town last May 27.

“Often, the poll watchers gave these voters P100 or P500 to vote for their candidates," Datu said.

She said the vote-buying was done right in front of the policemen and election special action officers.

In contrast, Datu said the policemen and election special action officers did not allow her and other C-Care volunteers to loiter in the polling precincts.

Norjanah Sultan, another C-Care said she saw minors voting in some precincts in Madalum town.

Comelec special action officer Roy Prule, who was assigned to supervise the elections in Butig town, said they could not do anything against the minors because the names were in the voters’ list.

Meanwhile, the counting of ballots at the Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol gym had to be stopped several times Monday night reportedly because the smell of leftover food had turned so obnoxious.

But the poll watchers had refused to to leave the site amid the tight security imposed by Army soldiers, and to continue on with the vigil, decided to use the stage as their makeshift toilet.

The gym is the venue for the simultaneous counting of ballots for two municipalities. At least 200 poll watchers stay inside the gym until the counting of ballots is over.

Lawyers and soldiers described the unsanitary conditions in the gym as “a health hazard."

Prule said he nearly puked when he entered the gym to bring the ballot boxes from the town of Butig last Monday.

Prule said he had asked the Commission on Elections national headquarters in Manila to find a new venue for the counting of ballots for the town of Butig.

He said it would be preferable if the venue will be transferred to the gym at the Mindanao State University.

Col. Raynard Ronnie Javier, commanding officer of the Army 103rd Brigade, said they brought fire trucks Monday night to bring water to clean the gym. - GMANews.TV


Monday, May 28, 2007

Namfrel chief doubts health made Sarmiento quit

The head of the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) said he was disappointed over the decision of elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento to leave the task force investigating Maguindanao votes that were all allegedly given to senatorial candidates of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Sarmiento, commissioner-in-charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, quit as head of task force on Monday.

The commissioner said in resignation letter that his involvement in the May 26 special elections in the 13 municipalities in Lanao del Sur, particularly supervising and monitoring the pre-election preparations, election proper and post elections has taken a toll" on his health.

Namfrel Chairman Edward Go, however doubted Sarmiento’s reason for leaving the task force. “I saw him in Lanao, he looked okay. Maybe the situation he witnessed in (Mindanao) was too much for him to bear," he said.

Go said Namfrel officials and representatives from other election watchdogs will meet on Tuesday morning to assess the ongoing election processes—including Sarmiento’s decision to resign. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV


Sarmiento resigns as TF Maguindanao head

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.

Sarmiento wants out of probe body on Maguindanao cheating

Citing fatigue, the poll official in charge of Maguindanao is not keen on heading the probe body that will look into alleged cheating in Maguindanao province.

Instead, Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Rene Sarmiento said Monday he will let another commissioner take over the task force.

"Sana ganoon. Ang inyong abang lingkod ay physically hindi makakayanan ang trabahong ito (I hope that would be the case. Yours truly is physically incapable of handling the job)," Sarmiento said in an interview on dzXL radio.

He said he has many other matters to attend to involving elections in other areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Sarmiento is in charge of the ARMM region.

One of these matters involves problems in elections in Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sharif Kabunsuan.

Sarmiento said the Comelec will have to decide if there was indeed a failure of elections or a postponement of elections in the said provinces.

"Kung mapatunayang may dahilan at may basehan magtatakda ang Comelec ng special elections. (Pero) kakaunti na so sa tingin ko hindi na makakaapekto sa senatorial candidates (If we can find basis, the Comelec will call for special elections. But I believe there are too few votes in those areas to affect the senatorial race)," he said.

Sarmiento had just supervised special elections in Lanao del Sur. He said the polls there were relatively peaceful, and estimated the voter turnout at 75 percent.

On the other hand, Sarmiento said many civil society groups want to take part in the investigation into alleged poll irregularities in Maguindanao.

Maguindanao is the province where administration Team Unity senatorial candidates got a 12-0 "victory."

However, teachers serving in the board of election inspectors had come forward to claim that they were made to fill up the ballots with names of TU candidates, while students were made to place their thumb marks on the ballots.

Among the groups that want to join the investigation, he said, are the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), and Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE).

"May grupo na gusto sumali sa investigation, tulad ng PPCRV, Namfrel, Lente and other civil society groups (There are many groups that want to take part in the investigation like PPCRV, Namfrel, and Lente)," Sarmiento said. - GMANews.TV

source: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/44056/Sarmiento-wants-out-of-probe-body-on-Maguindanao-cheating

NAMFREL COUNT: As of May 26, 2007 5:52pm

As of May 26, 2007 5:52 p.m.
Precincts Tallied 179,655
Percentage of Total 79.94
1 LEGARDA, L. - 14,088,197
2 ESCUDERO, F. - 13,838,440
3 LACSON, P. - 11,951,942
4 VILLAR, M. - 11,609,985
5 AQUINO, B. - 11,041,088
6 PANGILINAN, F. - 11,035,941
7 ANGARA, E. - 9,648,879
8 CAYETANO, A. - 8,970,598
9 HONASAN, G. - 8,966,150
10 ARROYO, J. - 8,928,756
11 TRILLANES, A. - 8,657,145
12 PIMENTEL, A. - 8,398,589

Namfrel counted 87% ERs, canvassing to wind up soon

The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) will soon wind up canvassing of election returns (ER) from the May 14 midterm polls.

