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.