Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Belmonte's triumph is also the triumph of Truth

The Comelec En Banc reaffirmed the decision of the Comelec 2nd Division sometime in the last week of September 2007.

Congressman Vicente "Varf" Belmonte was proclaimed as the official Representive of 1st District of Lanao del Norte and Iligan City.

He took his oath immediately in the House of Congress which was officiated by House Speaker Jose de Venecia.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Comelec rule: set aside tampered CoCs and recanvass using authentic CoCs

Republic of the Philippines
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS
Intramuros, Manila

SECOND DIVISION


IN THE MATTER OF APPEAL FROM
THE RULINGS OF THE SPECIAL
PROVINCIAL BOARD OF
CANVASSERS OF THE PROVINCE OF
LANAO DEL NORTE


VICENTE F. BELOMONTE
Appellant-Petitioner,

-versus- SPC NO. 07-254
Promulgated:
JUL 10 2007
SPECIAL PROVINCIAL BOARD
OF CANVASSERS OF LANAO DEL
NORTE, ANGELIQUE DAWN
BADELLES and IMELDA Q.
DIMAPORO,
Appellees-Respondents.
X----------------------------X
Per Curism


R E S O L U T I O N


This is perhaps one of the more controversial cases pending with this Commission. Owing to the personalities involved and the issues herein raised, the Commission must proceed with proper caution and examine the facts and issues of this case with a fine toothed comb to arrive at the truth and ensure that the will of the electorate must be protected.

This is an appeal from the rulings of the SPBOC in the three (3) separate Petitions to Exclude the Certificates of Canvass (COC) of use these returns in the canvass votes. The broad power of the Commision to enforce and administer election laws gives it ample authority to direct the board of canvassers to include in the canvass only authentic returns. It is only when the disputed returns concerned will not affect the results of the election that the said returns claimed to be falsified need not be verified and canvass to proceed and proclamation made.16

In Pala Dipatuan vs. Commission on Elections et. al.17 the ruling therein would have square application in this controversy.

“It is evident from the above quuote3d portion [the 1st and 2nd paragraphs of Sec. 15, RA. No. 7166] that the prohibition is not absolute. Such pre-proclamation controversies are allowed (a)when there are manifest errors in the certificate of canvass or in the election returns, as the case maybe, and (b) when the composition of proceedings of the board are questioned. In the instant case may be, and (b) when the composition or proceedings of the board are questioned. In the instant case, there was more than manifest error in the questioned COC for the municipality of Madamba. As ruled by the PBC – and as affirmed in the challenged resolution of the COMELEC en banc and its first division – there was, infact, a substitution of the authentic copy of the COC with the spurious one: the latter, which the petitioner wants to be honored, was ordered excluded in the canvass. As we ruled in Pangarungan (supra), the Commission committed no grave error of dicretion in excluding spurious COC and in directing in excluding the spurious COC and in directing the PBC to prepare a new COC on the basis of the COMELEC copies of the election returns of Madamba” (SC Minutes En Banc, Thursday, December 10, 1992, pp. 19-20. Emphasis supplied.)

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission (Second Division) resolves to GRANT the Petition and the questioned Rulings of the respondent MBC is hereby REVERESED AND SET ASIDE. The questioned COCs are hereby ordered excluded and should not be canvassed.

The Board of Canvassers is hereby directed to RECONVENE here in Manila (for security purposes) and issue a new certificate of canvass of votes excluding the election returns subject of this appeal and substituting the proper entries as are evident in the authentic copies of the COC and from the authentic copies of the election returns related to the subject COCs. The winning candidate who garners the most number of votes in accordance with our observation shall after proper canvass be proclaimed by the Board of Canvassers.

SO ORDERED.



(Sgd.) FLORENTINO A. TUASON, JR.
Presiding Commissioner


(Sgd.) RENE V. SARMIENTO (Sgd.)NICODEMO FERRER
Commissioner Commissioner





CERTIFICATION

I hereby certify that the conclusions in the foregoing resolution were reached in the consultation with the other members of the Commission before the same was assigned to the writer of the opinion for the Commission (Second Division)



(Sgd.)FLORENTINO A. TUASON, JR.
Presiding Commissioner








----------------
16 Agpalo, Comments on the Omnibus Election Code, 2004 ed., p. 408 409. see Pacis vs. Comelec, 22 SCRA 539

17 G.R. No. 107815

Thursday, 5 July 2007

COMMENT: On Wings of Doubt

Written by Patricio P. Diaz / MindaNews
Sunday, 01 July 2007 11 15 25

http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2770&Itemid=68


GENERAL SANTOS CITY – As June 30 neared, the Commission on Elections was in an acid test. It had to resolve election controversies to pave the way for the smooth transfer of offices from the outgoing to the incoming elective officials. Two such controversies involved the elections in Maguindanao and in the first district of Lanao del Norte.

The critical question: Would it ignore clear indicators of frauds and resolve the two election controversies in favor of pro-administration candidates? It had the power and it could find the justifications to do so; but these would only strengthen -- not dispel -- doubts.



In Maguindanao



Genuine Opposition candidate Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel had petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the Commission from canvassing the highly irregular Maguindanao senatorial votes. But at the hearing on June 28, the Court ruled Pimentel had “no concrete proof that the Maguindanao election documents were irregular” and it did not issue a temporary restraining order.

Justice Cancio Garcia said that Pimentel “was only assuming the documents were tainted with fraud” and that if a TRO was issued on “mere assumption, we are disenfranchising voters from 22 municipalities”.

Justice Adolf Azcuña said the unprecedented Commission’s procedures in gathering documents to support the provincial CoCs without following its usual rules was called for by “an unusual situation”. These were the very same procedures Pimentel had called highly irregular.

Indeed, the Maguindanao situation was unusual. Were the “unprecedented” Comelec procedures justified? Were the integrity of the CoCs and other documents unquestionable?

If so, why did the Court – voting unanimously in denying the issuance of a TRO – not dismiss the entire petition outright? Instead, it ordered “all parties to submit their memoranda within ten days for the main case”.

The order was puzzling. What was it for? The Court ruled fraud had not been proven and it justified the Commission’s actions. The twelfth winning senatorial candidate could have taken his oath by the tenth day should the Commission go ahead with the canvass and proclamation. Any decision on the merit of the petition would be moot and academic.



Just Assumptions



Were the frauds in the Maguindanao election just assumptions? In the first provincial canvass based on the first copies of the municipal CoCs, Zubiri had 133,321 votes, second to Luis “Chavit” Singson’s 136,044 (MindaNews, May 18). In the re-canvass, he topped the TU 12-0 sweep with 195,823 votes (INQUIRER.net, June 29) – his votes increasing by 62,504.

If the CoCs were not concrete proof of fraud, what is fraud? If the two sets of CoCs were copies of the same documents, one set was tampered; otherwise, they were separately fabricated. The documents were concrete; the inference was from concrete evidence.

In the first canvass, no representatives of the candidates, no accredited Comelec watchers and no media members were allowed to witness. In the re-canvass, the lawyers of the opposition were not allowed to question the CoCs or the procedures. This was irregular and not assumed.

A month after the Maguindanao election officials had ignored their order to submit copies of the municipal CoCs to support the questioned provincial CoC, Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos and two commissioners came and collected from the Maguindanao municipal election officers the “second” and “fourth” copies of the municipal CoCs.

The commissioners assumed these as authentic. Could it not be as rightly assumed that these were fabricated? As observed by GO lawyer Sixto Brillantes, the second copies which were the copies posted outside the precincts did not bear staple or tape marks. This was unusual!



Expected



After the Court had denied Pimentel’s petition for a TRO, the Commission decided to go ahead with the canvassing of the Maguindanao votes. (INQUIRER.net, June 29). As expected, it did. After overruling all motions and questions of the opposition lawyers, the votes were canvassed Friday afternoon, June 29. (INQUIRER.net, June 30)

Contrary to his expectation, Zubiri was still trailing Pimentel, who was hanging precariously by 4,923 votes. With the Maguindanao votes, Zubiri could have led Pimentel by over 18,000 had it not been for Pimentel’s winning margins from the late CoCs from Basilan, Marawi and Lanao del Sur which were canvassed last Thursday (INQUIRER.net, June 29).

Pimentel’s mathematical chance of keeping the twelfth senatorial slot depends on his votes from Barira and 10 precincts in Kabuntalan both in Shariff Kabunsuan and from Bogo in Cebu and Bais in Negros Oriental. Zubiri is sure of landslides in Barira and Kabuntalan. Bogo and Bais have 80,000 voters. Can Pimentel win big there to pad his slim 4,293 vote-margin?

The odds appear even. Neither Pimentel nor Zubiri could join the installation of the earlier proclaimed senators-elect. One of them will, perhaps, next week. Canvassing will resume on Monday.

