Cheating and the Ampatuans
With former ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol “exposing” former president Gloria Arroyo’s involvement in the massive cheating that surrounded the 2004 and 2007 elections, former senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel and his son lawyer Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel have become more impassioned in their calls for Sen. Miguel “Migs” Zubiri to resign. One recalls that Koko was narrowly defeated in the May 14, 2007 senatorial elections by Migs.
It was in southern Mindanao, particularly in Maguindanao, where Koko lost heavily to Migs. Allegations of flagrant cheating and violence were hurled by the political opposition against allies of then president Gloria Arroyo, in particular, against the Ampatuan clan.
The provincial tally in Maguindanao in 2007 posted a clean sweep for the administration Team Unity (TU) ticket and the 12th slot was subsequently snagged by Zubiri, who was proclaimed winner by Comelec.
Koko challenged the proclamation by filing an electoral protest before the Senate Electoral Tribunal. A “case briefer” by the office of former senator Nene Pimentel said that Koko has produced documentary and testimonial evidence to show he was able to gather an “insurmountable” lead of some 257,000 votes over Migs Zubiri.
The disclosures of Zaldy Ampatuan affirmed by Lintang Bedol, if well-established, should lead us to the truth about the 2007 elections. This has certainly given Koko’s case a shot in the arm. Hopefully, a resolution of the case, now pending in the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the Supreme Court, will soon be pronounced.
Significantly, a prominent lawyer believes that Zaldy’s disclosures about poll irregularities followed by the surrender of Lintang Bedol are not about cleaning up the records of the fraud-ridden elections. Rather, this a scheme cooked up by the former ARMM governor so he can avoid detention in relation to the Maguindanao massacre case, according to lawyer Harry Roque.
Zaldy Ampatuan stands accused, along with his father, Andal Sr. and brother Andal Jr. in the murder of 57 people in November 2009, a terrible crime that up to now remains unsolved.
For Roque, Zaldy and Bedol are trying to induce the Department of Justice to strike a deal, that is, information on the massive electoral fraud in exchange for immunity from cases of electoral sabotage. The supposed quid pro quo will allow Zaldy to be admitted into the state’s Witness Protection Program and instead of being incarcerated for his alleged involvement in the Maguindanao massacre case, he will be placed under the custody of the Department of Justice.
Roque is afraid that such an arrangement will allow for Mr. Ampatuan leg room to maneuver and influence the court hearing the Maguindanao massacre case.
Such views gave rise to speculations that the administration is talking with Zaldy, an accusation which was promptly denied by Malacañang.
The pervading atmosphere is one of distrust and cynicism but I’m not convinced P-Noy was ever in the mood to talk with the Ampatuans for whatever purpose.
However, it will be good for everybody to reflect on the bloody backdrop of Zaldy’s search for legal relief: the 2004 and 2007 elections and the massacre of 57 people in 2009.
Still, it would not be accurate to say that nothing good will come out of talking with the likes of Zaldy and Bedol because in 2007, the country lost a civil servant who stood up against massive electoral cheating and coercion. One recalls that amid charges of poll rigging in Maguindanao, Bedol declared that he presided over peaceful and orderly elections.
However, a district schools supervisor of Pagalungan, Maguindanao named Musa Dimasidsing had the guts to belie Bedol’s assessment.
According to Dimasidsing, he saw massive cheating with his own eyes. Armed men filled out ballots with the names of TU candidates, or forced teachers to do it for them. Dimasidsing was later forced to sign a document to withdraw his statements but he refused. Days after, he was gunned down outside an Islamic school in Pikit, Cotabato by unidentified men. His case remains unsolved.
The DOJ and the Commission on Elections need only one test to check the credibility of Zaldy Ampatuan and Lintang Bedol vis-a-vis their disclosures on the massive electoral fraud of the 2004 and 2007 polls.
Let them spill the beans on who murdered Musa Dimasidsing.
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