Namfrel Chairman Edward Go told reporters on Monday that the poll watchdog is left with only 13 percent of the total ERs from 224,748 precincts for canvassing.

“That means (we have canvassed ERs from) 87 percent of the precincts… We have about 13 percent to go…including areas where special elections were held like in Lanao del Sur," he said.

Go declined to say whether the remaining 13 percent of uncanvassed ERs would affect the standing of the senatorial candidates from the ninth to 16th place. “I don’t want to speculate kasi hindi ko pa nakikita ang bagong tally."

Go said there are still 500,000 uncanvassed votes from Maguindanao and the 13 municipalities in Lanao del Sur. - Fidel, Jimenez, GMANews.TV

source: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/44109/Namfrel-counted-87-ERs-canvassing-to-wind-up-soon

Lanao del Sur polls ‘chaotic and intense’ – Namfrel chief

While there were no fatal incidents reported, the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) refused to agree to police reports that the recent special elections held in 13 towns of Lanao del Sur were generally peaceful.

Namfrel Chairman Edward Go told reporters on Monday that he witnessed how the Lanao Sur elections were conducted and found it marred by disorder. He said polls in some towns, especially in Kapay, “were chaotic and intense."

“People were lining up to vote. They were shouting, pushing and shoving. It seems everybody wanted to vote first. What was the motivation? I don’t know," Go said during a press briefing at the La Salle Greenhills in San Juan.

Go described the situation in Kapay during the day of the special polls on May 26, as “very intense." “Comparing the election day in Manila, the situation in Kapay was very very far. Napakatensiyunado ng mga tao," he said.

He however forgot the name of the school where the special polls in Kapay was held but he said he “will never forget" what he had experienced there, especially the incident when some “personalities" barred Namfrel volunteers from entering the polling precinct.

The Namfrel chief also said he met Sen. Rodolfo Biazon in Lanao del Sur, the day after the elections. He said Biazon told him about the difficulties that his party encountered in getting copies of election returns (ER). “Sen. Biazon told me that they have not obtained the copies of ERs for the Liberal Party, (though it was the) minority party (acknowledged by the Comelec)." - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

source: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/44104/Lanao-del-Sur-polls-chaotic-and-intense--Namfrel-chief

Friday, May 25, 2007

NAMFREL COUNT: As of May 25, 2007 7:24 p.m.

As of May 25, 2007 7:24 p.m.
Precincts Tallied 165,143
Percentage of Total 73.48

1 LEGARDA, L. - 12,654,633
2 ESCUDERO, F. - 11,379,537
3 LACSON, P. - 10,811,904
4 VILLAR, M. - 10,411,432
5 PANGILINAN, F. - 9,924,867
6 AQUINO, B. - 9,890,850
7 ANGARA, E. - 8,683,332
8 HONASAN, G. - 8,096,114
9 CAYETANO, A. - 8,035,945
10 ARROYO, J. - 7,950,336
11 TRILLANES, A. - 7,702,597
12 PIMENTEL, A. - 7,571,752

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

NAMFREL COUNT: As of May 23, 2007 10:57pm

Precincts Tallied 224,748
Percentage of Total 66.99%
1 Legarda, Loren - 11,542,261
2 Escudero, Francis A. - 11,302,892
3 Lacson, Panfilo M. - 9,934,593
4 Villar, Manuel Bamba Jr. - 9,551,576
5 Pangilinan, Francis N. - 9,110,064
6 Aquino, Benigno III C. - 9,048,021
7 Angara, Edgardo J. - 7,954,282
8 Honasan, Gregorio B. - 7,421,855
9 Cayetano, Alan Peter P. - 7,335,062
10 Arroyo, Joker P. - 7,256,260
11 Trillanes, Antonio IV F - 7,043,152
12 Pimentel, Aquilino III DL - 6,941,519

Mindanao poll fraud detailed

Poll watchers report to Comelec

By Cathy C. Yamsuan, Jolene Bulambot, Charlie Señase, Nash Maulana, Edwin Fernandez
Mindanao Bureau, Inquirer, Visayas Bureau
Last updated 02:34am (Mla time) 05/24/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Poll watchdogs Wednesday gave detailed accounts of massive vote-buying, flagrant cheating and intimidation -- including death threats to a foreign observer -- in Mindanao during the May 14 elections.

The price of a vote ranged from P1,000 to P7,000 in some areas in Lanao del Sur province, according to the watchdogs’ accounts.

“Not even the Manila city jail can accommodate all the corrupt people in our area,” lawyer Nasser A. Marohomsalic, a member of the executive committee of the legal group Lente, told reporters.

Ranking officers of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) and Citizens’ Action for Responsible Elections (C-CARE) took turns detailing how rampant cheating took place in Lanao del Sur.

The officers submitted their report to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The Comelec has ordered special elections in at least 13 towns in the province, where voting could not be held because of the presence of armed goons.

