Press Release
January 31, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said he shares the apprehensions of the citizens that no honest-to-goodness cleanup of the electoral system is possible unless the top officials of the Commission on Elections, led by Chairman Benjamin Abalos, resign or are removed from office by impeachment.

Pimentel castigated Abalos and other Comelec commissioners for being insensitive to the overwhelming sentiment of the Filipino people for their mass resignation after they bungled the P1.3 billion poll automation program and failed to prevent the massive fraud that marred the 2004 presidential election.

He expressed frustration over the dogged determination of Abalos and company to cling to their posts despite the unequivocal position taken by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines that they should quit if only to restore the credibility and public trust in the Comelec and to pave the way for reforms and modernization of the voting process.

Instead of thinking only of their personal interest, Chairman Abalos and his fellow election commissioners should think of the greater interest of the Filipino nation. They should realize that they do not enjoy any semblance of trust of the people. And without public trust, they have no moral right to stay in office and to supervise our electoral exercises, Pimentel said.

The minority leader urged the top Comelec officials to examine their conscience on whether they deserve to keep their posts or not, especially in the light of the CBCPs strongly-worded pastoral statement on the electoral process.

The Commission on Elections has to be transformed into a competent and reliable body beyond reproach, the CBCP said. The call for resignation or even prosecution of a number of the commissioners should not be lightly brushed aside.

He also cited the findings of a Social Weather Stations survey in mid-2005 which showed that the Comelec had a negative 27 trust rating among the people.

Prior to the release of the CBCPs pastoral letter, the Senate had also demanded that all Comelec commissioners (except Romeo Brawner who was appointed only last year) should resign and take responsibility for the poll bodys anomalous contract for the purchase of 1,961 automated vote counting machines in 2004 which was voided by the Supreme Court.

Pimentel also assailed the deafening silence of Malacañang on the snowballing public clamor for the mass resignation of Abalos and company and for replacing them with men of unquestioned integrity, probity and competence.

Instead, the Palace bared that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo intends to appoint three members of the Comelec. They will replace former Commissioner Manuel Barcelona who stepped down in June, 2005 after he was not reappointed and outgoing Commissioners Mehol Sadain and Rufino Javier who will compulsorily retire on Feb. 2.

Pimentel said Malacañang , if it is really serious and sincere with its promise to reform the rotten electoral system, should have exerted its authority and moral suasion to compel the discredited Comelec officials to quit.

Why are President Arroyo and her political allies indifferent to the call for the resignation of Chairman Abalos and his fellow poll commissioners? Unless they discard their protective attitude towards Abalos and company, this would only bolster the lingering suspicion that they conspired with each other in manipulating the results of the 2004 presidential election, the lone senator from Mindanao said.

Moreover, Pimentel said this has also fueled fears that the administration plans to rig the planned national plebiscite on Charter amendments next year, not to mention the coming elections, with the collusion of the same untrustworthy Comelec officials.

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