Monday, May 21, 2007

Maguindanao quick-count removed by Namfrel

By Thea Alberto
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.