Thursday, May 31, 2007
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
Article posted May 31, 2007 - 03:44 PM
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
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
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, 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.
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
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
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
Friday, May 25, 2007
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
"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
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."http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view_article.php?article_id=67302
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 Movementhttp://globalnation.inquirer.net/mailbag/mailbag/view_article.php?article_id=67317
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
|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|
Team formed to probe poll cheating in MaguindanaoBy 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
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.
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.
Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr told reporters on Monday that an investigating team was set up "to ferret out the truth" in the reported voting and canvassing anomalies in Maguindanao.
Abalos said the task force will be headed by Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, who in charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Sarmiento is also the head of Task Force Lanao investigating the disappearance of election officers in the province which resulted to the declaration of failure of election in several municipalities.
Abalos said the team will look into the exposé of Lente (Legal Network for Truthful Elections) and PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) that teachers in Maguindanao were asked to fill up the ballots a day before the election.
He, however, said that the allegation, unless supported by substantial evidence, cannot be a ground for stoppage of proclamation of the winning candidates in the area.
He said the accusation will have more teeth if the person who divulged the alleged fraud won't "hide under the cloak of anonymity." "It is easy to come up with a statement," he added.
When asked if Comelec would protect the teacher if she decides to surface, he replied "of course we will."
On Sunday, radio dzBB reported that it was not only in Maguindanao that all TU bets emerged unopposed. The report said that some towns in at least eight other provinces in Visayas and Mindanao also gave all their votes to administration bets.
DzBB quoted a statement from Malacañang saying that TU bets have so far emerged unopposed in 34 towns, including 17 towns in Maguindanao, and 17 others in the Visayan provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Northern Samar and Eastern Samar and in the Mindanao provinces of Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Sulu and Zambonga Sibugay.
The report said administration officials believed that TU bets won in these areas because of “command votes."
TU deputy spokesman Tonypet Albano had earlier said that the administration is expecting more sweeps that would be enough to push two to four of its candidates into the winning slots.
Meanwhile, Genuine Opposition candidates and the citizen’s election watchdog National Movement for Free Election urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Sunday to start investigating election tally results in Maguindanao by opening ballot boxes.
In a text message to GMANews.TV on Sunday, outgoing House minority leader Rep. Francis Escudero, GO senatorial bet, said he supports Namfrel’s call urging Comelec to send a fact-finding panel to Maguindanao.
“The noise on the reported fraud in Maguindanao is so loud. Comelec should not ignore the noise," Escudero said.
He said Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos should not allow a repeat of “Garci-like" operations under his watch. “Sobra na yan kung magkakaroon ng Garci 2 (It would be too much if there would be a repeat of the Garci scandal)," Escudero said.
Another GO Senate bet Alan Peter Cayetano, in a separate text message, said Comelec should not wait for the Namfrel or any candidate to file a petition on the alleged Maguindanao scandal.
“Kung gusto talaga ng Comelec na maging malinis ang halalan, kusa at hindi na nila dapat hintayin ang suggestion ng Namfrel (If the Comelec really wants a clean election, it will act on its own and will no longer need to be prodded by Namfrel)" Cayetano said. - Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV
“I want to assure him that we will not allow our organization to be used by anybody. If they know someone, tell us, so we can act accordingly," Go told reporters in an interview.
Go said he is willing to visit Trillanes in his detention cell to explain to him how Namfrel operates its quick count. “We don't do any kind of trending. The number of votes we tally depends on the flow of the reports coming from the volunteers in the field and the speed on verification of data."
Earlier, a handful of supporters of Trillanes picketed in front of the La Salle University in Greenhills, San Juan to denounce the alleged "trending" of Namfrel’s operation quick count.
In an interview with GMANews.TV Monday, Sonny Rivera, Trillanes' spokesman, said "Oplan Mercury Rising" is using the Namfrel’s quick count to precondition the mind of the public that two to four Team Unity senatorial candidates would have a chance to enter the Magic 12.