Should Zubiri win because of Maguindanao, his six-year mandate will be on the wings of doubt like that of President Arroyo. While Zubiri cannot be accused of cheating, being just an eager beneficiary, his victory will ever be tainted by statistical improbability.

A ruling by the Supreme on merit that, indeed, the Maguindanao documents were authentic beyond reasonable doubt could give Zubiri a convenient cover. Denial of a TRO could not do that. The Commission could have waited but it did not. Its own credibility is also on the wings of doubt.



In Lanao del Norte


On Tuesday, June 26, the second division of the Commission received from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and from the Liberal Party their copies for the certificates of canvass for the municipalities of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswangan as evidence that the CoCs from the three towns used by the provincial board of canvassers had been tampered. (MindaNews, June 26)

The Commission created the Lanao del Norte District 1 controversy when last June 1, it ordered the canvassing of votes from Bacolod, Kauswagan and Maigo in spite of evidence that the boxes containing the certificates of canvass were forcibly opened last May 19 in the capital town of Tubod where the boxes had been deposited.

After the canvassing of the three questioned CoCs, Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo of Lakas-MCD vaulted to first from poor third – her 17,000 vote-lag behind Vicente “Varf” Belmonte of Genuine Opposition transforming to a 7,000 vote-lead. Not only that! The total number of votes casts for three top candidates increased from 22,285 to 28,017.

While ignoring Belmonte’s protest, the Commission restrained the provincial board of canvassers from declaring a winner – a toothless restriction. The canvass clothed the tampered CoCs with authenticity that gave Dimaporo a legal basis to petition for her proclamation.

As of last June 26, the case was still being heard in Manila. There has been no report of the final result. Did the authentic copies of the CoCs from PPCRV and the Liberal Party convince the Commission of the tampering? And Belmonte’s counsel pointed out that in the tampered Kauswagan CoC, “the padded figures for Dimaporo exceeded the total number of voters” in the municipality. (MindaNews, June 26).

Who did the Commission eventually proclaim as the elected representative of Lanao del Norte District 1? If Dimaporo, her three-year mandate will also float on the wings of doubt. Doubly so will the credibility of the Commission. ("Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.")

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Comelec receives CoC copies of PPCRV from 3 Lanao Norte towns

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Tuesday, 26 June 2007 23 09 06

http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2743&Itemid=216


ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/26 June) -- The second division of the Commission on Elections in Manila today received copies of the certificates of canvass (CoCs) of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan towns in Lanao del Norte from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and Liberal Party during a hearing on the contested votes for the congressional post of the 1st district of Iligan and Lanao del Norte. The second division composed of Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer and Jaime Tuazon asked lawyers of both parties to write their positions in a memorandum and submit it within five days.
Lawyer Voltaire Rivera, who attended the hearing for congressional candidate Vicente “Varf” Belmonte of the Genuine Opposition, said the Comelec will now decide whether to use the authentic copies they brought or the alleged tampered CoCs “in proclaiming the genuine representative of the 1st District of Iligan and Lanao del Norte.”

The GO asked Comelec to “set aside the tampered CoCs from Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan towns.”

Lawyer Dino Quijano of Lakas-CMD who also attended the hearing in Manila, told DXLS that Lakas-CMD lead lawyer Pete Quirino Quadra argued that the Comelec has no jurisdiction to hear the controversy and must deny the petition of the GO lawyers.

But while Quadra argued that Comelec has no jurisdiction, he also motioned that Imelda Dimaporo be proclaimed as the winner using the Statement of Votes based on the alleged tampered figures of Maigo and Bacolod towns.
According to the final, unofficial count of Namfrel as of 5 pm May 19, Belmonte got 58,962 votes against Team Unity-backed candidates Angelique Dawn Badelles (45,670) and Imelda Dimaporo (42,956).

In a statement, the Iligan Movement for True Democracy, Belmonte’s support group, alleged that on May 19, “poll watchers from the opposition were disallowed to enter the provincial legislative building where provincial canvassing was being done."

"The following morning, our lawyers found out that three ballot boxes from the towns of Bacolod, Maigo and Kauswagan were forcibly opened," the group related.

The group alleged the votes from the three towns were tampered and that based on these tampered votes, Dimaporo was now leading.

Ms Dimaporo, the outgoing governor, is wife to reelected 2nd district Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, the governor before her, and is mother to Khalid, the incoming governor.

The special provincial board of canvassers in Lanao del Norte has set aside the tampered CoCs of Kauswagan because the padded figures for Dimaporo exceeded the total number of voters in Kauswagan, making it statistically improbable.

Lawyer Manny Salibay, counsel of Belmonte, explained to reporters that “Comelec has no power over pre-proclamation cases for representative except if there are manifest errors in the certificates of canvass which maybe corrected by the canvassing board motu propio or upon written complaint of interested person, or by the Comelec in a petition filed or upon proper appeal from the ruling of the board of canvassers.”
Lawyer Sixto Brilliantes, lead counsel of Belmonte, also said the petition to dismiss the case arguing lack of jurisdiction is a “prohibited pleading under the Rule of Procedures of Comelec.”

“Under the law, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, composed of three judges and six congressmen, will have jurisdiction on election protest only if there is already a proclaimed representative," explained lawyer Arthur Abundiente, counsel of GO.

In the case of Lanao, the special PBOC has not proclaimed a winner yet because Comelec made a directive to “proceed with the canvass… but not to proclaim the winner.” The directive was signed by Nicodemo Ferrer who also sits at the second division of Comelec now.

Meanwhile, Bishop Elenito de los Reyes Galido together with priests in Iligan city and Lanao del Norte celebrated mass at Saint Michael's cathedral Monday night “for truth to prevail.”

Bishop Galido urged the faithful to pray for the Holy Spirit to intercede, "enlighten and inspire those who are working for truth.”

“We may have fears, doubts and uncertainties but the Holy Spirit is our only refuge and our salvation. We must continuously pray,” he said in his homily. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 26 June 2007 23 16 53 )


Sukhran to MindaNews

Monday, 18 June 2007

TO THE COMELEC EN BANC IN MANILA

(More than 50,000 people of Iligan city and Lanao del Norte signed this statement demanding Comelec en banc to head the call for truth and justice. A copy of this was submitted to Comelec en Banc.)

TO THE COMELEC EN BANC

The 3 tampered ballot boxes from the towns of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan showed that the Certificates of Canvas (CoC) inside are also tampered with snowpake and erasures.

Inspite of vehement protests that these tampered CoCs should not be used for the canvassing, the PBOC proceeded.

The canvassed results based on these tampered CoCs showed that the tallies do not coincide with the CoCs of the minority party and the PPCRV. The tally is statistically improbable based on the total voters turnout.

This created an atmosphere of doubt, uncertainty and anger in the minds of the people of District 1 Lanao del Norte.

WE THEREFORE ASK THE FOLLOWING:

1. We appeal that the Comelec en banc will head our call and struggle for TRUTH, JUSTICE AND PEACE to triumph in this election;

2. That the Municipal Certificates of Canvass inside the tampered ballot boxes of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Maigo should be excluded in the basis for proclaiming a Representative to the House of Congress for District 1 Lanao del Norte.

3. We ask Comelec en banc to proclaim our representative that is truly chosen by electorates of Iligan and Lanao del Norte as reflected in the authentic copies of CoCs held by Namfrel/PPCRV, majority and minority parties;

4. We also plea for parties in this electoral exercise not to “commit acts inimical to the essence of democracy and fair play”.


This movement is conceived by the religious and the civil society of Lanao del Norte as a movement by the people to ensure for themselves that their leaders is their choice based on their will as written in the ballot.

Official statement of Lanao Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (LAHRA) on Lanao Election Crisis

KRISIS SA NAIHAP NGA BOTO SA KATAWHAN SA LANAO DEL NORTE KABAHIN SA NASUDNONG MANIUBRA SA ADMINISTRASYONG GMA ALANG SA ILANG PAGPABILIN SA PWESTO UG PAGPAHIMULOS.

(This official statement of Lanao Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (LAHRA) sent and read at DXLS Love Radio of Iligan city on June 18, 2006)

Ang kalihukang pagpakabana sa katawhan kabahin sa pagpalutaw sa kamatuoran sa tinuod nga giboto sa katawhan nagpakita nga nahigmata na ang katawhan sa dakbayan sa Iligan ug probinsya sa Lanao sa kabililhon ug kasagrado sa boto. Bisan tuod napili ug gisulat sa katawhan ang usa ka kandidato sa unsa man nga kahimtang, gawas tungod sa kahadluk, kini pagailhon nga iyang kagustohan sa kaugalingon ug angay nga respitohan. Busa natural nga dili tiaw ang pagabation sa tawo kung ang iyang boto panamastamasan. Bisan gani kung ang boto tua gitahan sa kandidato nga wala buligi sa kahigayonan dili lalim ang pagabation sa hingtungdan kung kini maapil sa gipanamastamasan sa binuang nga buhat. Busa ang Lanao Alliance of Human Rights Advocates kun LAHRA midayig ug misuporta sa kalihukang pagpakabana sa nahigmata nga katawhan sa paghatag og bili sa ilang katungod ug kasagrado sa boto.

