Press Release
December 19, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos to voluntarily step down and heed the overwhelming public clamor for a cleanup and revamp of the Comelec leadership.

He also reiterated his long-standing suggestion for the appointment of a Comelec member from nominees of the political opposition similar to what the late President Ferdinand Marcos did before the Batasang Pambansa polls in 1984.

Pimentel warned Malacañang and the Comelec not to ignore the peoples demand to restore the credibility and integrity of the poll body that were severely eroded by the Hello Garci and MegaPacific automation scandals.

The crisis of confidence that continues to hound the Comelec threatens to prevent the poll body from fulfilling its constitutional duty to conduct honest and orderly congressional and local elections on May 14, 2007, he said.

The minority leader noted that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has lent its powerful voice in calling for an honest-to-goodness revamp of the Comelec in realization of the gravity of the credibility problem besetting the poll body.

In my honest opinion, it would be for the best interest of the country if Chairman Abalos will retire and face the cases against him, he said.

Pimentel criticized Abalos for his insensitivity to the persistent calls for his resignation which began to build up following the fraud-ridden presidential election of May, 2004.

He also recalled that the Senate blue ribbon committee has recommended the resignation of Chairman Abalos and other Comelec commissioners following its completion of the investigation into the P1.3 billion election automation contract with the MegaPacific which was voided by the Supreme Court for glaring anomalies and legal infirmities.

Pimentel said Comelec commissioners Romeo Brawner, Rene Sarmiento and Nicodemo Ferrer who were all appointed after 2004 need not be covered by the proposed revamp since they have not figured in any cases of wrongdoing.

Noting that there is one more vacant slot in the seven-man Comelec, Pimentel said this should be filled up from nominees of the opposition.

He said the presence of an opposition nominee in the Comelec who should be non-partisan after his appointment is intended to allay the apprehensions of the people that massive dagdag-bawas (vote padding and shaving) that tainted the 2004 polls may be repeated in future elections.

May be the people will believe that the government is serious in cleaning up the electoral process if President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will grant the oppositions suggestion to fill up the remaining vacant slot in the Comelec from its nominees, Pimentel said.

He also emphasized the importance of restoring public trust in the Comelec to prepare for a national referendum or plebiscite on constitutional reforms that may be conducted in the near future.

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