Press Release
February 14, 2010


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. today urged the Commission on Elections to reconsider its decision to reject the application of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) as citizens' arm to watch over the conduct of the May 10 national and local elections.

Pimentel disagreed with the ground cited by Comelec for disqualifying Namfrel: the alleged partisanship of certain personalities in the movement, particularly Chairman Jose Cuisia, who is purportedly a supporter of Liberal Party presidential bet Benigno Aquino III.

"Namfrel is presumed to be non-partisan. But I think instead of disqualifying Namfrel, the Comelec should only disqualify certain officials of the organization who are showing partisanship and backing specific candidates," he said.

Pimentel said he believes that Namfrel should be allowed to perform its role as a public watchdog of the electoral process to help in the daunting tasks of preventing fraud and other malpractices.

He said the Comelec may be right in saying that there is no more need for the Operation Quick Count that Namfrel had undertaken in past elections because the coming polls will be fully automated.

However, he said there are many aspects of the elections that should be placed under constant public scrutiny through the Namfrel and other poll watch groups to ensure that the voting and counting processes are not tainted with irregularities and to uphold the integrity of the poll results.

Pimentel recalled that in the 2004 presidential elections, he had sought the disqualification of businessman Jose Concepcion, Jr. as Namfrel chairman because he was too identified as a supporter of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

However, he said he refrained from taking action against Namfrel itself because he did not think that Concepcion's partisanship warranted any move to withdraw Namfrel's accreditation.

"It would be unrealistic to prohibit officials of poll watch groups and Comelec citizens arm from supporting candidates but they should be discreet enough not to display such support in public," he said.

Pimentel expressed the belief that Namfrel can work hand in hand with the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, which is already accredited by Comelec, in watching over the coming elections.

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