Ang LAHRA miapil sa Movement for Truth Justice and Peace (MTJP) tungod kay kini nagpakita nga nanalipod sa katungod sa katawhan labi na ang katungod sa boto sa katawhan ug kasagrado niini. Usa ka linuog nga binuhatan ang klaro kaayo nga pagguba sa kandado ug ballot boxes nga gisudlan sa Certificate of Canvass (COCs) sa munisipyo sa Maigo, Bacolod ug Kauswagan, dungagan pa sa pag-usab sa ihap sa boto nga nasulat sa mga COCs. Klaro kaayo nga giusab ang ihap sa boto tungod sa klarong snowpake ug klaro nga lahi na kaayo kini ikompara sa mga dobling kopya sa COCs nga anaa sa PPCRV-NAMFREL, Liberal Party ug uban pa. Busa usa kini ka pagpanamastamas, tamparos ug insulto sa mabuot nga katawhang botante sa Maigo, Bacolod, Kauswagan ug sa mahilambigit niini nga boto sa katawhan sa Iligan ug sa ubang munisipyo sa Lanao del Norte. Ang binuang nga buhat nga pag-usab sa boto sa katawhan usa ka pagpasipala ug pagyatak sa boto sa Kristiano, Muslim ug Lumad sa Lanao Norte ug Iligan busa ang kalihukan sa pagpangita sa kamatuoran sulod sa Movement for Truth Justice and Peace (MTJP) gihiusahan sa mga Muslim, Kristiano ug Lumad. Si bisan kinsa man ang naghimo sa klarong pag-usab sa boto sa COCs kini kondenahon sa MTJP. Dili kini isyu sa managlahi nga pagtuo ug banagbatok sa Muslim ug Kristiano.

Usa ka pagsimang sa isyu ang gipakaylap sa nasuko sa Movement for Truth, Justice and Peace nga ang kalihukang pagpangita sa kamatuoran sa nagpakabanang katawhan maghaling lang kuno og away o kagubot tali sa Muslim ug Kristiano. Angay nato nga mahibaloan nga dili tanang Muslim uyon sa pagpanikas tungod kay wala itudlo sa tinuohang Islam ang dautang buhat sa pagpanikas, ang Islam katarung ug kalinaw.

Ania kini nga krisis karon sa resulta sa eleksyon tungod sa dayag nga pagpanikas, gibaliwala na ang kaulaw sa nahitabo sa Lanao Norte, Davao Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu ug halos sa tibuok nasud aron lang maseguro sa administrasyong GMA nga mayoriya sa mga kongresista iyang kadapig aron mapanalipdan si GMA sa pagpalagpot pinaagi sa impeachment sa Ubos Balay Balaoranan. Ang mga kadapig ni GMA nga anaa sa ubos nga posisyon nagsunod lamang kang GMA sa iyang walay ulaw nga pagmaniubra sa 2004 nga eleksyon, igo lang sila gasunod sa giingon sa english nga, “leader is model, follow the leader”. Kini legasiya sa GMA-Garci nga kontrobersya.

Busa nakita sa LAHRA nga hangtud walay hustisya ang sagradong boto sa katawhan sa 2004 ug karong bag-o nga eleksyon magpadayon ang kalihukang sa katawhang Lumad, Muslim ug Kristiano pagpangita sa kamatuoran.

SINGGIT SA ILIGAN UG LANAO NORTE - KAMATUORAN!

Lanao Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (LAHRA)
Hunyo 15, 2007

Friday, 15 June 2007

WE WILL NOT BE CHEATED!


The statement below appears at the second frontpage of Philippine Daily Inquirer Newspaper today, June 16, 2007.

On the morning of May 20, 2007 the ballot boxes containing the certificate of canvass (CoCs) of Kauswagan, Bacolod, and Maigo towns of Lanao del Norte were tampered. The official investigation of the National Bureau of Invesigation (NBI) reports that said boxes were forcibly opened.

On June 16, 2007 the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) opened these tampered boxes. Indeed, the CoCs inside were found tampered too. The tallies opposite the names of Badelles, Belmonte and Dimaporo were covered with snowpake and new figures were written over it.

Inspite vehement protests, the PBOC proceeded in canvassing using the controversial CoCs.

The canvassed results out of these tampered CoCs showed that the tallies do not coincide with the CoCs held by the minority party, Peoples Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), National Secretariat of Social Action (NASSA) and Namfrel. The tally is statistically improbable based on the total voters’ turnout.

We have held prayer vigils, rallies, and peaceful demonstrations to show that we want the true people’s voice heard.

We are letting the rest of the Filipino people know through this announcement that the people of Lanao del Norte and Iligan city will fight to get the truth out. We are not going to stand idly while our rights are violated.

OUR APPEAL TO THE COMELEC MUST BE HEARD. The tampered municipal certificates of canvass of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Maigo MUST BE EXCLUDED in determining the winning candidate for the 1st Congressional District of Lanao del Norte. Comelec must decide on this immediately.

OUR STUGGLE WILL CONTINUE FOR GENUINE DEMOCRACY!



MOVEMENT FOR TRUTH, JUSTICE AND PEACE
Non-governmental organizations, Peoples Organizations, Religious Groups, Media, Local Government Unit and concern citizens


COMMENT: At the Price of Conscience



Written by Patricio P. Diaz / MindaNews
Wednesday, 06 June 2007 00 50 38

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/5 June) – The Movement for Truth and Justice and Peace, organized by the religious groups and civil society, are leading residents of Iligan City in mounting protests against the canvassing of the tampered Certificates of Canvass from Bacolod, Kauswagan and Maigo – three of the seven municipalities composing the first district of Lanao del Norte that includes Iligan City. (MindaNews, June 4)
Before the canvass, Vicente “Varf” Belmonte (GO) was leading Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo (Lakas-CMD) by 17,000 votes; after, Dimaporo led Belmonte by 7,000 votes. In Iligan City, by the Namfrel Count, Belmonte won against Dimaporo by a margin of 22,938 votes. The election was a three-cornered fight among Belmonte, Dimaporo and Nikki Badelles (TU).
Despite the vehement objections of the lawyers of Genuine Opposition, the Commission on Elections – disregarding the evidence of forcible opening of the boxes containing the CoCs -- ordered the canvass of the questioned CoCs but not to declare a winner, obviously until the National Bureau of Investigation has ascertained if the CoCs had been tampered.
The three boxes were forcibly opened last May 19 inside the legislative building in Tubod, the capital of Lanao del Norte, wrote MindaNews (May 21) citing a report of Iligan Movement for True Democracy which the NBI later confirmed. Tubod is under the full control of the men of Dimaporo, the outgoing governor.
The order to canvass had neither logic nor sense. Why canvass but not proclaim? The GO lawyers argued that the tampered votes gained legitimacy when canvassed and could be a valid ground for the winner to petition for proclamation. The restraint will be “until ordered by the Commission” – an order fraught with all possibilities.
Puzzling
The Commission ordered the provincial board of canvassers to submit the COCs from the tampered ballot boxes -- if found with discrepancies – “to the NBI for technical investigation if alterations were found”. This is puzzling, unnecessary and arbitrary.
The case of the tampered ballot boxes is, by inference, covered by Sections 235 and 236 of the Omnibus Election Code. Nowhere is there a reference to the NBI. They prescribe solutions to be done by the board of canvassers. Only when none of these is possible, will the board of canvassers bring the matter to the Commission for final resolution.
In the case of the forcible opening of the ballot boxes from Bacolod, Maigo and Kauswagan, these had been brought to the attention of the Commission, hence its memorandum to the Provincial Board of Canvassers. And, what were found inside the ballot boxes?
Quoting the GO lead lawyer, MindaNews (June 2) reported: “The original figures of the COC were ‘snowpeaked’ (erased and changed), numbers of votes were altered, signatures and ink used which appeared in CoCs were different compared to other authentic CoCs held by Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections), majority and minority parties.”
The tampering of the CoCs in the ballot boxes was evident. With reference to Sections 235 and 236, the CoCs with Namfrel and the two parties, all authentic copies of the tampered CoCs, should have been used for the canvassing.
More Evidence
The most compelling evidence of tampering is the difference between the figures in CoCs from the forcibly opened ballot boxes and the authentic copies in the hands of Namfrel and the two political parties. No NBI findings can reverse the logical and inevitable conclusion.




