Bedol surfaces, says order was to give Aquino, Lacson, Cayetano zero votes
The wily Lintang Bedol finally surfaced Wednesday—four years after he disappeared and a day after Zaldy Ampatuan’s exposé that ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo orchestrated cheating in the 2007 senatorial election.
The former Maguindanao elections supervisor of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) who vanished after he was summoned to appear before an inquiry into poll irregularities told ABS-CBN that former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. had ordered him to give zero votes to then opposition senatorial candidates Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Alan Peter Cayetano.
“He told me that according to (Arroyo) three people had to get zero votes—Aquino, Cayetano and Lacson. I was worried about Lacson because he is my friend,” Bedol said in Filipino.
In unsigned affidavits released to the Inquirer on Tuesday, Zaldy, the suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, had ordered his father to rig the Maguindanao votes to favor Senator Miguel Zubiri.
Bedol alleged that former Comelec chief Benjamin Abalos, along with Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer and Rene Sarmiento, went to General Santos City to authenticate the 2007 election returns from various municipalities in Maguindanao province.
“Whoever used a fake election return and fake documents to win an election is also fake,” said Bedol, referring to Zubiri, who topped the administration candidates in the senatorial polling.
Raul Lambino, an Arroyo lawyer, dismissed Bedol’s claim as “pure hearsay.” He said Bedol never talked to Arroyo. Lambino also questioned the timing of Bedol’s appearance, pointing to Mr. Aquino’s sliding popularity rating. “Why now,” Lambino asked.
There really was cheating
Earlier Wednesday, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said he was not surprised by Zaldy’s claims.
“There really was cheating in 2007. We were aware of that because I was the lead counsel of the Genuine Opposition ticket. We know about cheating long ago,” Brillantes said.
“It’s connected with the bigger problem of the Maguindanao massacre. He has his own personal problems about the massacre so he’s connecting this (election cheating claims) already.”
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Zaldy’s disclosures on election rigging would not affect his prosecution as one of the masterminds of the massacre.
Zaldy, his father and brother Andal Jr. are facing multiple murder charges in the massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao in 2009. Zaldy has offered to turn state witness against his father and brother Andal Jr. in what a private prosecutor said was an attempt to muddle the case and allow him to plead to a lesser offense.
“Very categorically, no,” Lacierda said, pointing out that the case is on trial and proceedings are under the control of the judge.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has turned down Zaldy’s offer to turn state witness in the massacre trial.
Brillantes said the Comelec was trying to get a copy of Ampatuan’s affidavit so it would know the persons being implicated in the vote-shaving and vote-padding operations in the ARMM.
If Ampatuan’s claim that he and his father were paid by the Arroyo couple to undertake the cheating operations and this is supported by evidence, Brillantes said the former President and her husband may be held liable for election sabotage, penalized by life imprisonment.
“We will have to see the documents, not just statements. There should also be witnesses.”
Brillantes said that Ampatuan’s disclosure would also have a bearing on the election protest filed against Zubiri, the 12th placer, by lawyer Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, the 13th placer.
The Comelec chairman said the results of the senatorial race would always be in doubt because Bedol had so far failed to produce the original election documents in his custody.
Brillantes said he would be glad if Zaldy made good his promise that Bedol would be persuaded to testify.
“He will be the guy who best knows what happened in Maguindanao. He is aware of the details. In fact, he is the most critical person here involved because he has the documents, the election returns,” the Comelec chairman said.
Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr., the chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, said that Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares and Teddy Casiño had filed a resolution calling Zaldy to appear before a hearing on irregularities in the past two elections.—With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Norman Bordadora, Leila B. Salaverria and Cynthia D. Balana in Manila; and Germelina A. Lacorte and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao
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