Marohomsalic said one supporter of a candidate in Ramain-Ditsaan town even had the audacity to offer P300 to a foreign observer, an Indonesian female he identified only as Marini.

Marohomsalic surmised that the person mistook Marini for a Filipino given her Malay features.

“Most buyers were inside the polling precincts coaching voters. Witnesses included local and foreign observers,” the watchdogs said in a statement.

250 votes each; only 169 voters

Marohomsalic said a Pakistani observer asked another person offering bribe money in exchange for votes in Bacolod-Kalawi town if what he was doing wasn’t illegal.

“The person only answered, ‘Do you want me to kill you’? (Gusto mo patayin kita?)’,” Marohomsalic said in a press conference.

Namfrel chair for Marawi City Mama B. Palawan presented an election return (ER) showing all 12 senatorial candidates of Team Unity (TU) sweeping the elections in Barangay Punod.

The TU candidates garnered 250 votes each even if the barangay only had 169 registered voters.

“Maybe even the ghosts voted there,” he remarked.

Palawan said the stranger thing was that an “unheard of” party-list group called NELFFI, or Novelty Entrepreneurship and Livelihood for Food, also swept the party-list race in the same barangay.

Watchers barred

Palawan also noted what he called an “oversupply” in ERs after getting his hands on two ERs with different serial numbers but reporting the same results in a single barangay.

There was also an ER accomplished without the signatures of any of the election inspectors save for a faded thumbmark which Palawan said looked like it was made with “a child’s thumb or a cat’s paw.”

A PPCRV volunteer identified as Nursaide Dipatuan was mauled by still unidentified men inside the campus of the Mindanao State University.

“His face was smashed,” the lawyer said.

The watchdogs’ statement said watchers of PPCRV and another group were denied access by the board of canvassers (BOCs) to polling precincts in several towns.

Marahomsalic said the BOCs were assisted by “members of the (Philippine National Police) and soldiers.”

During the provincial tabulation, said watchers from PPCRV, C-CARE, and Namfrel were not allowed to observe the tabulation of election returns held at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol and the MSU campus.

Watchers were also barred by BOCs from monitoring the canvassing in Marawi City National High School.

No indelible ink

Other charges detailed in the report to Comelec included:

• Failure to apply indelible ink on the fingers of those who had voted.

• Proliferation of campaign materials inside the polling areas.

• Placement of ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia outside the polling precincts.

In many areas, votes were already being tabulated at the municipal level while ERs remained unaccomplished.

Marohomsalic said volunteers who were raising objections during the tallying at the precincts and during provincial canvassing were simply ignored by canvassers and election inspectors.

The disclosures of flagrant cheating in Lanao del Norte followed revelations earlier this week by a public school teacher in Maguindanao that she and other teachers were forced at gunpoint to fill out ballots with the names of TU candidates.

Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao are part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) -- scene of alleged cheating in favor of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the 2004 presidential election, according to the “Hello Garci” tapes.

Comelec officials in cahoots

Fresh accounts of how cheating supposedly occurred in Maguindanao emerged Wednesday. One account came from a teacher who acted as a member of the board of election inspectors (BEI) in one town of that province.

The alleged Maguindanao fraud gave the TU candidates a sweeping 12-0 victory in the province.

Interviewed through her cellular phone on the program “Arangkada” aired over ABS-CBN-Cebu’s dyAB, the teacher, who identified herself as Bai, accused local Comelec officials, the police and the military of collusion in committing fraud.

Bai reiterated there were no elections in Maguindanao since the teachers were ordered to fill out the ballots starting at 11 p.m. on the eve of the May 14 polls.

She also said that representatives from Namfrel were prohibited from entering voting centers in Shariff Aguak.

Bai said that she knew her life, along with those of the other teachers, was in danger but she had to expose the truth.

She said two other teachers were willing to attest to her statement.

Probe welcomed

Bai said nobody went to the polling precincts on Election Day and that anyone could see that the people who supposedly had voted had no marks of the indelible ink on their fingers.

Another whistle-blower, named “Kareem,” said in Filipino on GMA television network:

“We were given a list of senators. That was what we wrote on the ballot. It was 12-0 for TU,” said Kareem.

“We were the ones who actually wrote the names on the ballots. Look at the handwriting on the ballots. Only three people did it. The handwritings were the same.”

Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas said the provincial government was willing to help in the Comelec probe of alleged election fraud in the province.

“The provincial government is ready to assist them in any way to help clear the festering issue once and for all so this thing will already rest,” Unas said.

Education officials in ARMM Wednesday led hundreds of local public school teachers to the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak to denounce the unnamed teachers who alleged there was wholesale poll fraud in the province.

“Whoever they are, they should come out into the open with their identities so as not to destroy the image of the other teachers,” local education official Udtog Kawit said.

‘Grand design’

Unas, who is also the spokesperson for Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan, described the Maguindanao poll controversy as a “grand design” by people not happy with the TU’s 12-0 sweep in the province.

“Why blame us for this. They (the opposition) ought to be blamed for not campaigning in Maguindanao,” Unas said.

TU strategists have said the 12-0 result showed the power of the “command vote” in areas where pro-administration officials hold sway -- such as in Maguindanao, where Ampatuan is regarded as a political kingpin.

