Election Fraud in Mindanao Begins Pimentel

May. 12, 2007

MANILA — Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. today revealed that hundreds of ballot boxes containing what he called prefabricated election returns have been intercepted by volunteers of the political opposition in Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte.

The election returns in the 380 ballot boxes have already been filled with the names of the Arroyo administrations candidates for senators in Mondays elections. Pimentel said they discovered the ballot boxes on May 9, after volunteers from the Genuine Opposition were informed about it by members of the Philippine National Police.

Exactly where the ballot boxes are at present is not known, Pimentel said in a statement.

The same day, Pimentel said, 16 other ballot boxes with prepared election returns favoring the administration Team Unity candidates were discovered in Quezon town in Bukidnon. The boxes, he said, were discovered by a priest, father Dan Paciente, who reported it to the Commission on Election. It was not clear whether the Comelec did act on the complaint, the senator from Cagayan de Oro said.

Pimentel also said some 500,000 peso bills were confiscated by the Navy on board a Bantay Dagat pumpboat while it was en route to Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte, from Liloy town.

Pimentel said the money could be used for vote-buying purposes.

Mindanao is closely being watched because of fears that it is where massive cheating would take place. In past elections, the padding and shaving (dagdag-bawas) of votes, of which Pimentel had claimed to have been a victim, were rampant in Mindanao.

There are also concerns that because more soldiers are deployed in Mindanao than any region of the Philippines, the military could once again take part in election fraud. In the 2004 elections, the military was alleged to have been deeply involved in cheating that led to the victory of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The present chief of staff of the armed forces, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, was identified as one of the officials involved in the alleged cheating, an allegation he continues to deny.

According to critics, the military has ordered its troops to vote straight for administration candidates and for partylist groups allegedly identified with the administration. The military has likewise admitted that it has been vigorously campaigning for leftist partylist groups. (davaotoday.com)

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