Bedol claims poll cheating in 2004
- Perseus Echeminada () - July 16, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Fugitive former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Hasim Bedol alleged yesterday that massive fraud was committed in the 2004 general elections and that former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the principal beneficiary.

Bedol told ABS-CBN news reporter Anthony Taberna that during the 2004 elections, he was election supervisor and chairman of the board of election canvassers in Sultan Kudarat province.?

He alleged that dagdag-bawas or vote padding and shaving operations were conducted in the 2004 presidential race when Arroyo was in power.?

Bedol said the investigation on poll fraud in 2004, including the “Hello, Garci” vote rigging scandal, should be revived. He expressed willingness to testify on the alleged anomalies that resulted in Arroyo’s election as president.?

He said during the 2004 elections, ballot boxes were switched and he believed that original ballots were replaced with fake ones.?

“If we have fake (election) documents, then we have a fake president – that’s what I want to prove,” he said.

Bedol said he had wanted to surface after hiding for almost four years so that he could expose the anomalies, but he feared for his safety, believing he could suffer the same fate as Commission on Elections (Comelec) law department director Alioden Dalaig, who was shot dead outside the Hyatt Hotel in Malate, Manila on Nov. 10, 2007. ?

Bedol said Dalaig was silenced because he knew too much about the election fraud and that many evidences were destroyed during a fire that gutted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office in Manila in March 2007.

The Comelec is seeking the immediate arrest of Bedol, who is facing six months’ imprisonment for failing to produce poll documents in the 2007 midterm elections in Maguindanao.

Comelec commissioner Rene Sarmiento said there has been a standing warrant of arrest against Bedol and a commitment order to detain him in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City since Oct. 22, 2007.

The orders are contained in Comelec resolutions issued on Aug. 7, 2007 and Aug. 31, 2007, citing him for indirect contempt over his failure to submit the election documents from Maguindanao under his custody, like election returns, certificates of canvass and statements of votes.

Sarmiento said the Comelec will ask the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to implement Bedol’s arrest warrant so he could shed light on alleged poll anomalies.

NBI officials said that they received information that Bedol would soon surrender to the bureau.

NBI Director Magtanggol Gatdula, however, denied this.

He said the information gathered by the media could be wrong since there is no order or advise that Bedol would surrender to the NBI.?Bedol said that for almost four years he had been living a fugitive’s life, moving from one place to another and he avoided his favorite hangouts in the city’s shopping malls and nightclubs.?“I miss malls and red light districts,” he told ABS-CBN news.?Bedol said that malls and nightclubs were his favorite hangout when he was still an election officer.

He said he has close ties with former Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, the poll official with Arroyo was allegedly talking to in the “Hello, Garci” tapes.?Bedol surfaced a day after suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan disclosed to the media the alleged irregularities during the 2004 and 2007 elections in Maguindanao.?Bedol said that at least two truckloads of fake election returns were distributed in Maguindanao as part of the special election operations to ensure the victory of the Arroyo administration’s Team Unity senatorial candidates in 2007.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that there is a possibility that Bedol could be covered by the Witness Protection Program (WPP) if the former poll official testifies against Arroyo in poll fraud cases.

“It has not reached me yet that he wants to be state witness… Although I can anticipate that he will definitely ask for protection under the WPP and why not?” De Lima said.?

DOJ willing to secure Zaldy

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is open to the proposal to place Zaldy Ampatuan under the WPP in connection with the cases of election fraud in 2004 and 2007 that implicated Arroyo and other officials of her administration.

“That will be studied, if he is qualified (for WPP coverage). Witnesses who could help in the successful prosecution of any case are covered by the WPP, so theoretically or hypothetically, it’s possible,” said Secretary De Lima.

She said the DOJ is interested in any important, valuable information or evidence that Ampatuan might offer in possible cases of electoral fraud and other anomalies like arms dealing and supposed kickbacks in P200-million farm-to-road projects.

“We’re open to that because it’s important to prove those kinds of possible cases,” she stressed.