Unas bragged about Maguindanao’s “participatory democracy” under Ampatuan.

2 sets of winners

Another problem emerged Wednesday in South Upi town, also in Maguindanao, this time involving the proclamation of two sets of officials.

On May 15, local Comelec chief Monakiram Sambuang proclaimed Abdullah Campong as mayor-elect, Maria Sargan as vice mayor-elect, and eight councilors.

But a second certificate of canvass, or vote tally, showed another set of winning candidates for the town council.

Rodrigo Toriales, one of those on the first list of winners, told radio dxMS he could not understand why strange things always happened in his town.

“We are the sure winners but our names were deleted from the CoC and the Comelec put other names, why?” he asked.

Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol could not be reached for comment.

source: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view_article.php?article_id=67616

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

NAMFREL COUNT: As of May 22, 2007 11:20pm

As of May 22, 2007 11:20 p.m.

Precincts Tallied 133,073
Percentage of Total 59.21%

1 Legarda, Loren - 9,624,986
2 Escudero, Francis A. - 9,370,285
3 Lacson, Panfilo M. - 8,279,916
4 Villar, Manuel Bamba Jr. - 7,933,889
5 Pangilinan, Francis N. - 7,512,265
6 Aquino, Benigno III C. - 7,470,608
7 Angara, Edgardo J. - 6,626,557
8 Honasan, Gregorio B. - 6,279,935
9 Cayetano, Alan Peter P. - 6,084,715
10 Trillanes, Antonio IV F - 5,939,286
11 Arroyo, Joker P. - 5,921,281
12 Pimentel, Aquilino III DL - 5,805,271

MBC to Comelec: Probe Maguindanao before Lanao polls

The influential Makati Business Club (MBC) urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday to fast track its investigation on the alleged fraudulent election results in Maguindanao province that reportedly gave a 12-0 win to the senatorial candidates of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo under the Team Unity ticket.

In a statement, MBC chairman Ramon Del Rosario told Comelec that it should conduct the probe before the May 26 special elections in Lanao del Sur.

“We…welcome the decision of the Comelec to motu propio investigate the situation in Maguindanao, but we urge them to do so as possible and not wait until after the special election in Lanao del Sur," he said.

He added: “These anomalies have happened in previous elections in the same place. We cannot afford (to let this) happen again. If nothing is done to uncover what truly happened, it will be a travesty of justice." - GMANews.TV


Namfrel documents 'rampant' poll fraud in Lanao del Sur

The National Movement for Free Election (Namfrel) appealed to the Commission on the Elections (Comelec) to investigate election-related irregularities the poll watchdog documented in the towns and cities of Lanao del Sur.

In a report distributed to media on Tuesday, Namfrel alleged that vote buying was rampant in the province. The election watchdog claimed that each voter is bribed P 20 to P300 in exchange for voting a councilor, board member, representative or governor.

Namfrel said vote-buying for the mayoral position was much higher, ranging from P 1,000 to P7,000.

The group's volunteers also observed that ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia were outside the polling precincts of Bacolod Kalawi town.

The report added that Namfrel’s volunteers were denied access in the polling precincts of Pikong, Malabang, Kalanugas and Maging towns. They were also allegedly barred from entering the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol and the Mindanao State University (MSU) compound in Marawi City, were canvassing of votes took place.

Namfrel volunteers also claimed that they were denied of copies of certificates of canvass in Lanao del Sur municipalities.

One of the volunteers was reportedly mauled inside the MSU while tabulation was going on May 15, the report said.

The report was signed by Hadji Abdulla Dalidig, Namfrel’s provincial chairman in Lanao Sur; Mama Palawan, Namfrel’s chair in Marawi; Atty. Nasser Marohomsalic, of Lente, legal arm of Namfrel; Salic Ibrahim of C-Care Lanao Sur; Atty. Abdulbayan Balt, former labor secretary in ARMM.


Monday, May 21, 2007

NAMFREL COUNT: As of May 22, 2007 10: 58am

As of May 22, 2007 10:58 a.m.

Precincts Tallied 128,557
Percentage of Total 57.20%

1 Legarda, Loren - 9,103,567
2 Escudero, Francis A. - 8,900,587
3 Lacson, Panfilo M. - 7,887,955
4 Villar, Manuel Bamba Jr. - 7,491,080
5 Pangilinan, Francis N. - 7,102,947
6 Aquino, Benigno III C. - 7,093,108
7 Angara, Edgardo J. - 6,255,200
8 Honasan, Gregorio B. - 5,971,938
9 Cayetano, Alan Peter P. - 5,793,037
10 Trillanes, Antonio IV F - 5,651,727
11 Arroyo, Joker P. - 5,611,185
12 Pimentel, Aquilino III DL - 5,461,121

Namfrel to field more volunteers in Lanao special polls

The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) will be fielding additional volunteers in 13 towns in Lanao del Sur where special polls will be held over the weekend, the poll watchdog's chair said Tuesday.

"This time, we want to make sure that the process of election (will be) proper and peaceful...that people can vote freely and without fear," Edward Go told reporters in a press briefing.

