Sunday, June 3, 2007

Namfrel protests Comelec count in Lanao polls

By Lino dela Cruz
Monday, June 04, 2007

ILIGAN CITY -- Hundreds of people held a prayer rally in front of St. Michael’s Cathedral Saturday to protest the results of the canvassing of three “tampered” ballot boxes from three Lanao del Norte towns.

The Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) reconvened Saturday afternoon and canvassed the election returns from the towns of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Maigo in Lanao despite earlier findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that the padlocks of the ballot boxes had been tampered.

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The PBOC headed by Gondino Salvana insisted in continuing the canvassing despite the manifestations from United Opposition (UNO) lawyer Arthur Abundiente that the seals containing the Certificates of Canvass were destroyed.

Abundiente further manifested that some of the votes were clearly altered and the figures did not match those in the Certificates of Canvass (COC) of the National Movement for Free Elections-Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (Namfrel-PPCRV).

In Maigo town alone, congressional candidate Imelda Dimaporo garnered 7,550 votes after the canvassing of the tampered ballot box compared to the 1,550 votes reflected in the copies of COC in the possession of Namfrel.

The total number of votes garnered by Dimaporo from the three tampered ballot boxes increased tremendously that it is more than the total number of registered voters of the three towns, UNO lawyers said.

The PBOC canvassing irked PPCRV chairman Fr. Albert Mendez, who slammed the thick pad of COCs on the PBOC table, to manifest his disappointment with the canvassing process.

The unofficial Namfrel count showed that congressional candidates Vicente Belmonte got 58,962 votes, Angelique Badelles got 45,670 votes, and Dimaporo garnered 42,596 votes.

The results of the canvassing immediately spread in Iligan City and people rallied with the priests in manifestation of their indignation.

Diocese of Iligan legal counsel Leo Zaragoza immediately called on the people to gather for a prayer rally in front of the St. Michael's Cathedral Saturday night.

Candles were lighted and they prayed that the winning candidate based on the Namfrel-PPCRV copies of the COCs be given justice and proclaimed as the newly elected congressman for the first district of Lanao del Norte instead of a candidate whose victory is based on the altered copies of the COCs.

The controversial ballot boxes and the allegedly altered COCs were brought by the PBOC to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) regional office in Cagayan de Oro City and these will be brought to Manila for further inspection.

The PBOC assured the public that no proclamation of winner in the congressional race in the 1st district of Lanao del Norte will be made on the local level but it is the Comelec commissioners in Manila who will make the proclamation of the winner. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sunnex)