But De Lima clarified that Ampatuan would have to stay in jail should the DOJ decide to make him a prosecution witness in possible charges of poll fraud and graft against Mrs. Arroyo.

“Yes (he will stay in jail) because in the first place he could not be removed from there without court approval,” she stressed.

De Lima said she could only see possible arrangement in the jail

where Ampatuan would stay in a cell away from his father, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and his brother former mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. of Datu Unsay, Maguindanao who are also principal suspects in the Maguindanao massacre case.

The Ampatuans and several other suspects in the massacre are currently detained at the PNP jail in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

De Lima explained there is a distinction between a witness covered by the WPP and a state witness, which is covered by rules of court and needs court’s resolutions.

“Although they basically have the same elements, WPP coverage is broader because it covers all possible witnesses – especially for the prosecution – and does not cover merely discharge as state witness of an accused of co-accused,” she said.

This means Ampatuan would have to stay in jail for the trial of the

massacre case, while being provided security by WPP for his possible testimonies in possible separate cases against Arroyo.

De Lima said for Ampatuan to become a state witness in the possible cases against the Arroyo administration, he has to pass the criteria required by law.

She said that for instance, there should be an admission of participation and they should not be the most guilty in the crime.

De Lima said President Aquino already said there would be no deal with Zaldy Ampatuan with regard to the Maguindanao massacre case.

“The President easily understood the elements in discharge as state

witness. Since Zaldy does not admit his participation in the planning – contrary to what our witnesses have said – he really can’t be state witness,” he explained.

De Lima said Ampatuan could just submit his testimony against his

family before the Quezon City regional trial court Branch 221 to serve its purpose, without him becoming a state witness in that case.

Pimentel sets new raps vs Zubiri

Lawyer Aquilino Pimentel III is building up an election sabotage case against Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri and other people involved in the alleged cheating during the 2007 elections in Maguindanao, following claims by suspended ARMM governor Ampatuan and former election officer Bedol.?“We are gathering all the evidence for an election sabotage case against people involved in the election,” he told reporters during the weekly news forum at the Rembrandt Hotel in Quezon City.?Pimentel, who lost in his Senate bid in the 2007 polls, said Ampatuan and Bedol said that Zubiri was the main beneficiary of the 2007 election.?He said aside from Zubiri they are preparing charges against former and current officials of the Commission on Elections, including ex-chairman Benjamin Abalos who allegedly led the manipulation of votes in Maguindanao.?Zubiri was proclaimed as the 12th and last winning senator while Pimentel placed 13th.Pimentel said that he demanded the exclusion of the questionable Maguindanao votes in the national tally for senatorial bets.

He claimed that the Maguindanao votes enabled Zubiri to overtake him in the final tally.

Pimentel said he had vigorously argued for the exclusion of the fraudulent Maguindanao results from the national tally before the Comelec, but Zubiri insisted on their inclusion.?He pointed out that in his two petitions before the Supreme Court and in his protest before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), he asked for the exclusion of the Maguindanao results, but Zubiri again insisted otherwise.?During the revision of the ballots from Maguindanao at the SET, Pimentel said, he objected to the ballots for being fake and spurious, but Zubiri persistently claimed that the ballots from Maguindanao were all genuine.?“There was only one significant beneficiary of the massive electoral fraud in Maguindanao in the 2007 senatorial elections and that person is no other than Juan Miguel F. Zubiri who would not be a sitting senator right now without those fraudulent results from Maguindanao,” Pimentel said.?As to Zubiri’s allegation of massive fraud in Metro Manila in the 2007 senatorial elections, Pimentel said this “is a figment of his desperate imagination” as no details were provided by Zubiri to back up his claim.?“Who is the face of this alleged syndicate which perpetrated the alleged fraud in Metro Manila in the 2007 senatorial elections? In Maguindanao in 2007 we had Bedol and Ampatuan as the faces of the perpetrators of fraud in the province. In Metro Manila who? Zubiri does not and cannot provide any detail,” Pimentel said.?

Zubiri rejects calls to resign

But Zubiri rejected the call of Pimentel for him to resign.

