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Lintang Bedol stirs suspicions

De Lima asks: Why come out only now?
By: - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ
/ 01:19 AM July 20, 2011

COMFORT ZONE Former Maguindanao Election Supervisor Lintang Bedol, in a bulletproof vest, waves during Tuesday’s news conference at the Commission on Elections headquarters. Beside him is Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

Wearing smoke glasses, a bulletproof vest over a red and white striped polo shirt, Lintang Bedol surfaced on Tuesday after four years in hiding, declaring to reporters: “Hello, kamusta kayo lahat (How are you all).”

The former election supervisor in Maguindanao then sat poker faced beside Sixto Brillantes Jr., chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), at its Intramuros headquarters in Manila, and clammed up.

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Bedol showed up at the Comelec at 9:30 a.m., spent an hour behind closed doors at an en banc session and 30 minutes in a news conference with Brillantes. He was then whisked away to serve a six-month jail term for ignoring summons to a poll hearing in 2007.

Brillantes said Bedol surrendered to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo on Friday, the same day the Comelec renewed a warrant for his arrest that had earlier expired.

The Comelec chief said Bedol had submitted an affidavit, three to four pages long, and accompanied by sworn statements from three municipal election officers in Maguindanao.

Brillantes declined to discuss details of Bedol’s affidavit, submitted in the Comelec’s en banc hearing, other than it was about irregularities in the conduct of the presidential election of 2004 and the senatorial balloting in 2007.

“Based on my initial look at it, (the affidavit) concentrated more on 2007, not on 2004. Very few on 2004, more on 2007,” said Brillantes, an opposition election lawyer during those two electoral exercises.

He also stressed that the five-year prescription period for the prosecution of election offenses in 2004 had already lapsed and that any new inquiry would focus on the 2007 shenanigans.

“We cannot touch on the results of the elections [of 2007] because it is covered by the SET (Senate Electoral Tribunal), which has exclusive jurisdiction. Our jurisdiction is election offenses. If there are statements made by Bedol which constitutes an election offense, then we shall determine whether there is a probable cause of action,” Brillantes explained.

Why now?

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday backtracked from her earlier position—and that of Malacañang’s—that Bedol could be a state witness in a possible election sabotage case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

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De Lima said questions on why Bedol only surfaced now were “very valid.”

“I also want to know that. That’s part of the investigation,” she said.

“It’s too premature to say that he could be used as state witness. We don’t know if he could qualify. It depends really on his participation in (election irregularities),” De Lima told reporters.

ABS-CBN on Wednesday broadcast an interview with Bedol in the back seat of a vehicle in which the wily poll official accused Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, of masterminding the rigging of the 2004 and 2007 elections.

Bedol’s blast against Arroyo followed similar accusations by Zaldy Ampatuan, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, aired earlier last week by three TV networks.

Zaldy tearfully suggested he would turn state witness and testify against his father, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and brother, former Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Jr. in their multiple murder trial in connection with the 2009 massacre of 58 people in their province. The three are under detention, along with 79 others accused.

Palace warned

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said in a news forum that Malacañang should be wary of accepting “hook, line and sinker,” the claims of Zaldy Ampatuan and Bedol.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said in the same forum: “I think their allegations are serious, but so far, these are just allegations and they are coming from people who are in a peculiar position. A lot of people have reservations about what they are claiming now.”

Brillantes said that he would send Comelec lawyers “every day or every other day” to the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police at Camp Crame, Bedol’s preferred detention facility, to discuss affidavits he had submitted after his surrender.

“We still have to talk to him further. After which we will discuss if there is a necessity to conduct a fact-finding or formal investigation. We will determine who will be invited, who are the people involved whom he had pointed at. We still have to get to the details of these,” Brillantes said.

Treated very well

Bedol’s lawyer, Roberto Ultado Jr., said his client was “treated very well” since his “voluntary surrender” to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Friday, the day Bedol obtained a copy of the warrant of arrest against him that was reissued by the Comelec.

Ultado said Bedol was supposed to be turned over to the Comelec on Monday but this was postponed because of security concerns. He refused to comment on Bedol’s whereabouts before his surrender, who hid him, why he surrendered to the DILG and what were the contents of the affidavit he submitted to the Comelec.

Bedol’s illegal possession of the election documents after the 2007 polling, his failure to attend hearings, his disrespect of the Comelec during media interviews, and his boasting of having high powered firearms, all contributed to his citation for indirect contempt and got him a six-month jail sentence.

Focus on documents

The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) on Tuesday said any inquiry should focus on documents in Bedol’s possession.

“What is important is we have to appreciate what documents he has because if we just rely on his stories, we already know that the elections in 2004 and 2007 were not clean and fair,” said Eric Alvia, Namfrel secretary general.

“Let’s not even look at their motivation. What’s important is that they expose documents to prove what they are saying,” Alvia told the Catholic Media Network.

Sen. Franklin Drilon said he was disappointed that the Comelec was more interested in arresting Bedol than “finding the truth” about election fraud.

“If he’s qualified as a state witness under the Witness Protection Program, he should be utilized as a state witness basically in the electoral fraud,” Drilon said.

Garci, Bedol’s mentor

Sen. Gregorio Honasan said any investigation of the charges aired by Bedol and Ampatuan should be undertaken by the Department of Justice “to reduce partisan political color.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he hoped that Bedol, Ampatuan and former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano of the “Hello Garci” controversy would collaborate to unravel the truth behind the “mockery of the country’s electoral process as institutionalized by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.”

“Garci would be the best witness on election fraud considering that he is the so-called mentor of Lintang Bedol and he knows the whole election fraud machinery from top to bottom,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño. With reports from Marlon Ramos, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., TJ Burgonio, Jocelyn R. Uy, Cynthia D. Balana and Niña Calleja

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TAGS: Comelec, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr., election irregularities, Hello Garci Scandal, Justice Sec. Leila de Lima, Lintang Bedol, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, State witness, Virgilio Garcillano, Zaldy Ampatuan
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