Mercury Rising is a plot allegedly for dagdag-bawas operation in certain areas in Mindanao, particularly in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) and Visayas regions to pad at least 2 million votes for Miguel Zubiri, Prospero Pichay, Ralph Recto and Mike Defensor.
"Our informants have told us that Recto and Defensor seem to be giving up hope that they could still enter the magic 12, so the Mercury Rising is still operating for Zubiri and Pichay," Rivera said. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV
INQUIRER.netLast updated 03:43pm (Mla time) 05/21/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- After the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) has formally removed Maguindanao from its list of provinces included in the quick count, poll watchdogs have called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to send representatives there to investigate whether cheating had really taken place.
"We are studying the filing of a complaint at the Comelec, we have a witness [to prove cheating took place] but is not yet ready to surface. We hope Comelec will not make it [complaint] a prerequisite before it acts," Carlos Medina, Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) co-convenor, told a press conference Monday.
Lente is the legal arm of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), which is allied with Namfrel.
On Sunday, Namfrel announced that Maguindanao had been deleted from its national quick count after election officials there allegedly refused to release copies of election returns and disallowed volunteers from observing tabulation centers.
"We hope Comelec will conduct its own investigation even before we have filed a complaint. It is the constitutional body tasked with the enforcement of election laws and at stake here is the credibility of electoral process," said Medina, adding that their request for an immediate investigation is "a cry for help."
Medina said it would be hard for them to file a formal complaint since one should be backed by testimonies of witnesses, who could not yet to come out in the open for safety reasons.
Lawyer Howard Calleja of the PPCRV said he found it "irregular and abnormal" for Comelec to wait for a complaint before acting. "Comelec has control in these areas, especially even if the voting has already finished," Calleja said.
Namfrel Chairman Edward Go said the Comelec was also mandated to check if the local election officials had properly performed their roles.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
|Legarda, Loren (GO)||5,819,588|
|Escudero, Francis Joseph (GO)||5,713,892|
|Lacson, Panfilo (GO)||5,047,379|
|Villar, Manuel Jr (GO)||4,762,173|
|Pangilinan, Francis (IND)||4,642,353|
|Aquino, Benigno Simeon III (GO)||4,577,372|
|Angara, Edgardo (TU)||4,116,443|
|Honasan, Gregorio (IND)||3,798,589|
|Arroyo, Joker (TU)||3,797,095|
|Cayetano, Alan Peter (GO)||3,669,134|
|Trillanes, Antonio IV (GO)||3,581,703|
|Pimentel, Aquilino III (GO)||3,499,919|
Last updated 07:26am (Mla time) 05/21/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- Genuine Opposition senatorial candidate Loren Legarda continues to widen the gap between her votes and that of GO colleague Francis Escudero, the latest tally of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) showed.
As of 11:29 p.m. May 20, Legarda had 5,819,588 votes against Escudero’s 5,713,892 votes, or a difference of over 100,000 votes.
GO candidate Panfilo Lacson remained at third place with 5,047,379 votes, followed by Manuel Villar with 4,762,173 votes, then independent candidate Francisco Pangilinan who had 4,642,353 votes.
At sixth place is Benigno Aquino III with 4,577,372 votes. In seventh place is Team Unity candidate Edgardo Angara with 4,116,443 votes. At number eight is independent candidate Gregorio Honasan with 3,798,589 votes.
Ninth place is occupied by Team Unity candidate Joker Arroyo with 3,797,095 votes, followed by Allan Cayetano with 3,669,134 votes.
At 11th and 12th places are Antonio Trillanes IV with 3,581,703 votes and Aquilino Pimentel III with 3,499,919 votes.
Namfrel's latest tally covers 86,464 precincts, or 38.47 percent of a total 224,748 precincts.
Last updated 02:05am (Mla time) 05/21/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- It happened in the dead of night, hours before the polling precincts opened.
With armed guards supposedly watching over them, they were forced to fill blank ballots with the names of Team Unity senatorial candidates, starting with Luis “Chavit” Singson and Prospero Pichay.