Go said the votes in the affected towns in Lanao del Sur, plus the votes in Maguindanao could affect the results of the senatorial ranking from 8 to 15.

About 100,000 voters will cast their votes on May 26 in the 13 towns in Lanao del Sur. The province has about 396,722 registered voters. On the other hand, Maguindanao has about 300,000 registered voters.

In the same briefing, Go said his group has yet to receive any election returns (ERs) from their field volunteers in Sultan Kudarat.

Go added he is still awaiting the report of Namfrel’s chapter in Sultan Kudarat as to why no ERs have yet been delivered to Greenhills in San Juan from the area.

"Masyado kasi kaming naka-focus sa Maguindanao. But I was told that unlike in Maguindanao na hindi ma-locate noong una ang mga volunteer, sa Sultan Kudarat naman they were all accounted and nothing had happened," he said. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV


PPCRV petitions Comelec to disregard Maguindanao votes

By Joey Alarilla, Veronica Uy
Last updated 11:07am (Mla time) 05/22/2007

(UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines -- The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting has asked the Commission on Elections to set aside the certificate of canvass from Maguindanao province, which has arrived in Manila.

As of posting time Monday, PPCRV, the lawyers group Lente (Legal Network for Truthful Elections), and VForce (Volunteers for Clean Elections) are meeting with Commissioner Rene Sarmiento to discuss how they can help in the investigation on the fraud exposed by a teacher in Maguindanao.

Howard Calleja, PPCRV national legal counsel, said they wanted the canvassing of votes from the Maguindanao deferred until after the results of the investigation of the Comelec task force was completed.

At the same time, Calleja said this new consortium of civil society groups would send from 20 to 40 lawyers for the special elections in 13 Lanao Del Sur towns and several other places in Shariff Kabunsuan, Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-tawi.

Former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod said that if the task force would find that the election process in Maguindanao was flawed, then special elections might be held there, complete with full monitoring by media, civil society groups, and the Marines.

Earlier on Tuesday, PPCRV chairman Tita de Villa said on local television that the Comelec could not ignore the numerous complaints, which include the similarity in handwriting in the signatures on some of these ballots.

In announcing the formation of a task force, the Comelec, which has been convening as the National Board of Canvassers for the counting, said that it could not defer the canvassing in Maguindanao, because, as Chairman Benjamin Abalos had said the poll body "could not totally disregard the result of the elections in the province on a mere allegation by someone who hides 'under a cloak of immunity.'”

De Villa said however that the Comelec must do something that would send a clear signal that fraud would not be tolerated, otherwise "no elections of ours will be credible."


COMELEC must account for Mindanao

COMELEC must account for Mindanao

Last updated 11:46am (Mla time) 05/22/2007

We ask the Comelec - what gives in Mindanao? We are dismayed at the accounts coming out of provinces of Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Sulu and Lanao del Sur. What is more appalling is the slowness with which Comelec is responding to the various crises affecting the region. It is a pity that the Comelec doesn’t seem to be doing anything to restore the people’s faith.

We listened in alarm as “Bai”, a teacher from Maguindanao, revealed on radio that there were, in fact, no elections held in that province, that children were used to cheat for administration backed candidates. We support Lente in its plan to file a formal complaint regarding these allegations but doubt that the Comelec will act with speed on the matter. Whose interest will be better served as long as Comelec drags its feet? The protection of a life is in jeopardy here. The longer it takes for “Bai” to testify on what she witnessed, the quicker it will be for evil forces to silence her.

There is a parallel story coming out of Indanan, Sulu – a lawyer actually witnessed teachers filling out ballots in favor of Team Unity. Is this how low this administration is planning to go?

Also in Maguindanao, the local Comelec refuses to release election results, all in favor of Team Unity, to Namfrel. This is not surprising, given that this particular Comelec office is under the command of Dir. Rey Sumalipao of “Hello, Garci?” notoriety. Why hesitate in producing the results if they are seemingly in favor of those who thirst most to retain power?

News of election related violence and a four-day late start of canvassing in Shariff Kabunsuan and a failure of elections in several towns in Lanao del Sur are more than disturbing. If another “Hello, Garci?” character, Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol, is indeed appointed to head Shariff Kabunsuan’s Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBC), there will then be more room for distrust.

Let us not be sidetracked by stories of “trending” by Namfrel and other groups. These “quick” counts are not official counts. The official results will come from the Comelec, an institution that is in bad need of reform, lacking in accountability and transparency.

Despite the deluge of stories on electoral doom and gloom, we are heartened by small victories in other places. We salute the people of Pampanga as they place their trust in Among Ed Panlilio. The KO victory of Darlene Custodio over Manny Pacquiao and the defeat of Virgilio Garcillano prove that our people can make the right choices. How we wish that the Chairman and Commissioners of the Commission on Elections would do the same.

The Black & White Movement


PCIJ: Maguindanao's 12-0 sweep for TU: 'Hello Garci' Take 2?

MALACAÑANG strategists are trumpeting the news of a 12-0 sweep by Team Unity senatorial candidates of the Maguindanao elections as the vaunted power of the administration’s political machinery at work through bloc voting.

With TU bets trailing in early tallies by both the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Malacañang has claimed that “command votes" from its bailiwicks would eventually put them in the senatorial winning circle.

