Monday, May 28, 2007

Sarmiento wants out of probe body on Maguindanao cheating

Citing fatigue, the poll official in charge of Maguindanao is not keen on heading the probe body that will look into alleged cheating in Maguindanao province.

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