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Bedol bares existence of Comelec syndicate

Lintang Bedol. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Former Maguindanao Election Supervisor Lintang Bedol on Tuesday testified on the existence of a “syndicate” in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that sold documents vital to past cheating operations.

“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 certificates of canvass (CoCs).”

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Bedol, who came out of hiding in July, did not elaborate as senators focused on the testimonies of another election official, Ray Sumalipao, and Nagamura Moner, a former Shariah circuit court judge.

But Bedol provided the Senate blue ribbon and electoral reform committees a glimpse of how fraud was facilitated in the 2007 senatorial elections during his watch.

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In 2007, the Inquirer reported on a syndicate collecting between P100,000 and P5 million from party-list groups in exchange for accreditation or even outright victory in the elections that year.

Change or maintain

Bedol confirmed his previous account that he was ordered by then Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. not to count votes for then opposition senatorial candidates Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo Lacson and Cayetano.

“I got the information from the governor then. That was the instruction—to give zero [votes] to Senator Lacson, Senator Cayetano, and P-Noy (President Aquino’s political nickname),” he said, adding:

“If they [had] votes in any other municipality, [the instruction was] to change the vote. If there was [none], then maintain it.”

Asked by Cayetano who had given the order according to Ampatuan, Bedol said: “It was GMA (then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo).”

How Bedol carried out the order was relatively simple:

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“In at least two municipalities, I saw that two of the persons mentioned [had] votes. Actually, before the municipal [CoCs] entered the provincial board of canvassers, [votes had] already [been] erased. It [was] very manifest that [they were] erased… But there [were] documents attached thereto which [would] show [that] these people were also voted and because of that, I canvassed the same [as] zero, even though it was clear that [they were] erased.”

After the four-hour hearing, Bedol spoke very little with reporters who asked why he said very little during the inquiry.

“It’s not yet over… it depends on their questions,” he said.

No duplication

Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Aquilino Pimentel III conducted the joint hearing of their respective committees despite the ongoing inquiry into the same allegations by a joint committee of the Comelec and Department of Justice (DOJ).

But Pimentel said there would be no “duplication” because the Senate’s inquiry was in aid of legislation while the Comelec-DOJ probe would focus on the criminal aspect.

He said the Senate could also turn over some of its findings to the Comelec-DOJ committee.

Tueday’s Senate hearing also allowed Amer Hassan Doro, a former law student of Moner’s, to corroborate his account that they were involved in the distribution of cash to election officers in Mindanao in 2004.

Moner had earlier testified that the amounts were intended to ensure Arroyo’s victory over the late Fernando Poe Jr. in Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Cotabato City, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.

Doro said Moner had tapped him for the “operation” in Tawi-Tawi but that he was reluctant. He said he received P10,000 in cash to “offset” his transport expenses and lost salary.

“I was nervous. I was participating in this criminality,” he told senators.

Twin projects

In a revised affidavit, Bedol said then Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. had direct knowledge of and involvement in fraud to ensure the victory of administration senatorial candidates in 2007.

He said that on May 15, 2007, as the provincial canvassing was ongoing, Abalos phoned to ask about the “12-0” and “0 for 3” projects about which Malacañang had purportedly been inquiring.

“Let’s meet later and I’ll take care of you,” he quoted Abalos as saying.

Bedol said that prior to Abalos’ call, he was personally updating Governor Ampatuan on the projects—that “12-0” was being “properly implemented,” and “0 for 3” was not.

He said he was told that several municipal ERs were being “corrected.”

Bedol said he had earlier received “an envelope” from Ampatuan that was intended for the two other members of the provincial board. The governor purportedly said Bedol’s share would be given later.

The “12-0” project referred to the Arroyo administration’s alleged plan to secure the victory of its 12 senatorial candidates; “0 for 3” was supposedly meant to ensure zero votes for the opposition’s Cayetano, Lacson and Aquino.

Bedol said Ampatuan told him of the projects after the governor arrived from Manila weeks before the elections. He said Ampatuan later told him that it was Arroyo who gave the instruction for the cheating operations.

The official tally resulted in administration candidate Luis “Chavit” Singson topping the senatorial winners. With a report from Jerome Aning

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TAGS: Comelec, Lintang Bedol, Maguindanao, poll fraud
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