Monday, May 21, 2007

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."