Press Release
February 1, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today challenged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Commission on Elections to immediately undertake doable and credible reform measures that will restore public confidence in the electoral process and prove their sincerity in preventing all forms of cheating and irregularities.

To start with, Pimentel said the President should heed the proposal to fill up the only vacant slot in the Comelec from nominees of the opposition.

Likewise, he dared Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos to relieve and punish regional and provincial supervisors and other election officials who were accused of involvement in dagdag-bawas operations in the 2004 presidential elections in Mindanao.

Pimentel issued the challenge after the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) rejected the Presidents proposal to hold a summit to ensure clean and orderly elections in May. The summit would be composed of representatives of the Comelec, the CBCP, poll watchdog organizations and the police.

The minority leader himself doubted the Presidents motive for calling the summit since her administration broke covenants with other stakeholders for honest elections in the past elections by resorting to fraudulent practices.

Without the participation of the CBCP, I think the election summit is a losing proposition and the Palace has no choice but to drop it altogether, Pimentel said.

Pimentel pressed hard for the appointment of an opposition nominee for the seventh and last slot in the Comelec after the public clamor for a revamp of the Comelec leadership was ignored by Malacañang and Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos.

Abalos, together with Elections Commissioners Resurreccion Borra and Florentino Tuason came under heavy pressure from many sectors to resign due to their mishandling of the 2004 presidential polls and their alleged involvement in the anomalous P1.3 billion election automation contract with MegaPacific.

Pimentel has presented the names of former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, former Immigration Commissioner Rufus Rodriguez, former Human Rights Commissioner Nasser Marahomsalic, lawyer Wendel Avisado of Davao City and Prof. Edna Batacan of the San Beda College of Law as opposition nominees to the Comelec.

The important thing in this recommendation is that the President should try to accommodate the opposition so that we have a person sitting right there in Comelec, he said.

Pimentel also expressed dismay that many election officials in Mindanao who were implicated in the massive cheating in the 2004 presidential election, as mentioned in the Hello Garci tapes have been promoted to higher posts instead of being investigated, prosecuted and punished.

In contrast to the kid-gloves treatment of the so-called Garci-boys, he bewailed that Chairman Abalos has been quick to go after Comelec people who have shown independence of mind.

For instance, he said Ferdinand Rafanan was removed as regional director of the National Capital Region and relegated to floating status for refusing to verify signatures gathered for peoples initiative to amend the Constitution in view of the Oct. 25, 2006 Supreme Court ruling that there was no valid enabling law to govern the process.

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