Figures in the authentic copies with Namfrel and the two parties show the following: Badelles had 7,285 votes in the three municipalities; Belmonte, 7,149; and Dimaporo, 7,851. The total valid votes cast (TVVC) for the three, 22,285.
In the CoCs inside the forcibly opened boxes: Badelles, 985 votes; Belmonte, 819; Dimaporo, 26,213; TVVC, 28,017.
Badelles lost 6,300 votes; Belmonte lost 6,330; Dimaporo gained, 18,362; and, TVVC, increased by 5,732. This increase could have been taken from the votes of the two other candidates who, by Namfrel Count, got insignificant votes in the whole district – Leo Zaragosa, 5,715 and Jojo Borja, 274 or a total of 5,989 votes.
Dimaporo’s 18,362-increase is the total of the votes that Badelles and Belmonte lost plus the increase in TVVC. (6,300 + 6330 + 5,732 = 18,362)



Before the canvass, the authentic copies with Namfrel and the two parties showed Belmonte leading Dimaporo – in round figures – by 17,000 votes; after the canvass, Dimaporo led by 7,000 (INQUIRER.net, June 3). According to Namfrel Count, Belmonte had a landslide in Iligan City – 35,381 against Badelles’ 21,886 and Dimaporo’s 12,843.
The TVVC had to be increased and padded on Dimaporo’s votes to give her an impressive margin of 7,000 plus. The votes shaved from Badelles and Belmonte would have given Dimaporo only 1,000 plus winning margin.
In Conscience
Belmonte has a strong case but he could lose the election and his clear mandate. The forcibly opened boxes and the evidently tampered CoCs, following strictly the Omnibus Election Code, should have been sealed and set aside. However, the Commission ordered the canvassing of the CoCs paving the way for a possible proclamation of Dimaporo.
In conscience, how can the commissioners be arbitrary? They know that the integrity of the CoCs can be determined, as a last recourse, by the ERs; and, that of the ERs, by the ballots with the Commission having the last option. Why let the NBI determine the integrity of the CoCs when the board of canvassers should do this -- and the Commission, if necessary?
Dimaporo may take advantage of the arbitrariness of the Commission and her nearness to Malacañang, and petition the Commission to proclaim her the winner. Let no one be surprised if the petition will be granted even before the NBI could submit its findings.
Should this happen, can Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo – reared as a Christian but now a devout Muslim – raise her head high to exult in a false mandate bought at the price of her false Christian-Muslim conscience?


(Sukhran to MindaNews)

COMMENT: Glaring Conspiracy

Written by Patricio P. Diaz / MindaNews
Thursday, 14 June 2007 02 26 33

http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2642&Itemid=68"

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 June) -- What could be a glaring conspiracy between the Commission on Elections and candidate Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo (Lakas-MCD), the outgoing governor of Lanao del Sur, appears to be unraveling to its plotted end. The latter may be proclaimed representative-elect of the first district of the province despite objections from the evident winner, Vicente “Varf” Belmonte (GO).Last June 1, the Commission ordered the canvassing of votes from Bacolod, Kauswagan and Maigo in spite of evidence that the boxes containing the certificates of canvass were forcibly opened last May 19 in the capital town of Tubod. Belmonte’s objections were ignored.The Commission’s order was puzzling. As inferred from Section 237 of the Omnibus Election Code, the CoCs from the three towns should have not been counted but sealed in the ballot boxes for safekeeping. A comparison of the questionable CoCs with the authentic copies that had been given to the political parties and Namfrel positively indicated tampering by vote padding and shaving or dagdag-bawas.The restrictive portion of the order to canvass – not to declare a winner – was toothless. The inclusion of the evidently tampered CoCs in the canvass clothed them with the authenticity that could be a legal basis for Dimaporo to petition for her proclamation.That was what exactly happened.Loser to WinnerAccording to the authentic copies of the COCs from the seven municipalities and Iligan City which compose the first district of Lanao Norte, Dimaporo was the poor third with more than 17,000 votes behind Belmonte. The questionable CoCs catapulted Dimaporo to 7,764 votes over Belmonte (INQUIRER.net, June 9).Lawyer Elcid Javier, lead counsel of Dimaparo, has taken the offensive. In his quest to have the Comelec proclaim Dimaporo, he said that “the Comelec’s decision to canvass the disputed CoCs only indicated that there was no fraud”. In the same INQUIRER.net report, “The commission on Elections (Comelec) has yet to decide whether or not to proclaim Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo as the winning candidate in the province’s first congressional district.”The Comelec has put Belmonte on the defensive. Under the election laws, the Comelec orders contested votes counted after having resolved all questions of fraud. When it ordered counted the questionable votes, it strengthened the “no fraud” position of Dimaporo.Can Belmonte stop the Comelec from eventually proclaiming Dimaporo? The burden now is very much heavier than before the counting of the questioned CoCs. Should the Comelec so decide, Belmonte will be left with the only remedy – election protest that will drag on forever. After delivering the one-two-three punch, will the Comelec wield the coup de grace? Very probable – in the name of peace!Two Lanao del Norte officials – Vice Gov. Irma Ali and Mayor “Nonoy” Mequiabas, president of the province’s mayor’s league – “have warned that prolonging the proclamation of the congressional winner might worsen the tension between opposing camps”.The warning fits squarely into the glaring conspiracy. Could all these have been done if Dimaporo were not a Lakas-MCD candidate?

(“Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You may e-mail your comments to patpdiaz@mindanews.com)

Sukhran to MindaNews

Independence Day in Iligan: 2 parades for truth and justice, vs electoral fraud



Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Wednesday, 13 June 2007 08 09 45

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ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/12 June) -- There were two parades here today, the first by the city government to celebrate independence “anchored on truth and justice,” and the other to protest electoral fraud.The employees of city government and its agencies, led by mayor Lawrence Cruz held a traditional civic-military parade around the city at 7 a.m.As traditionally done, bands played at the city's Freedom Plaza where the parade ended and where a short program was held."True independence is always anchored on truth and justice,” the mayor said.At 9:30 a.m., members of the multi-sectoral group, Movement for Truth Justice and Peace (MTJP) who converged at the city's post office, also marched down the streets "to commemorate the day within the context of truth and independence."Members brought placards and streamers urging the Commission on Elections en banc to set aside the three allegedly tampered certificates of canvass (CoCs) from the towns of Bacolod, Maigo and Kauswagan and not to use it as basis for proclaiming the representative of the first district of Iligan City and Lanao del Norte.The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) count had shown Varf Belmonte leading the race in the first congressional district with incumbent governor Imelda Dimaporo placing third. But the alleged tampered certificates would have Dimaporo leading.Dimaporo’s husband, Abdullah has been proclaimed re-elected congressman of the 2nd district while their son Khalid has been proclaimed governor.“We expressed our will through our ballpens but even our votes were erased by snowpake and easily tampered or altered in exchange for money,” said Aisah, a Moro mother."I may live and die with this fraud and lies but what will happen to our children if we will allow cheats to lead us... the power-that-be is playing us like toys," she said.Fr. Nasser Zaragoza, parish priest of Bacolod, Lanao del Norte and co-convenor of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), urged the government “to investigate who forcibly opened the three ballot boxes and those who ‘snowpaked’ the CoCs... and enforce penalties to these offenders in accordance to the law.”Fr. Albert Mendez, head of PPCRV-Lanao, also bared they and Iligan Diocese’s Vicar-General Jemar Vera Cruz, head of the MTJP, have been receiving death threats through text messages.Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo in an interview with DXLS Sunday, criticized priests for their alleged political bias for a politician he did not name."We are not bad administrators and our history is good," he said.But Father Zaragoza said the participation of the church “is based on the moral issues on the turnout of election.”“I will go on fasting if those who tampered the CoCs will be declared the representative of our district," he said.The protesters raised their clenched fists and sang "Bayan Ko.”Councilor Chonilo Ruiz said, "with the law in our favor, we will win in this fight."Lawyers of the Genuine Opposition, led by Sixto Brillantes, have already filed their petition before Comelec to set aside the tampered CoCs.Brillantes also bared that "they are contemplating to file criminal charges against those who tampered the CoCs for electoral sabotage under R.A. 9369."Its just a matter of pinpointing those who were responsible for tampering the CoCs,” he said.Rep. Dimaporo argued that the petition of the opposition should be filed at the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 June 2007 07 59 51 )

Sukhran to MindaNews

MOVEMENT FOR TRUTH, JUSTICE & PEACE activities


Michael Paras, a DXLS radio reporter lit candles for truth infront of St. Michael's cathedral of Iligan city.

