Monday, December 7, 2009

Comelec wants Maguindanao ballot boxes

December 08, 2009 03:30:00
Jerome Aning Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Original Story:

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Monday said security forces should “immediately turn over” to the poll body the ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia that were reportedly confiscated during their search of the houses of the Ampatuan family in Maguindanao province.

Comelec Chair Jose Melo, however, refused to comment on whether the election materials had something to do with the claims of fraud in the 2004 and 2007 polls.

“If that’s true, they should be turned over to us so we can ascertain the matter. Maybe they contain nothing,” he told reporters.

Although the terms of the candidates who won in 2004 and 2007 are nearly over, Melo said the poll body would welcome any statement from the Ampatuans or any other party pertaining to fraud allegations in Maguindanao during the last two elections.

Asked if such statements would lead to the revival of electoral sabotage cases against former Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol and others accused of involvement in the fraud, Melo replied: The commission “will cross the bridge when the time comes.”

No to no-el

Meanwhile, Melo also ruled out a “no-election” (no-el) scenario in Maguindanao although it has been placed under martial law by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Martial law does not entail the postponement of elections. Whatever it is, there shouldn’t be no-el. [That would be] the end of democracy. We will not allow it,” he said.

“The worst possible scenario is the failure of elections in Maguindanao—if the people there would be afraid to vote and there would be strife,” Melo said.

Critics of the Arroyo administration have expressed fears that the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao could lead to the cancellation of the elections there next year.

A group of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), meanwhile, on Monday asked the Senate to convene its electoral tribunal and investigate the poll paraphernalia allegedly recovered from the property of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. in Maguindanao.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante regional director for the Middle East, said it was possible the recovered documents could shed light on any cheating that may have been committed by the Ampatuans to ensure the election victory of Ms Arroyo in 2004, and of the administration senatorial candidates in 2007.

Senate tribunal

Earlier reports said burned copies of voter registration forms and voter identification cards were unearthed in a property of Ampatuan Sr. over the weekend.

“We are... calling [on] the Senate to convene the electoral tribunal to look deeply and investigate the election paraphernalia discovered from the Ampatuans,” Monterona said in a statement.

The Ampatuans were considered close political allies of the President until the massacre of at least 57 persons in Ampatuan town on Nov. 23.

The carnage is being blamed on the family and has caused its expulsion from the ruling Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats party.

At the same time, Migrante has joined calls for the Ampatuans to “tell all and bare” their participation in, and knowledge of, instances of poll cheating committed by the Arroyo administration.

Original Story:

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