As of the morning of May 16, with 73 percent of the votes in the province’s 27 towns counted, Mindanews reported that the administration ticket was lording it over the opposition in the Maguindanao tally, with Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit" Singson emerging as the surprise top vote-getter with 136,044 votes out of a total of 336,774 registered voters. Singson was followed by Bukidnon Representative Juan Miguel Zubiri (133,321 votes), and former Senator Tito Sotto (132,103 votes).

But a bewildered Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, the poll commissioner-in-charge assigned to ARMM during the May 14 elections, remarked that this is the first time he has heard of such a result, and said that the Commission on Elections will have to look into the matter.

They should, especially with how the elections turned out last Monday in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Foreign observers were witness to how the polls in the region’s six provinces were marred by widespread violence, blatant vote-buying and election irregularities.

Moreover, the Maguindanao tally brings to mind the suspicious results of the 2004 elections that came from the region, whose votes helped ensure Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s victory by a 1.1 million-vote lead over Fernando Poe Jr.

In 2004, Muslim Mindanao votes were indeed crucial to Arroyo’s winning margin as the region accounted for close to 300,000 of the lead. In fact, 17 percent of Arroyo’s total votes obtained in Mindanao came from ARMM. In seven towns ruled by the pro-Arroyo Ampatuan clan, Arroyo won over Poe by an incredible vote ratio of 82,411 to 142 (or 99.83 percent to 0.17 percent). In two towns, Arroyo garnered all the votes, with Poe getting zero.

More significantly, Maguindanao, along with Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Lanao del Sur, figured prominently in the “Hello, Garci" recordings — phone conversations between Arroyo and former Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano caught on tape allegedly detailing efforts to manipulate the outcome of the 2004 polls in Arroyo’s favor.

One of the calls made by Arroyo on June 6, 2004 sought Garcillano’s assurance about the consistency of election forms in Maguindanao. Garcillano’s reply: “Hindi naman ho masyadong problema sa Maguindanao (Maguindanao isn’t much of a problem)."

Based on official results, Arroyo won handily in Maguindanao, obtaining 199,431 (69 percent) of the votes compared to Poe’s 63,313 (22 percent). This was, however, disputed by Guimid Matalam, a losing gubernatorial bet, citing alleged cheating in 25 of 27 towns. Matalam charged that election returns were prepared even before the voting started on May 10, 2004, and that ballot boxes were never brought to the precincts.

One town in Maguindanao, Talitay, was mentioned in a call also made on June 6, 2004 by Comelec lawyer Wynne Asdala to Garcillano discussing efforts to garner more votes for K-4 senatorial candidate Robert Barbers. “Itong Talitay tsaka Columbio (a town in Sultan Kudarat), gusto nilang mag-submit ng bagong COC at saka SOV para mahabol yung si Barbers (They want to submit new COCs and SOVs in Talitay and Columbio so Barbers can catch up)," Asdala told Garcillano.

When asked for his side by the PCIJ in 2005, Asdala admitted talking with the former poll commissioner about the votes in Talitay, Maguindanao but denied the conversation was about attempts to pad Barbers’s votes.

What should also be a cause of concern is that Maguindanao’s provincial election supervisor is lawyer Lintang Bedol. In 2004, Bedol was reassigned to Sultan Kudarat shortly before the May elections. Sitting also as chairman of the Cotabato City board of canvassers, he presided over “highly problematic" counts in the two areas.

Bedol’s name was heard several times in the “Hello, Garci" tapes. Apparently, he was entrusted with “interesting" tasks during the 2004 elections, aside from reporting the results to Garcillano, as can be gleaned from these excerpts from our June 16, 2005 post, “Vidol who?“:

In the conversation that supposedly took place between Garcillano and the President at 9:47 a.m. on May 29, 2004, Arroyo wanted to know the extent of her defeat in Cotabato City.

The elections commissioner replied, “Hindi ho siguro sosobra ng (It probably wouldn’t exceed) forty, Ma’am. Nag-usap na kami ni Atty. Bedol….Kami ni Atty. Bedol, nag-usap ho ngayon (Atty. Bedol and I talked just now). But I’ll give you the exact figure ma’am in a little while, para ma-ano ninyo." The final outcome: Arroyo: 8,510; Poe, 29,417.

Meanwhile, a certain Danny, apparently worried about the Cotabato count, asked Garcillano in a phone conversation on May 25, 2004: “Sir, ano kaya, nagawan kaya ng paraan ni Bedol (Did Bedol manage to do something about this)?"

Former senator Robert Barbers, who purportedly called up Garcillano on May 29 to inquire about the Comelec en banc’s resolution transferring the canvassing venue from Cotabato City to Manila, was told, “…Bine-verify ko, pero si Atty. Bedol, yung ating tao dun, hindi makontak (I’m verifying it, but I can’t contact Atty. Bedol, our man there).

