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Members of investigation team to look into alleged poll fraud named

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.19

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) has named the members of the fact-finding team that will assist the joint DOJ-Comelec body that will investigate allegations of fraud in connection with the 2004 and 2007 national elections.

DOJ Assistant Secretary Zabedin M. Azis chairs the fact-finding team, with the following as members: Malabon-Navotas City Prosecutor Jorge G. Catalan Jr., Muntinlupa City Prosecutor Edward M. Togonon, and NBI lawyers Cesar Bacani and Dante Jacinto. The fact-finding team is given 45 days to gather evidence, after which they will submit their report to the joint DOJ-Comelec special investigative committee.

As stated in the joint order by the DOJ and Comelec released on August 15, the fact-finding team will have the following duties:
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"a. Gather and document reports, intelligence information, and investigative leads from official as well as unofficial sources and informants;

b. Conduct interviews, record testimonies, take affidavits of witnesses, and collate material and relevant documentary evidence, such as, but not limited to, election documents used in the 2004 and 2007 national elections. For security reasons, or to protest the identities of informants, the Fact-finding Team may conduct interviews or document testimonies discreetly;

c. Assess and evaluate affidavits already executed and other documentary evidence submitted or may be submitted to the Fact-finding Team and/or the Committee;

d. Identify the offenders, their offenses and the manner of their commission, individually or in conspiracy, and the provisions of election and general criminal laws violated, establish evidence for individual criminal and administrative liability and prosecution, and prepare the necessary documentation such as complaints and charge sheets for the initiation of preliminary investigation proceedings against said individuals to be conducted by the Committee;

e. Regularly submit to the Committee, the Secretary of Justice and the Chairman of the Comelec periodic reports and recommendations, supported by real, testimonial and documentary evidence, which may then serve as the Committee's  basis for immediately commencing appropriate preliminary investigation proceedings;

f. Upon the termination of its investigation, make a full and final report to the Committee, the Secretary of Justice, and the Chairman of the Comelec."
This joint DOJ-Comelec special investigative committee is headed by chief state prosecutor Claro Arellano, with the following members: Laguna provincial prosecutor George Dee, Pasig City prosecutor Jacinto Ang, Comelec Law Department director Ferdinand Rafanan, and Atty. Michael Villaret of Comelec. During the presentation of the committee members to the media early this month, DOJ secretary Leila De Lima and Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. reiterated that the joint investigation is not intended to end in the determination of the "true winners" of the 2004 and 2007 elections -- which will just be an "incidental" matter should the "true winners" are arrived at -- but to "determine fraud."

Namfrel welcomes the formation of the joint panel that will investigate th allegations of fraud in connection with the 2004 and 2007 polls. In a joint statement released last week, Namfrel and the Makati Business Club call on the DOJ and Comelec to "ensure that a thorough, transparent, and impartial probe be undertaken so that the restoration of the people's trust in our electoral processes can begin," and expressed hope that "it is not too late to correct the problems and undertake the reforms that will ensure that these electoral anomalies do not occur again in the future."

In related news, one of the members of the joint committee, Comelec Law Department director Ferdinand Rafanan, has complained that due to his being assigned as Comelec representative to the joint investigative committee, he was effectively replaced as Law Department director through a Comelec resolution that named Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento as Commissioner-in-Charge of the Law Department, and also transferred to the said office Atty. Allen Abaya from the Comelec ECAD (Electoral Contests and Adjudication
Department). Atty. Abaya was one of the Comelec officers suspended for six months last year in connection with the overpriced folders scam, the investigation of which was spearheaded by Rafanan. Though the Comelec denies that Rafanan is being replaced, and the resolution states that the reshuffling will be temporary, Comelec chairman Brillantes seemed to have indicated in an interview that Rafanan might not get his position back. In a recent development on the overpriced folder issue, the Office of the Ombudsman has found Atty. Abaya and two other members of Comelec's Bids and Awards Committee guilty. Cleared of any liability though are Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino and two others who were also given the six-month suspension last year.
 
 
 
 
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