fraudsters open an electoral "Pandora's box"
by Eric Jude O. Alvia, NAMFREL Secretary
NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.17
Like in the story of the mythical Greek
character Pandora - the first woman on earth - who unleashed evil
contained in a jar which was forbidden to be opened, so too had
scourge abound after revelations and renewed accusations from former
ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and his cohort Maguindanao Province
Election Supervisor Atty. Lintang Bedol of poll fraud perpetrated
during the 2004 and 2007 elections.
Ampatuan and then Bedol belatedly
claim poll cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections
In a twist in development during
the investigation on the November 2009 Maguindanao massacre,
suspended ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan implicated former President
and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He said the
plan, spearheaded by then First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, was hatched
four months before the mid-term elections.
A day later, Maguindanao election
supervisor and chairman of the board of election canvasser in Sultan
Kudarat province Lintang Bedol alleged that massive fraud was
committed in the 2004 general elections and that former President
and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the principal
|In an exclusive TV interview,
Bedol claimed that vote padding and shaving (commonly known
as dagdag-bawas) activities were conducted in the 2004
elections. He then urged that investigation on poll fraud in
2004 be revived, to include the “Hello, Garci” vote rigging
scandal. The controversy arose when an audio recording
surfaced alleged to be of former President Arroyo, who was
compelled by public outrage to apologize for phoning then
elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, who is believed
responsible for the purported poll fraud that resulted in
Arroyo’s presidential victory in 2004. Bedol expressed
willingness to testify on the alleged anomalies that
resulted in Arroyo’s election as president even as
Garcillano denied any involvement in the 2004 election
fraud. The “Garci tapes” scandal was the focus of
impeachment complaints filed against Mrs. Arroyo during her
Furthermore, other witnesses have surfaced
to corroborate both statements. A cover up was also allegedly
perpetrated for the 2004
fraud when ballot boxes stored at the House of Representatives were
switched and that original ballots were replaced with fake ones. An
actual video footage of the January 2005 break-in has been
circulating in public and has been attested to by then PNP-SAF SSupt.
Rafael Santiago, who acted as security escort during that time.
Other witnesses who have surfaced in recent days to corroborate and
dispute the alleged fraud in both elections are Pagalugan,
Maguindanao BEI Faizal Kalantugan, and Namfrel Lanao del Sur
Chairman Hadji Abdullah Lacsaman Dalidig. In 2004, opposition
lawyers moved to set aside the canvass results of Maguindanao during
the national canvassing in PICC using the testimonies of Kalantugan
and Musa Dimasidsing, a DepEd District Supervisor for Maguindanao.
Comelec canvassers continued to canvas the results upon instructions
of senior Comelec officials.
Bedol claimed he wanted to surface after hiding for almost four
years so that he could expose the anomalies, but he feared for his
safety, believing he could suffer the same fate as Comelec law
department director Alioden Dalaig, who was shot dead on Nov. 10,
2007. A few months earlier, Dimasidsing was also shot dead in June
2007 after he exposed the fraud in his province. These incidents
have deterred witnesses to surface to corroborate the allegations of
Comelec has since arrested and detained Bedol who is facing six
months imprisonment for failing to produce election documents
supposedly in his custody such as election returns, certificates of
canvass and statements of votes in the 2007 midterm elections in
Poll probe body formed
A joint Department of Justice (DOJ) – Comelec fact-finding committee
was formed last week to investigate allegations of fraud in the 2004
and 2007 elections. The investigation will pursue only the criminal
aspect of information arising from these new testimonies. It will
not determine the results of these elections since this is the
jurisdiction of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) and the
Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).
Once the pieces of evidence and facts are established, the DOJ will
take over the case and prosecute those found to be involved. Any
adverse finding on the results of the 2004 elections would be
ineffectual since then presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. died
in December 2004 and the substitution petition of his wife, Susan
Roces, did not prosper. Moreover, the findings would be sufficient
to correct historical facts for posterity purposes.
The formation of the body settles an earlier debate on whether
Congress should be the main body to conduct the probe as Rep. Neri
Javier Colmenares and Rep. Teddy Casino filed a manifestation to
investigate the 2004 and 2007 elections. Despite the formation of
the poll probe body, this would not hamper the conduct of separate
inquiries by the Senate and the House.
Both Chairman Sixto Brillantes and DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima had
inhibited themselves from the investigation as both were legal
counsels for the opposition candidates during the past election
Among the implicated individuals to be summoned during the hearings
besides Ampatuan and Bedol are the Arroyos, former Comelec Chairman
Benjamin Abalos, former Comelec Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer and
Virgilio Garcillano, retired General Francisco Gudani, and alleged
"bag man," former Sha’riah Court Judge Nagamura Moner.
Victims of election fraud and the Maguindanao massacre cautioned
against accepting the offer of Ampatuan to divulge information since
they view this as a move towards a plea bargain and to absolve him
from his alleged involvement in the Maguindanao massacre.
Futility of investigating the 2004 fraud was raised since it is
beyond the five year prescriptive period for filing of an election
fraud case based on the Election and Penal Code. However, Comelec
Chairman Brillantes opined that the prescriptive period starts once
the term of former President Arroyo ended in 2010 since during her
term in office, she was immune from any suit. The election sabotage
law, which extends this period to 20 years, only covers violations
committed after the law was passed in 2007.
Zubiri resignation provides relief
Last week's resignation of Sen. Miguel Zubiri and his subsequent
withdrawal of his motion with the SET renders moot the plans of
Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III to file an election sabotage case
against him but not over the people involved in the cheating during
the 2007 elections. The SET is expected to release its promulgation
and declaration of Pimentel as Senator this week.
Ampatuan and Bedol claimed that Zubiri was the main beneficiary of
the 2007 election fraud. Zubiri was proclaimed as the 12th and last
winning senator after questionable Maguindanao votes were included
in the national tally for senatorial bets (Pimentel was 13th).
Namfrel and other non-government organizations have also alleged
widespread poll fraud in Maguindanao in the 2007 senatorial
elections. In 2007, Namfrel did not include any tally from
Maguindanao since volunteers there were prevented from obtaining the
sixth copy of the election return and from performing their tasks to
conduct their monitoring and the parallel count.
(Read Namfrel-Maguindanao's statement of May 19, 2007 HERE and the
2007 Namfrel Senatorial Count Results HERE).
Proceeding with caution and seeking justice
It is noteworthy that the Palace reacted with caution to assess and
verify these poll fraud revelations. Namfrel welcomes that it has
coursed the fact-finding inquiries through appropriate means with
the formation and appointment of a joint DOJ-Comelec panel to
investigate the poll fraud. However, appointees to the panel must
pass probity and be beyond reproach to ensure the credibility of the
results from the probe body’s work. DOJ Sec. de Lima is correct when
she instructs the legal team to “carefully assess these two people’s
their probative value, plausibility, verifiability, quality and
their being capable of being corroborated”.
And like what was left in Pandora’s jar – Hope – it is with hope
that the voting public would realize that the these revelations
would lead to the reform and strengthening of electoral institutions
and that justice would be served to those who violate the sanctity
of our vote.