Lintang Bedol poll fraud case
Eight years after the controversial 2007 midterm elections, the trial of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Maguindanao Election Supervisor Lintang Bedol for allegedly rigging the senatorial vote is still going on, according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) lawyer Charlie Yap.
“The next hearing will be on Aug. 13. It will be the continuation of the presentation of prosecution witnesses,” Yap said.
Bedol has been detained in the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame since 2011.
Arroyo is detained at Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City on plunder charges.
Ampatuan, one of the principal accused in the Maguindanao massacre, died of liver cancer on July 17.
In November 2011, the Comelec and the Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Arroyo, Ampatuan and Bedol with sabotaging the 2007 senatorial election in Maguindanao province.
The accused allegedly conspired to ensure a 12-0 win for the Arroyo administration’s senatorial candidates.
After the balloting, Bedol appeared before the National Board of Canvassers and announced that the administration senatorial candidates had scored a 12-0 sweep in Maguindanao.
Four days later, Bedol told reporters that the municipal certificates of canvass (COCs) were stolen from the Comelec office at the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak. He said he was in Shariff Kabunsuan at the time.
Bedol claimed that 19 other senatorial candidates—seven of them from the opposition—got zero votes, as reflected in the provincial tally.
The Maguindanao results were crucial, as the tally would determine who won the 12th seat at stake in the Senate.
The administration Team Unity’s Miguel Zubiri later claimed the spot, beating the Genuine Opposition’s Aquilino Pimentel III.
It was not the first election controversy involving Bedol. He first figured in the 2005 “Hello Garci” scandal, where his name was mentioned in the supposed wiretapped conversations between Arroyo and then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano dealing with alleged attempts to rig the 2004 presidential election in favor of Arroyo.
An accounting graduate from the Philippine Harvardian College and a law graduate from Notre Dame University in Mindanao, Bedol ran a private law firm with former Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen before landing a job at the Comelec as provincial election supervisor of Sultan Kudarat province in 1996.
In June 2007, two days before the Comelec office in Manila was to hear allegations of electoral fraud, the Maguindanao schools district supervisor, Musa Dimasidsing, was shot dead. He was among those who helped expose alleged election irregularities in the province.
On Aug. 7, 2007, a Comelec resolution found Bedol guilty of indirect contempt. He was sentenced to six months in prison and fined P1,000.
Bedol spent only one night at the Comelec’s law department before he was released on a P15,000 bail.
A warrant for Bedol’s arrest was issued on Oct. 23, 2007. Seven days later, police tried to serve the warrant on him at his residence in Cotabato City, but he was not there.
The warrant was subsequently returned to the Comelec. In December 2009, the Supreme Court upheld the jail term meted out on Bedol.
In February 2010, the Comelec dismissed Bedol from the service.
Order to cheat
In July 2011, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan claimed that Arroyo and her husband ordered the manipulation of the 2007 senatorial election.
In an unsigned statement, he claimed that the Arroyos directed his father, Ampatuan Sr., to ensure that three opposition senators—Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo Lacson and Alan Peter Cayetano—would get “zero votes” in the province.
He said the votes for the three were credited to Zubiri.
Bedol, accused of orchestrating the cheating for the Arroyo administration, surrendered to authorities on July 15, 2011, after four years in hiding. It was also on that day the Comelec renewed the warrant for his arrest.
In an affidavit submitted to the Comelec, Bedol said he was indeed told by Ampatuan Sr. of Arroyo’s instruction to rig the vote in favor of administration candidates.
The Comelec and the DOJ conducted a joint inquiry into the alleged electoral fraud and sabotage during the 2004 and 2007 elections.
In October 2011, Bedol testified on the existence of a “syndicate” in the Comelec that sold documents vital to the investigation of past electoral fraud.
“Very correct, your honor,” Bedol said when asked by Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano about “syndicates in or outside the Comelec that sell election returns (ERs) and COCs.”
Warrants of arrest
On Nov. 18, 2011, the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 issued warrants for the arrest of Arroyo, Bedol and Ampatuan Sr. on charges of electoral sabotage.
In March 2012, Bedol pleaded not guilty.
On Jan. 24, 2013, Arroyo, Bedol and Ampatuan Sr. separately signed a pretrial order issued by the court.
The pretrial was set for Jan. 31, 2013.
In March this year, the Court of Appeals 9th Division upheld a lower court ruling granting bail to Arroyo, saying the evidence against her was insufficient.
In the case of Ampatuan Sr., the Comelec said a formal manifestation from his camp was expected in the next hearing. The submission is important in determining how to proceed after Ampatuan Sr.’s death, the Comelec said.