Students and other children loitering in the school premises were purportedly even asked to mark the ballots with their thumbprints and sign their names on the voters’ list.
This was how the “election” took place at least in some areas of Maguindanao -- at least based on the account of a female public school teacher in the province.
The anonymous teacher talked to Lente, the legal arm of the watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Lente convenor Carlos Medina said at a press conference Sunday.
Hand in hand with the teacher’s allegation, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) accused Commission on Elections (Comelec) officers in Maguindanao of withholding copies of provincial election returns from Namfrel volunteers.
Namfrel secretary general Eric Alvia said the delay in the turnover of the ERs rendered suspect the authenticity of whatever documents would be given Namfrel in the future.
Namfrel chair Edward Go said Maguindanao’s 336,000 votes were enough to influence the outcome of the 11th and 12th places in the senatorial race.
Go said that instead of votes being tallied in precincts, all ballot boxes were hauled to the provincial capitol where the votes were counted. But no Namfrel volunteer was allowed to witness this.
Namfrel’s Maguindanao chair Fr. Eduardo Tanudtanud, OMI, said: “Our volunteers were told that municipal election officers issued a verbal order to withhold the release of all copies of the ERs, including Namfrel’s sixth copy.”
“In view of what we perceive as the systematic withholding of the ERs to Namfrel that casts doubt on the integrity of the sixth copy of the election returns, we will…not include the Maguindanao results in our quick count,” Tanudtanud said.
Following the teacher’s allegations, Lente urged the Comelec to send a Manila-based team to Maguindanao to investigate her charges.
Medina said the teacher had suggested that the Comelec open all the ballot boxes in Maguindanao to see the fraud for itself.
The teacher’s allegation followed reports that candidates of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were posting 12-0 scores in the senatorial race in Maguindanao, which is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Maguindanao was one of the ARMM provinces mentioned in the “Hello Garci” tapes where cheating allegedly occurred in 2004 to help Ms Arroyo win the presidential election.
The 12-0 vote TU has been getting in Maguindanao flies in the face of voting results in many other areas of the country where the Genuine Opposition candidates were registering winning tallies of 8-2-2 or 7-3-2.
While Lente remains in touch with the teacher, Medina refused to identify her.
“I cannot reveal her identity. Her safety relies on the fact that she is not known and so are her whereabouts,” Medina told reporters.
“She fears that if she is known, her entire family will be put in danger, even her relatives will be affected.”
“But what was evident in our conversation was her sense of frustration over the whole thing,” the lawyer said.
It also happened in 2004
Medina said the teacher complained this was not the first time she and her colleagues were forced to fill ballots at gunpoint.
The teacher also alleged she and the others were ordered to fill up blank ballots in the 2004 elections.
According to Medina, the teacher said she only followed orders from a superior.
“She is scared to name the governor (Natatakot niyang sabihin ang pangalan ng gobernador),” Medina said.
But the teacher was more open in discussing the specific instructions given to them.
“They had a list, first on it was Singson, second was Pichay, and so on,” Medina said in Filipino. “The instructions to them were to write these names down on the ballots.”
He also quoted the teacher as saying: “Ganito na lang ba tuwing eleksyon? Kailan ito matatapos? (Is this how it will always be during elections? When will it ever end?)”
The teacher initially sought the help of radio station dzRH, which in turn referred her to Lente -- the Legal Network for Truthful Elections.
Medina said the teacher refused to execute an affidavit, give interviews or sign any document that would establish her identity.
“Time is of the essence here,” Medina said, referring to the need for the Comelec to act urgently. “If those boxes are not opened, the contents might be changed even as we speak.”
Pichay’s lawyer, Mildred Duero-Romero, dismissed the teacher’s story.
“The teacher’s accusations are unfair. Only once these are verified will we answer her. What she said was not under oath and any Tom, Dick and Harry can issue a statement like that,” Duero-Romero said in a telephone interview.
