Former poll official to disclose irregularities before Comelec

Posted on July 19, 2011

A FORMER provincial poll official who has gone into hiding over allegations of fraud in two elections will be presented today before a session of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to shed light on the controversy, an official said yesterday.

Former election supervisor Lintang Bedol of Maguindanao has resurfaced after years of hiding and implicated several politicians, including former president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd district), in alleged election irregularities in 2004 and 2007.

“He was supposed to appear [yesterday] but the person holding him in custody has told me that he will arrive tomorrow at eight o’clock. I will talk to him first before he is presented to the embank meeting at 10 o’clock,” Comelec Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes Jr. told reporters in an interview.

On June 15, Comelec issued an arrest order for Bedol, but Mr. Brillantes only said he was under the custody of a government official.

“At this point we were unable to assess the level of investigation that we needed to launch regarding his allegations. With his presence, we may be able to determine it now or if we should even have one in the first place,” Mr. Brillantes said.

He said the Comelec has yet to determine the veracity of Bedol’s statements as these were only disclosed to media.

Bedol’s name was recorded in a tapped phone conversation between Mrs. Arroyo and an election official, wherein the former president inquired about her defeat in a certain locality.

The so-called Hello Garci scandal allegedly resulted in the manipulation of votes to ensure a victory for Mrs. Arroyo in the 2004 presidential elections over her closest rival, the late actor Fernando K. Poe, Jr.

Also implicated by Bedol was former Comelec chairman Benjamin S. Abalos, Jr., particularly on vote padding and shaving activities in Maguindanao, a province in Mindanao notorious for poll cheating, to favor the Arroyo administration’s senatorial bets in the 2007 midterm elections.

Mr. Abalos, who is facing another graft case involving a botched broadband deal during the previous administration, has denied the allegation.

Maguindanao was the stronghold of the Ampatuan family, former political allies of Mrs. Arroyo, who was abandoned by the former president and her party after the clan was directly tagged as mastermind of the country’s worst election-related violence in November 2009.

The so-called Maguindanao massacre resulted in the death of 57 individuals, including 32 media workers, who were en route to file the certificate of candidacy of then Buluan vice-mayor Esmael “Toto” G. Mangudadatu for governor. Mr. Mangudadatu won the elections. -- JMJV