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Sep 15th
Home Columns Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. Senator Pimentel Finds No Basis for Postponing Elections in Muslim Mindanao
Senator Pimentel Finds No Basis for Postponing Elections in Muslim Mindanao PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - This Week With Nene Pimentel
Monday, 23 June 2008 01:28

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today opposed a reported plan of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to postpone the August 11 elections for officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) because of security problems particularly in Sulu.

Senator Pimentel said the elections should be suspended only in towns or barangays where it is impossible to hold the political exercise in an orderly and credible manner due to insurgency or terrorist problems and ongoing military and police operations.

“I don’t think it is warranted by circumstances. The elections should go on. Of course, the COMELEC has the power to postpone the elections in specific violence-prone areas,” the senator from Mindanao said.

He said that while it is true that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has ongoing military operations against Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Sulu and Basilan, the elections may be suspended only in the areas where holding the elections may not be feasible without endangering the lives and limbs of people.

Mr. Pimentel said the COMELEC is empowered to call on the AFP and PNP to deploy troops to quell disorder and violence in so-called hot spots and to reinforce security to people involved in the conduct of the elections.

Meanwhile, Senator Pimentel said three election-related developments in Mindanao augur well for preventing fraud from again rearing its ugly head during the ARMM elections.

Mr. Pimentel says the COMELEC is empowered to call on the military and the police to deploy troops to quell disorder and violence in so-called hot spots and to reinforce security to people conducting the elections.He identified these developments as (1) the order of Commission on Elections Chairman Jose Melo to relieve ARMM Regional Director Rey Sumalipao from his duties in supervising the coming regional elections; (2) the order of the Senate Electoral Tribunal to continue with the recount of votes in 75 percent of the 2,658 polling precincts covered by Koko Pimentel’s election protest against administration Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri after finding solid proof of cheating in 98 percent of 664 pilot precincts in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Sulu; and (3) the COMELEC’s move to pursue a criminal complaint against former Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol.

The removal and prosecution of Sumalipao and other COMELEC field officials involved in irregularities in the 2004 Presidential and 2007 Senatorial Elections in Mindanao have long been sought by Senator Pimentel and the political opposition.

Senator Pimentel bewailed that Mr. Sumalipao and other election officials who connived with former Elections Virgilio Garcillano in the large-scale “dagdag-bawas” operations to give President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a winning margin of one million votes have been promoted to higher positions, instead of being punished.

“With the grounding of Mr. Sumalipao, I hope that even his underlings who were involved in the rigging of elections should also be suspended and prevented from exercising COMELEC powers during the ARMM elections,” he said.

Mr. Pimentel lauded a reported move of newly-designated COMELEC law department chief Ferdinand Rafanan to file criminal complaint against Mr. Bedol for his role in the falsification of election documents and rigging of poll results in Maguindanao to make it appear that all 12 Genuine Opposition senatorial bets were defeated by their administration Team Unity counterparts.

The filing of the case was announced by Mr. Rafanan after law department employees found an unsigned draft of a subpoena and criminal complaint against Mr. Bedol during a recent inventory of office files.

The draft subpoena and criminal complaints were believed to have been prepared by former COMELEC law department chief Alioden Dalaig, who was shot to death by an assassin in November 2007.

Mr. Rafanan pointed out that Mr. Bedol, who has gone into hiding several months ago, had been indicted by the poll body only for indirect contempt for his refusal to attend the poll body’s hearing on the Maguindanao election scandal last August.

Serving as basis for the criminal complaint to be filed against Mr. Bedol was the loss of certificates of canvass election returns and other documents from 22 towns of Maguindanao used in the May 2007 Senatorial Elections that were under his custody. # # #

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Last Updated on Monday, 23 June 2008 01:30

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