“Butch Pichay is expected to rank high in Mindanao as he comes from said region and it is his bailiwick,” she later said in a text message.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net, also sought comments from Singson and TU spokesperson Ben Evardone, but text messages to them drew no replies.
Maguindanao officials have defended the 12-0 scores for TU candidates, saying they were not part of any vote manipulation but were in line with the local culture of reaching a consensus on matters of public concern.
Medina said the teacher “and the other teachers stayed up all night, staying inside a classroom in a still unknown public school somewhere in Maguindanao until 3 p.m. of Monday, May 14.”
“She did not sleep nor was she paid. She stayed up all night along with the board of election inspectors (BEI) filling up ballots.”
No use for indelible ink
The teacher’s claims seemed consistent with those of some local officials who said no elections took place in the province.
“The teacher said that on May 14 at 3 p.m., all precincts closed and no actual voting took place, although the teachers were all inside the precincts. The indelible ink supplied by Comelec Manila was not used at all,” Medina said.
He said other teachers had indicated interest in supporting the statement of the female witness as long as they remained unidentified and their safety was assured.
Should the Comelec continue to demand documentary evidence, the fraud committed would again go unpunished, Medina said.
“We request the Comelec to send an investigation team and talk to the common folk, look for indelible ink on their fingers because the teacher said the ink was not used,” he said.
Challenge to Abalos
To Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos’ challenge that proof must be shown that fraud was committed, Medina said: “Forego the required affidavits and witnesses. On its own, the (commission) should inspect and find out and interview people.”
One of the GO candidates fighting to stay in the Magic 12, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, and his lawyers will file an election protest with the Comelec no Monday to denounce delays in the canvassing in some polling centers in Mindanao, specifically in Maguindanao.
This was disclosed Sunday by Pimentel’s father, Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., who estimated that the election protest could affect some half million votes in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Shariff Kabunsuan.
Such a block of votes could hold up the proclamation of senators fighting for the last four to five slots, he said.
Pimentel said the reason for the delay of the canvassing was obvious -- operators of “dagdag-bawas” (vote-padding and -shaving) were waiting until all the votes in other areas had been counted so they would know how many votes to produce, using rigged tallies. With reports Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Maan Festejo and Kathleen Olarte
Saturday, May 19, 2007
|Legarda, Loren (GO)||4,181,309|
|Escudero, Francis Joseph (GO)||4,028,586|
|Lacson, Panfilo (GO)||3,644,891|
|Villar, Manuel Jr (GO)||3,432,402|
|Pangilinan, Francis (IND)||3,422,350|
|Aquino, Benigno Simeon III (GO)||3,286,331|
|Angara, Edgardo (TU)||3,062,154|
|Arroyo, Joker (TU)||2,717,216|
|Honasan, Gregorio (IND)||2,662,027|
|Cayetano, Alan Peter (GO)||2,590,440|
|Trillanes, Antonio IV (GO)||2,554,849|
|Zubiri, Juan Miguel (TU)||2,548,567|
InquirerCathy C. Yamsuan
MANILA, Philippines -- The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) assured the public on Saturday that its computer system is impenetrable to hackers, following reports that an attempt had been made Thursday night to break into the poll watchdog’s system.
"We cannot prevent people trying but we can prevent people succeeding," an unperturbed Namfrel chair Edward Go told reporters.
Go made this assertion after admitting that the Internet service in its headquarters at the La Salle gym in Greenhills experienced "flickering" Thursday.
While this did not disrupt Namfrel's operations, Go said desk officers on duty at the time alerted the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company and Smart Telecommunications "to check and make sure the system was up."
Still, Go expressed confidence that it would not be easy for hackers to upset Namfrel's computers.
"Normally, you install a 'firewall' to prevent attempts to disrupt the system. But our systems provider, Synapse, provided us not just one firewall but a Great Wall with six firewalls," Go boasted at Saturday’s regular news conference.
"And if the first [line of defense] detects something, the system shuts itself down so nothing can come in and so we can still operate internally," he added.