Zubiri said Pimentel cannot take the 12th seat in the Senate because Pimentel’s votes in Metro Manila are also questionable.

Zubiri reiterated that he had no participation in the alleged election fraud in 2007.?“Amid reports that there was anomaly in the 2007 elections, I swear before you that if ever there was indeed election fraud, I do not have anything to do with it,” Zubiri said yesterday in a press conference at the Senate.?He is leaving his fate to God and the SET, which is currently hearing the election protest initiated by Pimentel, and the counter protest he has filed.

Zubiri said the SET has conducted the revision of votes in 44,333 precincts, comprising about 75 percent of the total precincts in the country.?He revealed that based on his counter protest, about 53,490 votes have been deducted from Pimentel.?Under the pain of possible citing of contempt by the SET, Zubiri said he had to issue a statement about the issue following Ampatuan’s revelations because he believes that he has been “pushed against the wall.” ?Zubiri said that there was massive cheating in Metro Manila where his votes were slashed. He expressed hope that the SET will finally settled the issue by September.?He added Pimentel should not also take the Senate seat if he is removed since he also benefited from cheating in Metro Manila where 930 ballot boxes were destroyed. This comprised 186,000 ballots.?

'Resolve Hello, Garci scandal'?Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano challenged the Aquino administration to stay true to its promise of solving past cases of electoral fraud, especially the “Hello, Garci” scandal.?“Kailangan natin ibahin yung case closed sa case solved,” he said.?He said that until those accountable for a crime have been revealed and justice has been served, a case shouldn’t be considered closed simply due to the loss of public attention given to it.?Cayetano again urged the government to have an organized way of resolving these cases in light of new testimonies and evidences implicating former President Arroyo in unresolved cases of corruption and electoral fraud that happened during her term.?He said that Ampatuan’s revelations only uncovered what happened in 2007. He mentioned that the people should also look into the possibility of a next revelation that may uncover anomalies in the 2004 presidential election – the period wherein the “Hello, Garci” scandal transpired.?Cayetano also stressed the importance of looking into the merits of Ampatuan’s revelation on the anomalies that happened in the 2007 Maguindanao elections.?“Let us not only look at the messenger but more importantly, the merit of his message. When we do so, we can then ask him the hard questions and cross-examine the facts,” said Cayetano, emphasizing the importance of presenting evidence to back up Ampatuan’s claims.

Interior Secretary Jessie Robredo vowed to provide security to former Maguindanao election supervisor Bedol.?Robredo said that Bedol is not in the custody of any agency of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), but the DILG is ready to provide security to Bedol and place him under custody.

He said that a DILG representative is currently negotiating for next week’s possible surrender of Bedol, who has a standing warrant of arrest since 2007.?“We are ready to take him into custody, if he wants,” Robredo said.

Robredo said the government would like to get hold of Bedol.?“We have news as to where attorney Lintang Bedol is now and because he had been mentioned in the testimony of Zaldy, we are finding ways to locate him. There are contempt cases against him before the Comelec and I think the Comelec is also looking for him,” Robredo said.?Robredo said he could not tell whether there were people trying to hide Bedol but “maybe he’s the one hiding himself.”?“I don’t know if he’s being hidden or hiding. On our part, we are looking for him,” Robredo said.?Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said Arroyo should face the charges against her rather than accuse the Palace of manipulating Bedol and Ampatuan.?“We are not Rip Van Winkles that are just waking up now, clueless. Wake up to reality and face the court cases that for now are not even coming from us,” Coloma said.?Vice President Jejomar Binay said yesterday that the revelations of Ampatuan and Bedol of massive cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections vindicate the late movie actor Fernando Poe, Jr. and his partymate Aquilino Pimentel III.

Binay, who served as a political adviser of Poe when the latter ran for president in 2004 elections, said he is hopeful that Bedol and Ampatuan’s disclosures would bring justice to Poe and Pimentel. With Edu Punay, Christina Mendez, Aurea Calica, Jose Rodel Clapano, Dino Balabo, Sandy Araneta

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