After tampered Certificate of Canvass from the towns of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan of Lanao del Norte were canvassed despite vehement protest of opposing lawyers, the people of Iligan city and first district of Lanao del Norte organized themselves into a Movement for Truth, Justice and Peace (MTJP).This movement is now an umbrella organization of religious, civil society, local government officials, barangay- based support-groups, and media workers that is founded on their deep faith for the triumph of truth.Since June 2, 2007, the movement “demanded to the Comelec en banc to exclude the tampered ballot boxes of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Maigo as basis in proclaiming a Representative to the House of Congress for District 1 Lanao del Norte.”We also ask Comelec en banc to proclaim our representative that is truly chosen by electorates of Iligan and Lanao del Norte as reflected in the authentic copies of CoCs held by Namfrel/PPCRV, majority and minority parties;We also pleaded parties in this electoral exercise not to “commit acts inimical to the essence of democracy and fair play”.As part of the movement’s activity, for this week, we call on lovers of truth to:

1. encourage all residents of Iligan and 1st district of Lanao del Norte to sustain lighting candles for truth in front of the church, at home or along the highways every 6 p.m.
2. enjoin everyone to do NOISE BARRAGE at home and to “blow horns for truth” among public utility and private vehicles every 6 p.m.
3. sustain information sharing via text messaging and internet.
4. conduct Focus Group Discussion (FGD) with video documentary shows at the barangay level to educate electorates on their rights as voters and on the present election crisis in First District of Lanao del Norte as part of electoral reform agenda of the movement.
5. We invite media workers to undertake coverage on activities undertaken by MTJP; send media advisory to Manila-based media outlets (e.g. ABSCBN, GMA, ABC, ANC et. al.)We enjoin everyone to participate on the following slated actions:

a. June 10, 2007 – Candle for Truth March7:30 p.m.; converging points at city Postal Office

b. June 12, 2007 – join the Independence Day Celebration’s ParadeTheme: Kamatuoran, kagawasan” (this is part a showcase to the world that fighting for truth against electoral fraud is a best value for Iliganons)6 a.m.; Iligan City High School Ground

Iliganons troop to streets over disputed congressional race



Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Tuesday, 05 June 2007 00 57 05


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ILIGAN CITY -- Iliganons trooped to the streets this morning and blocked the national highway between 8 and 10 a.m. to protest what they called a fraudulent election in the congressional race in the first district of Lanao del Norte.Protesters under the umbrella of Movement for Truth, Justice and Peace (MTJP) -- conceived by religious leaders, local government officials and the civil society of Lanao del Norte and Iligan -- marched towards the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in Barangay Palao and demanded why the Comelec is giving weight to the supposed tampered certificates of canvass.The COCs in question were those coming from the towns of Bacolod and Maigo, which were canvassed on June 2 despite protest from lawyers of the Genuine Opposition (GO), who insisted that the "tampered COCs" be excluded as basis for proclaiming the winner of the congressional race in the first district.They instead suggested that the representative to be proclaimed should be the one "truly chosen" by the people of Iligan and the first district of Lanao del Norte "as reflected in theauthentic copies of COS held by Namfrel/PPCRV and minority parties."But as they held protest outside the Comelec, the office was closed although there were a few staff inside. A soldier also sat at the door way."We are now standing on Comelec's ground that is supposed to be an edifice of our sacred votes.Sadly, this has become an instrument of cheating," lamented city councilor Moises Dalisay Jr..City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said he was angered and disgusted with the attempt to manipulate election results. He urged Iliganons not to be afraid to fight against the moneyed and those with firearms "because we are on the side of righteousness."He pointed out that the "authentic copies" of Namfrel/PPCRV showed that opposition candidate Varf Belmonte won as congressman, way ahead of rivals Nikki Badelles and Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo, the administration candidate whose husband Abdullah was reelected representative of the second district and neophyte son Khalid as her successor as governor.Cruz said counsels of the opposition will appeal to central office of the Comelec to exclude the alleged tampered COCs from being canvassed. "Iligan will lead the struggle against electoral fraud," he said."



Those responsible of committing this criminal act must be penalized," the mayor added.For the past three days, Iliganons have lit candles outside the St. Michael Cathedral in a prayer vigil. They displayed election results as gathered by Namfrel/PPCRV.Dr. Melchie Ambalong, co-convenor of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the Peoples Electoral Alliance for Credible Election (PEACE), pointed out that the Iliganons outrage was "purely political" and not hatred towards the Maranaos, apparently referring to the Dimaporos."The people are angry because they were cheated," she stressed. A Maranao youth leader, Cae Amerol, seconded Ambalong. "We Maranaos also don't agree on cheating," said the rallyist from the Sumpay Mindanao, Inc.Protesters agreed to sustain the nightly prayer vigil, the lighting of candles, and the peace concerts "until the genuine winner will be proclaimed by the Comelec."

(Sukhran to MindaNews)

No winner yet in Lanao Norte congressional race

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Sunday, 03 June 2007 00 23 08

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ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/02 June) – Allegations of vote-padding and vote-shaving have prevented the provincial board of canvassers in Lanao del Norte to declare a winner for the congressional seat of the province’s first district.Lawyers for the Genuine Opposition cited as proof election returns coming from Maigo town which they claimed were tampered."The original figures of the COC (certificates of canvass) were ‘snowpeaked’ (erased and changed), numbers of votes were altered, signatures and ink used which appeared in the COC were different compared to other authentic COCs held by Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections), majority and minority parties," lawyer Arthur Abudiente, lead counsel of the opposition, told the provincial Commission on Elections.The opposition lawyers also claimed that the votes for Nikki Badelles (Team Unity) and Varf Belmonte (GO) were reduced while those of Gov. Imelda Dimaporo were padded citing the COCs from Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan towns.The examined COCs were taken from the controversial three ballot boxes from the same towns that were "forcibly opened" last May 19 inside the provincial legislative building based on the reports of Alex Cabornay, regional director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Region X.In comparison, the COCs held by Namfrel, PPRCV, majority and minority parties showed that in Bacolod Badelles got 1,676 votes, Belmonte 2,790 and Dimaporo 3,976.In Maigo, COCs held by the same groups showed that Badelles got 2,956 votes, Belmonte 1,791 and Dimaporo 1,550. In Kauswagan, Badelles got 2,653 votes, Belmonte 2,568 and Dimaporo 2,725. But the "tampered COCs" said that in Bacolod Badelles got 239 votes, Belmonte 223 and Dimaporo 8,605. In Maigo, it was 458 votes for Badelles, 268 for Belmonte, and 7,383 for Dimaporo. In Kauswagan, the three candidates got 288, 328 and 10,225 votes, respectively. No alterations were cited for the votes of Leo Zaragoza and Uriel Borja, both of whom have conceded defeat.The Comelec en banc has directed the PBOC "to retrieve and open the envelop containing the COCs from the tampered ballot boxes to check if there are discrepancies" and submit these to the NBI for technical investigation if alterations were found.The memorandum also directed the provincial Comelec "to canvass the admitted tampered ballot boxes…but must refrain from declaring any candidate until ordered by the Commission."The newly reconstituted PBOC led by lawyer Lordino Salvana, convened Friday at the legislative hall after a group of Maranaos who barricaded in front of the building voluntarily dispersed around 10 a.m. Sources said that two prominent politicians in the province told the barricaders to leave.The barricade prevented the PBOC from entering the building the past two days. Abudiente expressed objection to the Comelec order. He said the allegedly tampered COCs should not be canvassed as these would be their evidence in legal actions they might take.Lawyer Rogelio Bagabuyo, counsel for GO senatorial candidate Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, wanted the canvassing of votes for senatorial candidates to be prioritized. He said problems relating to local candidates were not [his] concern.Two radio stations here aired live coverage of the canvassing of votes as soon as the PBOC convened.Zaragoza, speaking through the radio stations, asked all his supporters "to go out and protect your votes by joining a vigil at the provincial capitol."As of this writing, a number of people have already gathered in front of St. Michael Church.