Namfrel secretary general Eric Alvia pointed out that Namfrel has "offsite duplicates" that can recall or reproduce any information destroyed by hackers, if they succeed in breaking in.
While Namfrel has not determined the identity of the person or party that allegedly attempted to disrupt its computer system, Go appeared unfazed by the incident.
"Maybe there are malicious persons trying to test [us], trying to do harm. We cannot avoid attempts but we can ensure that we will not be hacked," he said.
Go even appeared amused when he related how "someone from Mindanao" sent "unverified information" through messages faxed several times to the Namfrel headquarters.
He said the crude attempt to alter Namfrel's tabulations was quickly noticed since it was inconsistent with previous messages sent from the same area.
Go said Namfrel's tabulation of the 2007 elections was going much faster than the one conducted in 2004.
He noted that as of Saturday, five days after the election, Namfrel had already encoded, verified and released tabulations from 25.9% of precincts nationwide.
Namfrel 2004, Go said, had tabulated results from only 17.5% of all precincts five days after the May 11 balloting.
"We have historical data to prove we are not that slow. People only get that impression because the television network counts have zoomed quickly. However, their sources are not official while our data come from election returns," the Namfrel chair explained.
MANILA, Philippines -- Citing its own records, the National Movement for Free Election (Namfrel) said Saturday that voter turnout during the May 14 mid-term elections was only around 50 percent, way below the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) 60 to 70 percent announcement.
"Based on our record of [the] number of precincts tabulated as of 12:10 today, the total number of votes of people who voted and [which] we have processed…tend to show that the voter turnout for this year's election may be closer to 50 percent than what we have heard [Comelec say] that is 70 percent," Go told a press conference.
Comelec had predicted a 90 percent turnout before May 14.
Meanwhile, Go reiterated that Namfrel’s current quick count is faster than the one it undertook during the 2004 presidential elections.
"To those who say we are slow, we have historical data to show that compared to 2004 we are not that slow. What gives the impression of our slowness is the ABS-CBN and GMA [quick] counts very quickly zoomed to a high figure but their sources are not official sources like ours [which are] the election returns," Go said.
The Comelec has already barred the two television networks from conducting their own quick counts.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Two volunteers of the National Movement for Free Elections who were earlier reported missingi n Maguindanao have been confirmed safe, Namfrel chairman Edward Go said Saturday.
Shiela Algabre and Joseph Fernandez, who were supposed to get Election Returns (ERs) have not communicated with their coordinator for Maguindanao, identified as a certain Fr. Tanod-tanod, since after the May 14 polls but they are confirmed out of danger.
"I spoke personally with the one of our coordinators in Maguindanao and while they said that they at the time they have previously spoken to us that they were not in touch with the volunteers, they (volunteers) are confirmed safe,"Go told reporters at a press conference.
But, Go said, the volunteers have not been able to obtain any ERs from Maguindanao because they were barred at the tabulating center.
"We have no ERs so we don’t know what ballots had been cast we cannot testify to the conduct of the elections and its results," said Go.
Lawyer Howard Calleja of the Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said trying to press the volunteers in obtaining ERs would compromise their safety.
"Among everything, what isimportant is we keep the safety of our volunteers. They are residents of the area, they would still be there after the elections. More than results, we are concerned for their security," said Calleja.
|Legarda, Loren (GO)||3,691,492|
|Escudero, Francis Joseph (GO)||3,572,953|
|Lacson, Panfilo (GO)||3,243,359|
|Pangilinan, Francis (IND)||3,049,713|
|Villar, Manuel Jr (GO)||3,027,188|
|Aquino, Benigno Simeon III (GO)||2,932,541|
|Angara, Edgardo (TU)||2,699,922|
|Arroyo, Joker (TU)||2,404,886|
|Honasan, Gregorio (IND)||2,353,895|
|Cayetano, Alan Peter (GO)||2,312,028|
|Trillanes, Antonio IV (GO)||2,269,485|
|Zubiri, Juan Miguel (TU)||2,250,989|