Bedol, who sources from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) describe as very close to Garcillano (the commissioner spent most of his 43 years in Mindanao), obviously wielded some power. The sources identified the voice of a woman complaining about Bedol to Garcillano as that of Comelec Region 12 Clarita Callar. She is heard saying, “Ba’t inaaway ako ni Bedol (Why is Bedol picking a fight)…"

In the tapes, Bedol was also caught talking to Garcillano at least twice. (see “Conversations with and about Bedol“)

Maguindanao’s “very high" voter turnout, with no town registering lower than 90 percent, according to Bedol, likewise lends to the improbability of the election results. It will be recalled that in the 2004 elections, the total votes cast for the party-list candidates in the province was 283,012 out of a total of 334,331 registered voters, corresponding to an unusually high 84.65 turnout. - Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

NAMFREL COUNT: As of May 22, 2007 4:28am

Legarda, Loren (GO) 8,042,545
Escudero, Francis Joseph (GO) 7,881,884
Lacson, Panfilo (GO) 7,009,371
Villar, Manuel Jr (GO) 6,575,650
Pangilinan, Francis (IND) 6,300,778
Aquino, Benigno Simeon III (GO) 6,278,767
Angara, Edgardo (TU) 5,569,106
Honasan, Gregorio (IND) 5,318,070
Cayetano, Alan Peter (GO) 5,110,878
Arroyo, Joker (TU) 5,046,379
Trillanes, Antonio IV (GO) 4,976,891
Pimentel, Aquilino III (GO) 4,866,219

Fraud allegations alarm Abalos

Team formed to probe poll cheating in Maguindanao

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Jocelyn Uy
Last updated 01:27am (Mla time) 05/22/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. Monday expressed alarm over reports that school teachers in Maguindanao province were forced at gunpoint to fill up ballots with the names of administration senatorial candidates, and ordered the creation of a task force to investigate the alleged cheating.

“It is very alarming. The electoral system is being attacked here. This is not good,” Abalos said.

He was reacting to a Philippine Daily Inquirer story the other day about how teachers in a Maguindanao school allegedly filled up ballots with the names of Team Unity candidates while being watched by armed men, and how school children were made to affix their thumbmarks on them.

Abalos challenged the accusers to present evidence, saying the Comelec would protect them.

Lente, the legal arm of the watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), said it had obtained confessions from a female public school teacher in Maguindanao who said that she and other teachers prepared the ballots in the middle of the night, hours before polling precincts were supposed to open.

Lente officials said the teacher did not want to be identified for fear of her safety.

The report coincided with accusations by the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections that Comelec officials in Maguindanao had refused to provide Namfrel volunteers with copies of provincial election returns, in defiance of orders from the Comelec head office.

“The credibility of the commission has been put at stake. That’s why we are conducting an investigation,” Abalos said.

Looking for the truth

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, who is in charge of Maguindanao, said he would lead an investigation right after the special elections scheduled for Saturday in Lanao del Sur, where goons reportedly prevented elections from being held on schedule on May 14.

After the special polls in Lanao del Sur, “we will conduct an investigation in Maguindanao,” Sarmiento said.

He said he would invite regional and provincial election supervisors “to shed light on these allegations.”

“We just want to show that the commission is resolved to conclude the investigation, to ferret out the truth,” Sarmiento said.

Abalos called on Lente and PPCRV to reveal the sources of the allegations on the Maguindanao fraud so the poll body could determine if such an incident really took place.

“This is very serious because, as I said, it goes to the very essence of voting, of elections,” he said.

Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur are among the provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) mentioned in the “Hello Garci” tapes where votes were allegedly rigged to favor President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the 2004 presidential election.

The tapes supposedly dealt with phone conversations between Ms Arroyo and former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano on the manipulation of votes. Ms Arroyo and Garcillano denied they cheated.

Asked whether the National Board of Canvassers would defer the canvassing of votes from Maguindanao, Abalos said the board could not totally disregard the result of the elections in the province on a mere allegation by someone who hides “under a cloak of immunity.”

“Let’s be realistic about this,” he said.

Failure of elections

Since the Maguindanao probe will start only after the Lanao del Sur special elections, when the canvassing might already be nearing completion, the allegations of fraud would not hamper the proclamations of senatorial winners, Abalos said.

“Mere allegations, unless supported by evidence, cannot be a ground to suspend proclamation,” Abalos also said.

Sen. Franklin Drilon urged the Comelec to declare a failure of elections in Maguindanao and exclude the province from the official vote tallies in view of what he claimed was a blatant attempt by the administration to rig Maguindanao’s 300,000-plus votes.

Drilon decried what he said were arbitrary moves by the Comelec to declare a failure of elections in areas that did not favor administration candidates, while upholding the results in places where the votes had been manipulated to favor the administration.

“If you look at the election returns and the certificate of canvass, the statement of votes from the Maguindanao area and given what is reported about the teacher admitting that they filled up election returns, this should be sufficient for the Comelec to nullify the election in Maguindanao,” Drilon said in a press conference.

He said the Comelec, specifically Commissioner Sarmiento, should “stop acting like the Philippine National Police who will always tell the public, ‘you file a complaint against our erring policemen.’”

“He should stop saying that complaints should be filed before they investigate because the Comelec can motu propio investigate these complaints. The Comelec should exclude the questionable returns from the province of Maguindanao from its official canvass,” Drilon said.

