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Charges of electoral sabotage vs South Cotabato poll executive affirmed

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has affirmed the filing of charges of electoral sabotage against the former head of Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) of South Cotabato who was accused by defeated senatorial bet Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III of rigging the 2007 mid-term polls.

But the Comelec reversed its earlier ruling and decided to dismiss the case of electoral sabotage against the former chairman of the PBOC of North Cotabato and two other officials.

In separate resolutions, the Comelec denied for “lack of merit” the motion for reconsideration filed by lawyer Lilian Suan Radam, former head of the PBOC of South Cotabato, who the poll body wanted charged with election sabotage under the Poll Automation Law and the Revised Penal Code in its July 29, 2008 decision.

In a December 2010 resolution, the Comelec ruled that Radam “miserably failed to convince the Commission that the (decision) is erroneous and improper, contrary to law or evidence (and that) there is therefore no cogent reason to reverse the finding of probable cause.”

In a resolution last Wednesday, on the other hand, the Comelec “partially granted” the motion for reconsideration filed by former North Cotabato PBOC chairman Yogie Martirizar and members Jose Agerico de Guzman and Gloria Mudanza.

The poll body reversed its Sept. 23, 2008 ruling and dismissed the case for two counts of electoral sabotage against the three officials for lack of evidence.  

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The Comelec said there is “nothing on record to support the conclusion that Martirizar was the only person who had control over and access” to the ballot boxes from North Cotabato 48 hours before they were submitted to the poll body for canvassing.       

But the agency upheld the filing of an election offense against them for violating Section 15 of the Omnibus Election Code on the custody of ballot boxes, documents and other electoral forms.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes inhibited from the case of Martirizar, De Guzman and Mundaza as he used to be Martirizar’s lawyer.

But Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento issued a dissenting opinion, saying there was “strong justification… that electoral sabotage has been committed and that respondent Martirizar is probably guilty thereof.”

Sarmiento said determinating whether or not Martirizar was guilty should “depend on the findings of the proper court.” 

Pimentel charged the Cotabato poll officials with electoral sabotage for allegedly tampering the results of the 2007 senatorial race in favor of his rival, now Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.   

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