(Sukhran to MindaNews)

Iligan folk stage protest vs. ‘tampered’ COCs

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Monday, 04 June 2007 01 21 24

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ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/June 3) – Local residents opposed to the canvassing of supposedly tampered Certificates of Canvass from three towns in Lanao del Norte have formed a group to prevent the consummation of what one of its leaders called “just another Hello Garci scandal.The Movement for Truth, Justice and Peace (MTJP), initiated by religious and civil society, in a statement said that “in spite of vehement protests that these tampered CoCs should not be used for the canvassing, the PBOC (Provincial Board of Canvassers) proceeded.”“The canvassed results based on these tampered CoCs showed that the tallies do not coincide with the CoCs of the minority party and the PPCRV. The tally is statistically improbable based on the total voters’ turnout. This created an atmosphere of doubt, uncertainty and anger in the minds of the people of District 1 Lanao del Norte,” the statement said."The original figures of the COC (certificates of canvass) were ‘snowpeaked’ (erased and changed), numbers of votes were altered, signatures and ink used which appeared in the COC were different compared to other authentic COCs held by Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections), majority and minority parties," lawyer Arthur Abudiente, lead counsel of the opposition, told the provincial Commission on Elections.Allegations of vote-padding and vote-shaving based on the questioned COCs have prevented the PBOC in Lanao del Norte to declare a winner for the congressional seat of the province’s first district.The alleged tampering of COCs from the towns of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan reportedly benefited Gov. Imelda Dimaporo and reduced the number of votes for two other congressional candidates, Nikki Badelles (Team Unity) and Varf Valmonte (Genuine Opposition).MTJP planned to march around the city every 7p.m. from June 1-3.Fr. Nasser Zaragoza, chairperson of Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)-Iligan, said the group wanted to show to the country “that we don’t agree that fake CoCs be canvassed.”In a program Friday night beside St. Michael Church, lawyers of the genuine opposition related what they supposedly saw on the COCs from Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan.They said the ‘tampered’ COCs that were canvassed by the PBOC were “lies and injustice visible to naked eyes”. They vowed to appeal to the Comelec en banc to exclude the questioned COCs.They suspected that the tampering had the “blessings of Malacanang.”“This is just another Hello-Garci scandal. But for evil to triumph is for good persons to do nothing,” lawyer Manuel Salibang, of the GO, told the people who attended the program.Dr. Chonilo Ruiz, re-elected city councilor, recalled that “in previous elections in Iligan, winners are winners; losers are losers… but this time, the loser wants to win.”In a press conference Friday afternoon, MTJP appealed to the Comelec en banc to “heed our call and struggle for truth, justice and peace to triumph in this election.”They asked that the Municipal Certificates of Canvas inside the “tampered ballot boxes of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Maigo should be excluded as basis for proclaiming a Representative to the House of Congress for District 1 Lanao del Norte.”“We ask Comelec en banc to proclaim our representative that is truly chosen by electorates of Iligan and Lanao del Norte as reflected in the authentic copies of CoCs held by Namfrel/PPCRV, majority and minority parties,” the group said.They also asked the media to exercise prudence in their reports and emphasized that the incidents relating to the election should not be played up as a manifestation of religious conflict between Muslims and Christians.“The issue here is just what is true and what is right based on authentic CoCs held by Namfrel/PPRCV and [the] minority party,” said Dr. Melchie Ambalong, chair of Peoples Electoral Alliance for Credible Election (PEACE) and co-convener of PPCRV.MTJP planned to hold a series of activities until the “legitimate representative” is proclaimed.Outside the Catholic Church now, streamers proclaiming Varf Belmonte as the legitimate representative of First District Lanao del Norte hanged. Supporters of Dimaporo also hanged streamers on trees expressing her thanks to voters.


Sukhran to mindaNews

Lanao canvassing delayed some more, opposition cries foul

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Thursday, 31 May 2007 01 57 41

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TUBOD, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews/30 May) -- The canvassing of the remaining election returns of the first district of Lanao del Norte, which will determine the outcome as to who will win in the congressional race, was delayed some more today because the venue of the canvassing was barricaded for some unusual reasons.As it turned out, the capitol’s legislative hall was barricaded by supporters of reelected Vice Gov. Irma Ali of Lakas-CMD. The reason: they wanted her name cleared because she was implicated in a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) report that she may have something to do with the forcible opening of three ballot boxes from the towns of Maigo, Kolambugan and Kauswagan which were kept inside the prayer room of her office."We will open this legislative hall only if Ali's name is cleared," said Mateo Cortes, barangay captain of Poblacion in Salvador town and Ali’s supporter.Senior Supt. Linog Bagul, provincial police chief, arrived at the scene about noon time but failed to disperse the barricade after dialogues.Because of the barricade, the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC), which was mandated by the Commission on Elections in an en banc resolution to convene today (Wednesday) to settle the disputed certificates of canvass from the three controversial ballot boxes, failed to enter the legislative hall.Lawyer Arthur Abundiente, lead counsel of congressional candidate Varf Belmonte, commented that “the barricade has no justifying issue but just part of the general scheme to delay the canvass of the remaining COCs and the proclamation of the leading congressional candidate.”According to the final, unofficial count of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) as of 5 p.m. May 19, opposition candidate Belmonte got 58,962 votes against Angelique Dawn “Nikki” Badelles (45,670) and outgoing Gov. Imelda “Angging” Quibranza Dimaporo of Lakas-CMD (42,956).Dimaporo’s husband Abdullah has already been declared winner in the province’s second district, while their son Khalid, a neophyte, also won in the gubernatorial race."I was told that they need to put up this delay while waiting for the arrival of President [Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo from New Zealand for political negotiation," Abudiente added.He pointed out that if they wanted the name of Ali cleaned, they should go to the office of NBI and complain there because the capitol was not the proper venue.Lawyer Rogelio Bagabuyo, counsel for senatorial candidate Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, joined the other counsels in “demanding the Comelec to proceed to canvass the COCs.”“You have incurred a week-long delay and this is illegal. We cannot wait forever until this barricade be dispersed. The people who barricaded here have obstructed us entry to the canvassing center and they have committed a criminal act,” he stressed.Provincial election officer Hamilton Cuevas said that the PBOC was supposed to reconvene to retrieve the envelopes and COCs from the forcibly opened ballot boxes. The COCs, he added, will then be compared to other authentic copies of COCs from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and Namfrel, the majority and minority parties.If discrepancies are found, the COCs will be turned over to the NBI for technical investigations, Cuevas said.In a related development, Iligan residents supportive of Belmonte and members of cause-oriented groups claiming to protect the sanctity of the ballot, were delayed from proceeding to the provincial capitol to witness the scheduled canvassing when traffic enforcers blocked the public utility vehicles they were riding.Officials of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) argued that the PUV drivers violated traffic rules by travelling outside their authorized routes. LTO operatives headed by Rex Pangandag confiscated the PUV drivers’ licenses and their vehicles’ keys at the Kulasihan Bridge in Maigo town, about 20 kilometers going into the capital.“I don't care about this caravan,” said Pangandag. “They violated the traffic law by travelling without permit from the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board). They don't have franchise to travel here. We are just performing our duty,” he added.Pangandag said that they have been “doing this everyday.”But a passenger who disembarked from one of the PUVs blurted out: “This is just an obvious tactic to prohibit us from going to the provincial capitol.”When people started to mass up at the checkpoint, Pangandag immediately left the checkpoint.“This is a blatant strategy to stop us from going to our destination,” said an angry Msgr. Jemar Vera Cruz, vicar general of the Diocese of Iligan. “This is illegal and unconstitutional. You cannot block people's right to travel. This is a form of harassment,” he added.He stressed the people only wanted to peacefully witness the canvassing and to find out if the forcibly opened ballot boxes were replaced or tampered.The situation at the Maigo bridge caused traffic jam along the highway, affecting motorists between the cities of Pagadian, Ozamiz and Iligan.The tense situation normalized only when Dr. Melchie Ambalong, co-convenor of the PPRCV and the People’s Electoral Alliance for Credible Election (PEACE), talked to police officers to release the car keys to the PUV drivers. She also paid the penalty of P500 per PUV at the provincial LTO office. But when they finally got to the provincial capitol compound, they were only greeted with the barricade that rendered their efforts and sacrifices useless.

with thanks to MindaNews

"We are terribly alarmed and saddened" – Iligan diocese

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Saturday, 26 May 2007 03 43 54

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ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / May 25)- "We are terribly alarmed and saddened, when the very core of democratic process, where people's genuine voice is supossed to be heard, has been marred with fraud, deceit, trickery and intimidation."Msgr. Jemar Vera Cruz, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Iligan City, expressed this frustration to news reporters here, over the discovery of tampering of ballot boxes while at the custody of provincial security personnel."Our election laws are violated; lists of voters were not released promptly; vote-buying and selling; there's seven-hour black-out in many towns of Lanao del Norte; there's massive cheating in interior towns," Cruz said, enumerating the cases of alleged tampering and other election irregularities in the city and in Lanao del Norte.Cruz said that ballot boxes containing certificate of canvassing (COC) were "forcibly opened and tampered even at the custody of provincial security personnel" at the Lanao Norte's provincial capitol. He added that the transport of the ballot boxes from Iligan's city hall to Tubod municipality was "a scene of disorder, confusion and mauling".Cruz referred to the violent confrontation of policemen from Cagayan de Oro City and thousands of supporters of congressional candidate Vincente Varf Belmonte. Belmonte's supporters barricaded the city's legislative hall, from May 20 to May 22, to protest the transfer of said boxes and to safeguard the sanctity of their ballots.Policemen broke through the barricade and mauled some barricaders although the latter also threw stones at policemen. Eight civilians and six policemen were injured.The police went to the legislative hall at the behest of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which denied the petition of Belmonte's lawyers asking that canvassing of Iligan City's COCs be done at the city's legislative hall."Until today, winner for the first Congressional district is yet to be proclaimed due to unusual and suspicious delay in canvassing," said Cruz.Cruz met with his priests, leaders of civil society groups, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, National Citizens Movement for Free Elections, and the diocese's lawyer at the Bishop House to draft their position that "with these reprehensible acts that truly subvert the sovereign will of the people amid discouraging situation, we call on the cleansing of the Comelec and the automation of 2010 election"."We strongly denounce the wanton use of goons, guns and gold by the candidates and their supporters to harrass voters and buy votes. We also condemn the blatant and shameful attempt to alter the result of the elections to favor particular candidates in the towns of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan whose official result we already knew based on the official COC copy of the PPCRV," Cruz said.Cruz urged the provincial board of canvasser to inhibit themselves from further canvassing the remaining COCs of the three municipalities."We call on people... those who gave up their freedom in exchange for measly sum to re-examine their conscience and seek their true role in nation-building. The voice that was bought, harrassed and subverted is not God's voice," he said.