Namfrel claim disputed

Drilon said the Comelec should also look at declaring a failure of elections in Lanao, Tawi-Tawi, Sultan Kudarat and Sulu.

Drilon said: “The Liberal Party is outraged over the reported massive and blatant Election Day and canvassing irregularities, especially in the areas alleged to be bailiwicks of this administration.”

Disputing Namfrel’s claims, Maguindanao’s controversial provincial election supervisor, Lintang Bedol, said Namfrel got its copies of election returns from the province.

Bedol, who was among the Comelec officials whose names were mentioned in the “Hello Garci” tapes, said that based on reports he got from poll officers from Maguindanao’s various towns, Namfrel volunteers took their sixth copies of the election returns at the precinct level.

Bedol said those who retrieved the ERs for Namfrel were given their copies after they presented identification cards. He said that election inspectors relied on the IDs presented to them.

(Namfrel) has not provided us with the list of its volunteers despite persistent request, even prior to the elections,” Bedol said, adding the Comelec officers had no way to verify the identities of those who claimed the election returns.

If there was no such list, it was not clear from Bedol’s remarks what was the basis used by election inspectors in releasing the election return copies to the ID bearers.

Elections took place

Separately, the chair of the volunteer group Citizens’ Action for Responsible Elections (CARE), Romy Guiamel, said that residents of Maguindanao were able to vote on Election Day.

“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,” Guiamel said.

Guiamel’s statement clashed with those from an official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and concerned individuals who told the Inquirer that balloting did not take place in many parts of the province.

Guiamel said his group -- which works with the PPCRV -- was able to monitor the conduct of elections in Maguindanao and these were generally peaceful.

Guiamel admitted that Namfrel volunteers failed to secure their copies of the election returns but he blamed this on lack of coordination between volunteers and the Comelec.

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

With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. and Nash B. Maulana, Inquirer Mindanao



Surprise! Comelec outpaces Namfrel ‘quick count’ tally

By Norman Bordadora, Cathy C. Yamsuan
Last updated 02:39am (Mla time) 05/22/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The usually slow count by the Commission on Elections became the “quick count” when its tally of votes exceeded that of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel).

As of Monday afternoon, the Comelec count for leading senatorial candidate Loren Legarda had reached the 7-million mark.

Namfrel’s count as of early morning Monday put Legarda’s votes at more than 6.3 million.

Batch 22, or the Namfrel update released at 8:40 a.m. Monday, said the latest figures came from 94,206 precincts, or about 42 percent of all precincts nationwide.

The faster-than-usual Comelec count prompted former Comelec Chair Christian Monsod to suggest that Namfrel’s tally be called a “parallel count” instead of a “citizens’ quick count.”

A Namfrel official said the group was not engaged in a race with the Comelec.

Monsod said that while the Comelec always caught up with Namfrel, it did so three days earlier this year than in the 2004 elections.

“Usually, the Comelec catches up with Namfrel on the ... 10th day. This year, it did so on the seventh day,” he said.

Was Namfrel a bit slower this year following bugs in its software and glitches in its Internet connection?

“No. In fact, Namfrel was faster this year than in 2004 (if you compare the number of votes counted in as many days after the elections),” Monsod said.

“Maybe the Comelec was a bit faster,” he said.

Monsod said there was nothing irregular about the Comelec catching up with Namfrel.

ERs and CoCs

While Namfrel starts counting the votes before the Comelec, it bases its tallies on 300,000 or so election returns (ERs).

The Comelec bases its official count on only about 140 certificates of canvass (CoCs) made at the provincial level.

“Namfrel starts its count at the precinct level. Depending on the number of precincts in a municipality or city, the Comelec has 20 or so tabulation committees in every municipality or city,” Monsod said.

“Namfrel can’t match that number of people with its volunteers,” he said.

While the Comelec starts its national canvassing later than Namfrel, it only has to go through more than a hundred CoCs.

“Now, the Comelec doesn’t start to count the votes (for national positions like senator) until it reaches the provincial level. Although, (the commissioners) start late, they only have to go through 130 to 140 CoCs,” Monsod said.

Verification process

The verification process being followed by Namfrel is slowing down its count.

Namfrel chair Edward Go earlier said Namfrel did not immediately include newly arrived tabulations until after these were verified.

Add to this the fact that Namfrel employs several steps of checking and counterchecking before it releases updates to media.

Go dismissed allegations that Namfrel was selecting data only from some areas to establish a pattern in favor of certain candidates.

“We do not do any kind of trending. We do not select the data to be posted. Everything depends on the flow of reports from the field and how quickly these are verified,” he said.

Eric Alvia, Namfrel secretary general, said the group’s quick count would eventually catch up with that of the Comelec.

“There will be a point of convergence. Even if the Comelec has already reached 7 million, the important issue is whether our count is accurate,” Alvia said.

Namfrel is holding its quick count operations at the La Salle gym in Greenhills, San Juan. School officials have given Namfrel only until Thursday, May 24 to use the gym.

“We are still hopeful that the pace will quicken,” Go said at a press conference early Monday afternoon.

In case the quick count is not completed by then, “hopefully we will be given an extension,” Alvia said in a radio interview.