Press Release
July 2, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today proposed that the national elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) be held one week ahead of the national schedule.

Pimentel said this is the most practical way to prevent fraud operators from manipulating the elections in the ARMM that would spell the fate of candidates in the presidential and senatorial contests.

By holding the elections one week in advance, the opposition senator said the Commission on Elections will be able to mobilize the necessary resources and personnel in overseeing the polls in the ARMM and in foiling any cheating activities.

He said the intense monitoring of poll watch groups and concentration of media coverage on the elections in the autonomous region will help greatly in exposing and deterring "dagdag-bawas" (vote padding and shaving) operations of the fraud syndicates and unscrupulous Comelec officials.

"Its intolerable that almost every election in Muslim provinces like Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi Tawi has been marred by widespread fraud perpetrated by non-residents for which they are usually blamed. This has got to stop and one way to do this is by holding national elections in the ARMM at least one week ahead of the rest of the country," Pimentel said.

He assailed the Comelec, under Chairman Benjamin Abalos, for its dismal failure to put in place adequate safeguards in the ARMM to prevent the repetition of the massive fraud that tainted the 2004 presidential election.

In fact, Pimentel said the Comelec betrayed its insincerity in protecting the integrity of the electoral process by assigning people of dubious reputation to supervise the last elections in the ARMM.

For instance, he said Lintang Bedol was named election supervisor in Maguindanao and Rey Sumalipao as regional election supervisor in the ARMM despite their involvement in the 2004 electoral fraud, as evidenced by the "Hello Garci" tapes.

"Chairman Abalos ignored the opposition pleas to investigate the so-called Garci boys, ground them or at least reassign them to positions where they can not engage in any activity that is detrimental to our electoral process. But instead of punishing these notorious election officers, the Comelec promoted them to very sensitive positions," the senator from Mindanao said.

Pimentel also blasted certain abusive local political leaders in Mindanao for conniving with fraud operators and corrupt election officials in the outright fabrication of election documents, resulting in the bloating of the votes of administration senatorial candidates to statistically improbable levels.

He debunked the alleged capability of these local political chieftains to generate command votes as nothing more than a camouflage for manufacturing election results for which they seem to have acquired a considerable degree of expertise.

At the same time, Pimentel praised courageous and patriotic members of the Muslim community who risked their lives and limbs in resisting and eliminating cheating activities, especially as volunteers of poll watch and anti-poll fraud groups, without expecting any material reward.

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