Election cheating in ARMM brazen, shameful

May. 20, 2007

MANILA The alleged cheating in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur during Mondays elections was brazen and shameful, Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said today.

Pimentel called the reported 12-0 sweep by the administrations Team Unity in Maguindanao as incredible and doubtful in view of allegations that election returns were falsified and votes for TU candidates were padded while votes for GO candidates were shaved.

The senator from Cagayan de Oro also called for the removal of the Rey Sumalipao, the regional election of the Commission on Elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, where most of the fraud allegedly took place.

Pimentel said practically all the rules of fair play and transparency were violated in the Maguindanao polls, and denounced as well the alleged refusal of local election officials to allow volunteer watchers of the National Movement of Free Elections to witness the canvassing of votes at municipal and provincial levels and to obtain copies of election returns, as mandated by law.

The senator said even journalists were prevented from entering the venue of the provincial canvassing of votes cast in Maguindanao and in Lanao del Sur.

What is happening in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur is ridiculous and shameful. They are so brazen in carrying out their cheating operations thinking that they can deceive the people, Pimentel said.

We will take all steps to stop this electoral fraud. Our legal team is now preparing to block the tabulation of the Maguindanao votes by the national board of canvassers, he added.

Meanwhile, Pimentel said Sumalipao should be immediately relieved of his post by the Comelec if it is true, as revealed by an election officer in Lanao del Sur in a television interview that he (Sumalipao) gave the order to indefinitely suspend the canvassing of the senatorial ERs after the canvassing of the election returns for the congressional and local government elections in various municipalities of the province.

He said the deferment of the canvassing of the senatorial ERs is a gross violation of the Omnibus Election Code which provides that the tabulation of the results of the senatorial, congressional and local elections should be done simultaneously or continuously.

In fact, he added, the law provides that the results of the senatorial election should be tallied by the board of canvassers ahead of the results of the congressional and local polls.

If it is true that the order to suspend the canvassing of the senatorial ERs in Lanao del Sur came from Director Sumalipao, he has committed a serious breach of the law and he has no business staying as Comelec regional director for the ARMM, Pimentel said.

Pimentel said the delayed canvassing of senatorial ERs should not be tolerated under any circumstance because this is part of the modus operandi to manipulate the results of the senatorial election to favor candidates of the administration.

He also said the legal team of the Genuine Opposition will ask the Comelec, as national board of canvassers, not to tabulate the certificate of canvass from Maguindanao, supposedly showing a 12-0 score in the senatorial contest in favor of Team Unity candidates, unless allegations of large-scale electoral fraud are resolved.

The Comelec said on Saturday that all allegations of fraud and cheating should be brought to the attention of the poll body in writing. James Jimenez, a Comelec official in Manila, criticized the opposition in television interviews for bringing the complaints of alleged fraud to the attention of the media. (davaotoday.com)

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