withthanks to MindaNews

"Thank you" streamers hang in Iligan for leading Congressional bet

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Saturday,
26 May 2007 03 41 28

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ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / May 25) - White streamer s hang conspicuously along the main thoroughfares here and the word "thank you" is easily readable.The streamers have been strung to catch public attention and apparently intend to sway public support to the cause of first district congressional candidate Vicente Varf Belmonte, who led in the counting against two well-entrenched rivals.The streamers show a tabulation of votes that point to Belmonte as having gotten the highest number of votes compared to rivals Nikki Badelles and Imelda Dimaporo, both from two known families of politicians.Despite leading in the tally and with only three ballot boxes left, Belmonte has lamented why he is not yet proclaimed.This is because the provincial Comelec has not yet made a resolution on what to do with the three ballot boxes that were forcibly opened on May 20 by unidentified suspects and while at the custody of the provincial security personnel.Msgr. Jemar Vera Cruz, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Iligan City, has urged the members of the provincial board of canvassers to inhibit themselves from further canvass the three remaining boxes from the towns of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan.The inhibition "calls for the institution of new provincial board of canvassers which will likely derail further the proclamation of Belmonte".Civil society groups want to take what they described as a more practical route to resolve the controversy.Dr. Melchie Ambalong, co-convenor of Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and People Electoral Alliance for Credible Election (PEACE), proposed that "canvassing should proceed with the use of official copies of certificate of canvassed votes issued by the election officers to the Comelec, to the majority and minorityparties, to PPCRV and for the public precincts".The sixth copy of election returns that were signed by the Board of Election Inspectors "shall be be used for verification on either truthfulness or falsity of the contents of COCs put inside these forcibly opened boxes", according to Ambalong.She said, "this should be witnessed by the public".Meanwhile, the diocese's lawyer, Leo Zaragosa, who also ran for a congressional seat but conceeded defeat, said "there is still a request to National Bureau of Investigation to examine the substance of COCS if these are tampered, replaced or not"."NBI investigated only the forcibly opened boxes but have not examined the contents of these ballots if its replaced or not," he said. Zaragoza believes that the NBI will have its findings in time when the provincial board of canvassers will be reconstituted.


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Belmonte supporters: Iligan ballot boxes should remain in Iligan

Written by Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNewsTuesday,
22 May 2007 00 42 11

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ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/May 21) – About a thousand persons gathered in front of the legislative building here today to protest the transfer of ballot boxes to the Mindanao Civic Center (MCC) in Tubod, Lanao del Norte, where the provincial canvassing is held. "People massed up here because last Sunday night, a group of Maranaos came here to transfer the ballot boxes to the provincial canvassing center at the MCC. Why would they get it when the Comelec was there for only half a day? Who will receive these ballot boxes at night time? This move is a threat to the voice of the people," said Ramon Cardenas, one of the campaign staffers of Vicente “Varf” Belmonte, who is leading in the congressional race in the first district against incumbent governor Imelda Dimaporo and Nikki Badelles, daughter of three-term Rep. Mariano Badelles.Dimaporo’s husband, Abdullah has been proclaimed as reelected representative of the second district while son Khalid has been proclaimed the new governor. Abdullah also earlier served as governor.Human rights groups and members of non-governmental organizations also came to the City Hall here to "protect the sanctity of the ballot and to document whatever will transpire here."In a statement, the Iligan Movement for True Democracy, Belmonte’s support group, alleged that on May 19, “poll watchers from the opposition were disallowed to enter the provincial legislative building where provincial canvassing is done.""The following morning, our lawyers found out that three ballot boxes from the towns of Bacolod, Maigo and Kauswagan were forcibly opened," the group related."Are we just going to accept how they malign the sanctity of peoples' votes? Must we condone always that the result of election in our district be dramatized? Must we condone these threats from armed group and those who'd like to stay in power even if the people have not voted them?" the statement read."If those ballot boxes in Lanao were forcibly opened at night, then it can also be done to these ballot boxes of Iligan city if brought there,” the group said.Reelectionist Iligan City mayor Lawrence Cruz and the 10 elected councilors have been proclaimed by the Commission on Elections. Only Belmonte has not been proclaimed winner although he was also leading in the Comelec count.The first congressional district comprises the city of Iligan, and the seven towns of Lanao del Norte’s Linamon, Kauswagan, Bacolod, Maigo, Kolambugan, Tubod and Baroy.According to the final, unofficial count of Namfrel as of 5 pm May 19, Belmonte got 58,962 votes against Team Unity-backed candidates Angelique Dawn Badelles (45,670) and Imelda Dimaporo (42,956).The Belmonte camp vowed not to allow the Iligan City votes moved to the MCC, claiming the certificates of canvass would suffice.Supporters of Belmonte took out their rosaries and recited prayers. They sang "Our father" and "Maayong Iliganon." They also sang Yeng Constantino's song "Hawak Kamay"."We are not here to quarrel. We only wanted to show that we cannot be bought and we want to stand behind Varf Belmonte who will win this election," said barangay coucilor Milagros Lluisma."This struggle is not for us. It is for the future of our children. True, we are from the opposition, but we have not cheated," Lluisma further said.Supporters of Belmonte wore green, yellow and orange stickers on their sleeves and t-shirts for easy identification. Others wore red armbands.A number of women brought white rosaries with them while others held the 6x3-feet taurpulins of Belmonte. Another group even cooked food in front of the city hall."We have here a shaky political condition. The fears of the people are valid. We just hope the armed forces will not be used and potential violence will be put down," said Adona Orquillas, executive director of Ranao Disaster Response and Rehabilitation Action Center."Opening boxes by force at night time is a clear human right violation and it tampers the sacredness of people's votes," she added."This election-related conflict has no religious dimension. But we know that in time of crisis, people pray," she said.Members of the Lanao and Human Rights Advocates and staff from Namfrel were also around to document.A party-list group also displayed placards that read: "protect the votes of the people."Poll watchers of Governor Dimaporo, most of them male, sat at the left side of City Hall. Others took a nap under the shade of trees."We are relaxed," said Engineer Cassan Darapa, who heads the support group of Dimaporo."What they are doing there is just an exercise of their rights. We are just watching and hoping that nothing will happen," Darapa added."Whatever is the decision of the Comelec, we will just follow," he said.Special operating units of city police set up checkpoints along the winding road to the hilltop City Hall. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)Last Updated ( Tuesday, 22 May 2007 00 46 50 )

Iligan canvassing moving at snail's pace

Written by Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNewsThursday,
17 May 2007 00 31 44

