Monday, May 21, 2007

Comelec to probe 12-0 TU win in Maguindanao

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has formed a task force to look into the alleged fraudulent elections in Maguindanao province that reportedly delivered a 12-0 sweep to senatorial candidates of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo under Team Unity.

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