Press Release
July 14, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said a proposal by Commission on Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento to reopen the inquiry into the 2004 'Hello Garci'? scandal ?may be a good thing but may also be a ploy to divert public attention from some Comelec officials? involvement in the faking of the COCs in Maguindanao.?

Pimentel said suggestions by Sarmiento and other elections commissioners to investigate the 2004 poll controversy involving former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and his team of special operators will not have any semblance of credibility in the face of allegations that the Comelec, under Chairman Benjamin Abalos, has whitewashed the systematic, province-wide cheating in Maguindanao.

He said Sarmiento's call for a probe of the 'Hello Garci' scandal would elicit public cynicism and derision considering that he gave up the chairmanship of Task Force Maguindanao which was assigned to look into the electoral fraud in the province, apparently succumbing to strong pressures from the powers-that-be.

"It would be foolhardy and hypocritical on the part of Comelec to now say it is willing to investigate the Hello Garci scandal ? obviously to appease the disenchanted Filipino citizenry -- when a current and more urgent task, that of unraveling the truth behind the Maguindanao electoral fiasco, is left hanging," the minority leader said.

Pimentel said the Abalos-led Comelec betrayed its character as Palace's surrogate by tabulating the senatorial votes in Maguindanao and by declaring certificates of canvass (COC) from 21 towns as ?authentic? despite overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence presented by the Genuine Opposition that these documents were fabricated to give Team Unity candidates a 12-0 victory in the province.

He said the single most glaring example of systematic and wholesale cheating in Maguindanao was the statistically improbable zero vote uniformly recorded for 19 non-administration candidates (mostly from GO) in the provincial COCs.

Official figures showed that TU senatorial bet Juan Miguel Zubiri obtained an unbelievable 99 percent of the total votes cast in Maguindanao in the senatorial contest.

The GO's claim that the provincial COC was manufactured was proven by direct evidence in the form of the results from Pagalungan town indicating the most GO candidates won in the town.

"The truth of the matter is that there are many circumstances which appeared isolated, but when put together, would constitute a web of circumstantial evidence to demonstrate irrefutable proof of wrongdoing and anomalies in Maguindanao," Pimentel said.

He said the circumstantial evidence includes:

  • Representatives of the National Movement for Free Elections, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, Legal Network for Truthful Elections and Genuine Opposition were prevented from witnessing the canvassing of votes and from securing copies of election returns from all municipalities.
  • The killing of school supervisor Musa Dimasidsing after he led public school teachers in exposing the massive cheating in the Maguindanao.
  • Banning of members of the media from covering the canvassing of votes.
  • The kid glove's treatment of Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol who was tagged as the alleged brains behind the election results in the province.
  • The mysterious disappearance of municipal COCs and other election documents for more than a month only to resurface later and declared ?authentic? by Comelec officials.
  • Although Task Force Maguindanao was supposed to get to the bottom of the electoral fraud in the province, it prevented lawyers of GO from questioning the chairman and of the members and boards of election inspectors from various towns who attended a hearing of the task force in General Santos City.

During the canvassing of the provincial COC from Maguindanao, the Comelec, acting as national board of canvassers prevented GO lawyers from questioning the election documents, to the point of threatening Atty. Laila de Lima with being forcibly taken out of the canvassing hall by security guards if she did not sit down.

"So, these things sum up to palpable proof, circumstantial evidence, put up together of Comelec's complicity and Abalos' bias in the handling of the issue of Maguindanao votes and the handling of controversies of this kind in many other places," Pimentel said.

"And so our call is for Abalos, if he cannot be fired he should have at least the decency to resign from his position."

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