SHORT of saying “We told you so,” election watchdog Kontra Daya blames Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. for the fiasco in Maguindanao, where reports of large-scale cheating and results-tampering have again pulled down the poll body’s already low credibility.
Kontra Daya spokesman Fr. Joe Dizon says his group repeatedly met with Abalos and warned him against allowing Comelec officials who were mentioned in the “Hello Garci” tapes from seeing action in Mindanao, among them Maguindanao elections supervisor Lintang Bedol.
“We were yelled at by Abalos,” says Fr. Dizon, when his group requested the transfer or exclusion of the so-called “Hello Garci” personnel from the 2007 elections. He says among those who were with him in that meeting were former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Bishop Deogracias IÃ±iguez and several other Kontra Daya convenors.
“He asked us to file charges, although the Comelec on its own, can and should investigate the ‘Hello Garci’ issue,” said Dizon.
Dizon adds that Abalos should be considered an “accomplice” in the ongoing poll controversy in Maguindanao, which by all indications, shames other reports of cheating in its audacity, scale and organization. It outlines how teachers and grade school pupils were made to fill up and sign ballots on the eve of the polls in favor of administration bets, prompting Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento to promise a probe immediately when the results from Maguindanao began trickling in. Weeks later, Musa Dimasidsing, a school supervisor who was among those who revealed details of the poll rigging, was shot dead.
Bedol surfaced at the National Board of Canvassers (NBC) the other day to claim that certificates and statements of votes were stolen from his office at the Maguindanao provincial capitol by unknown individuals on May 29.
However, a Comelec insider who requested anonymity says Bedol’s story is dubious. He notes that two weeks into the canvassing, Bedol merely sent his election assistant to the canvassing. Comelec officials had to insist that Bedol appear in person. “When he was finally here on the 25th, he said he had copies (of the certificates and statements of votes ) in his office. But he could not even tell the commissioners when asked, when the canvassing in Maguindanao was terminated,” says the source. That information is part of the minutes of canvass.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Bedol was supposed to appear again before the NBC on May 28, a day before the supposed theft occurred. But he went missing for days and showed up only on June 11, only when threatened with arrest.
“He could have informed us about the loss immediately after it happened, if it really happened,” says the Comelec source, who adds that forging and tampering with election results now constitute electoral sabotage under Republic Act No. 9369. It is punishable by life imprisonment.
“Bedol is smiling and looks overconfident despite all these because Abalos is not doing anything about the Garci case,” says Dizon. He adds that Abalos should be held accountable for the electoral fraud that figured in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
Abalos is set to step down in February 2008. But before that, Dizon says civil society groups should demand an accounting of the previous polls under the Abalos Comelec. And that he says, should be the top priority of those who were on top of the senatorial race this year.
“They should focus on this before working on their presidential dreams in 2010,” he says.