Press Release
April 17, 2010


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. today urged the Commission on Elections to advance the holding of the national and local elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to prevent fraud and violence that have historically marred such political exercises in that part of the country,

Pimentel said that the Comelec is mandated by law and the Constitution to conduct free, honest, clean and orderly elections.

"The Comelec has the power to move the date of elections when it is not possible to achieve such objective," he said

In his amicus curiae appearance before the Comelec, the opposition senator informed the poll body that he fully supports the petition of Ambassador Macabangkit Lanto and his brother, Atty. Benjamin Lanto, to reset the elections in the ARMM to a date earlier than May 10.

Preferably, he said the elections in the autonomous region should be held 7 to 10 days earlier.

He said the move is extremely necessary in view of the fact that "Elections in some provinces in the ARMM have always, repeat always, been marred by violence that frustrates the will of the people from emerging through the ballot," the veteran legislator from Mindanao said.

Pimentel was requested by the Comelec's first division, composed of Commissioners Rene Sarmiento (chairman), Nicodemo Ferrer and Gregorio Larrazabal (members), to be an amicus curiae to help in assessing the merits and legal basis for the proposal.

"Recent events show that there would be no credible, honest and peaceful elections in the ARMM, hence, the need for an extraordinary undertaking by the Commission to ensure that the people in the said area will not be prevented from expressing their will of threats or actual violence," he said.

Pimentel said recent incidents of violence in the autonomous region should forewarn the Comelec and other state agencies concerned about the need to undertake preventive measures to prevent the coming elections from turning awry.

He cited some glaring and recent examples: the massacre of 57 innocent civilians in Maguindanao at the beginning of the election period on Nov. 23, 2009, the bomb blasts in Sulu and Basilan that took away lives in the last several days.

Pimentel said even Commissioner Sarmiento had personally witnessed or had received verified reports of the outbreak of violence in many parts of the ARMM when he was the commissioner-in-charge of ARMM regional elections in 2007.

By advancing the ARMM elections, he said the Comelec and its deputized agencies, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police, will be able to mobilize their personnel and resources to supervise the polls and foil any attempt by any group to manipulate the polls.

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