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ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/May 17)-- "This is Philippine election, girl," said the teacher helping the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) when asked why they had recorded only 20 precincts the past two days.It was not an expression of frustration, but an affirmation of the expected delays. This merited smiles from her co-teachers who sat with her at a corner of the overcrowded legislative hall where the Comelec was canvassing election returns."As of 4 p.m. today, a total of 124 precincts were already canvassed," said another teacher, Dante Sumagang, a member of a sub-committee in-charge of recording serial numbers of canvassed ERs. Iligan has 1,004 precincts from 44 barangays with 149,246 registered voters."Delays are incurred because the Comelec examines the details of returns; some BEIs need to be called because of unfilled statistical data of returns; and lawyers of candidates raise some queries and objections," he explained.Nonetheless, "no ER was discounted so far," he added."Looks like the Comelec canvassing will last for weeks. It's better to scrutinize the details and be certain of the records than commit unforgivable lapses though," commented Dr. Melchie Ambalong, commissioner of the Mindanao Commission on Women (MCW) and convenor of the Parish Pastoral Councilor for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).The canvassing area was crowded with paralegals, watchers, counsels, teachers and volunteers.Outside the legislative hall, members of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) gathered and guarded their copies of election returns on the floor.The Comelec has not displayed its official statistics of votes from canvassed ERs, but Namfrel's Operation Quick Count 2007 tally board is placed outside the Catholic church downtown, thanks to the help of the PPCRV, the church's National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa), Ma. Cristina Chemical Industries (MCCI), People's Alliance for Credible Elections (Peace), other NGOs, and the Knights of Columbus.Namfrel's initial count showed that opposition first district congressional candidate Varf Belmonte garnered 35,381 votes as against his political rivals Nikki Badelles (21,896), Imelda Quibranza Dimaporo (12,843), Leo Zaragoza (5,715) and Jojo Borja (274).Reelectionist Mayor Lawrence Cruz had 51,260 votes as against Franklin Quijano's 15,661 and Alejo Yañez's 3,252. Cruz's two rivals were former mayors themselves, holding two successive terms each.For the senatorial bets, partial results showed that those who made it to the "magic twelve" are Francis Joseph Escudero (53,571), Panfilo Lacson (52,497), Loren Legarda (51,244), Benigno Aquino III (45,344), Manuel Villar Jr. (44,269), Aquilino Pimentel III (42,621), Gregorio Honasan (42,227), Antonio Trillanes IV (40,248), Francis Pangilinan (39,096), Allan Cayetano (37,457), Juan Miguel Zubiri (34,881) and Edgrado Angara (33,007).Meanwhile, Iliganon voters apparently were not very interested on the party list as many of them did not bother to write their party of choice."They may have either forgotten the party list or they are too focused on voting for national and local candidates only, or they aren't educated on the importance of the party list yet," lamented Richel Bores, a watcher for Anak Mindanao.Around the city, garbage collectors removed and swept off candidates' posters, especially in commercial areas. But the heavy rains stopped them from finishing their work.Since the start of the campaign period, walls, trees, electric posts, buildings and even vehicles were saturated with posters and streamers of candidates. (Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews)

Reelectionist Iligan City mayor thanks residents for 2nd term

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Tuesday,15 May 2007 20 16 19


ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/May 15)-- Banking on partial and unofficial reports of radio-based Media Election Count, reelectionist mayor Lawrence Lluch Cruz called up a local radio early Tuesday morning to thank Iliganons for "reelecting me for the second term.
"Cruz was originally a member of the opposition when he started his political career as councilor and when he was elected mayor in 2004. This year, he shifted political party behind the government-backed Team Unity, to run with a close relative and congressional aspirant Nikki Badelles in Lanao's 1st District. Badelles is a daughter of three-term congressman Mariano Badelles.

Nevertheless, Cruz was still considered as "guest candidate" of the Genuine Opposition (GO) party.As of 11 a.m., the media count reported that Cruz garnered 20,850 votes against his opponents -- former city mayors Franklin Quijano (Lakas-CMD)- 6,494 and Alejo Yanez 1,746.Oozing with confidence, Cruz also expressed gratitude to local policemen for "pre-emptive and 24-hour security measures before and on actual election day.""They have done an overnight patrol in all barangays of the city," he said.He also thanked his political rivals "for bearing the importance of peace and order."
He also announced his development agenda, promising more job opportunities to unemployed residents of the city."When Gaisano Mall will be done by August, other malls will be constructed here," he said.In a 52-page Mayor's Report he distributed to select residents in Iligan prior to election, he bared his accomplishments in the past three years.These include a P445 M-worth water system; increase of commercial investors like the five-storey Gaisano Mall; facilitation of overseas job opportunities; entry of multinational corporations in partnership with local farmers for papaya and coffee plantations; animal dispersal and livelihood assistance to poor but deserving families.Cruz also endeavored to resolve garbage problems in Barangay Santiago. He also said he increased the capability of policemen for security by providing them incentives, trainings and vehicles

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Terror in Maigo town: “I saw people running so we ran, too”

Written by Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews
Tuesday, 15 May 2007 20 18 19

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/May 15)-- "I saw people running so we ran, too." This is how Adona Orquillas, a member of provincial monitoring team of the government peace panel described the situation in Maigo town in Lanao del Norte when a number of armed men entered the polling precincts at the poblacion on Monday to "pour the bottles of indelible ink on official ballots and snatch the ballot boxes."Orquillas related that a hundred armed men in barangay Mentering had been reported to authorities since April 20 "but why was this not acted upon despite the election gun ban?""Why are they doing this to Maigo town but not in other towns?" she asked as she recalled how residents are still recovering from the trauma when a rebel group attacked this town in 2003.Orquillas went to Maigo on election day to document and investigate what happened."I have reported this to the Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and have communicated to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for certainty. But this wasn't acted until today...the problem has escalated," she said."A number of residents from the remote villages evacuated though there are still many of them who stayed home with the thought that they will be protected with their Moro friends who shared similar political party affiliation with them," Orquillas said.Orquillas said former mayor and opposition gubernatorial candidate Rafael Rizalda had sought help from authorities and friends about these armed groups but the problem remained unacted upon.Rizalda went to the frontlines of war in 2003 and was one of those wounded to secure the municipality and his town's people. These days "feels helpless""Municipal authorities and priests have requested the intervention of police forces from Region XI and Lanao del Norte but the provincial policemen refused to help," she added.On election day, villagers thought they were under attack when the soldiers and regional mobile police forces were deployed there.The Comelec has declared failure of election in four precincts there, including that of barangay Mentering."We only maintain communication with them and hope that PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) in Maigo town will continue to monitor the situation," Orquillas said.

(with thanks to MindaNews)

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Comelec asked to explain why Iligan has fewer registered voters

Written by Violeta M. Gloria/MIndaNews
Monday, 14 May 2007 18 18 57

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews) – If the increase in number of Lanao del Sur’s registered voters is statistically improbable, a convenor of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) here wants the Commission on Elections to explain why Iligan City’s number of registered voters has decreased from 163,265 in 2004 to 149,246 in 2007.Dr. Melchie Ambalong, regional commissioner of Mindanao Commission on Women (MCW) and convenor of the PPCRV, said the city had 117,812 registered voters in 2001; 163,265 in 2004 but in 2007, the number went down to 149,246."This decrease should be explained by Comelec because this is susceptible to fraud and manipulation," she said.Ambalong also complained that many registered voters' precincts were changed and were even assigned to other barangays, causing confusion and disenfranchisement of voters.Cora Gordo complained their names didn't appear in the voters' list; other names were transferred to different precincts far from their original precincts.Moreover, two unidentified men allegedly being pursued by the police, jumped over the fence of a resident in Steeltown village midnight of May 13, leaving crumpled pieces of paper containing lists of names of voters for a congressional candidate in the city."There were two houses raided here by local policemen after reports on massive vote-buying," explained a neighbor of the person in whose yard the crumpled paper was left behin. "Those two men might have been part of midnight vote-buying operation," he said.Jun Enriquez, chair of the Civil Society Organization Forum for Peace, reported that vote-buying in the city ranged from P600 to P1,500 per voter depending on the candidate.Hamidullah Atar, executive director of Reconciliatory Initiative for Development and Opportunities (RIDO) Inc., also said that vote-buying in some areas in Lanao del Sur was pegged at P5,000 and the lowest is 200 per voterEnriquez also reported that opposition congressional candidate Varf Belmonte's residence was raided, 7 a.m., yesterday by regional mobile forces from Cagayan de Oro. Belmonte's licensed firearms were confiscated.Enriquez said the raid was "allegedly at the behest of officials from Malacanang."Belmonte filed charges against the policemen "for lack of jurisdiction."In Maigo, Lanao del Norte, a failure of election was declared by Comelec in four precincts in the remote villages due to ballot box snatching. Supporters of rival candidates exchanged bullets, leading to their arrest and detention.There were also some ballots poured with indelible ink. Residents of the said town also complained of the presence of armed men in barangay Mentering.Adona Orquillas, a member of the provincial monitoring team of the government peace panel and a human rights advocate, told civil society groups here that "these armed men belong to Dimaporo family of Lanao del Norte.Lawyer Arthur Abudiente, provincial board member, explained to DXIC reporter in an interview that "the Dimaporo family wanted to create a scenario here so that counting of votes will transferred to Mindanao Civic Center (MCC)."The Dimaporos could not be reached for comment. Three-term governor Imelda Dimaporo is running for representative of the 1st district; her husband, Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo is seeking reelection in the 2nd district and their son Khalid is running for governor. Abdullah served three terms as governor before running for representative.In Lanao del Sur, the Comelec declared failure of election in Pantar town after discovering "padded list of voters."Pantar town is also a host community of evacuees from Munai, PoonaPiagapo and Kauswagan town who decided to resettle here. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)with thanks to MindaNews