Teacher details poll cheating in province

21 05 2007

By Cathy C. Yamsuan
Last updated 02:05am (Mla time) 05/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines — It happened in the dead of night, hours before the polling precincts opened.

With armed guards supposedly watching over them, they were forced to fill blank ballots with the names of Team Unity senatorial candidates, starting with Luis “Chavit” Singson and Prospero Pichay.

Students and other children loitering in the school premises were purportedly even asked to mark the ballots with their thumbprints and sign their names on the voters’ list.

This was how the “election” took place at least in some areas of Maguindanao — at least based on the account of a female public school teacher in the province.

The anonymous teacher talked to Lente, the legal arm of the watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Lente convenor Carlos Medina said at a press conference Sunday.

Hand in hand with the teacher’s allegation, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) accused Commission on Elections (Comelec) officers in Maguindanao of withholding copies of provincial election returns from Namfrel volunteers.

Namfrel secretary general Eric Alvia said the delay in the turnover of the ERs rendered suspect the authenticity of whatever documents would be given Namfrel in the future.

Namfrel chair Edward Go said Maguindanao’s 336,000 votes were enough to influence the outcome of the 11th and 12th places in the senatorial race.

Go said that instead of votes being tallied in precincts, all ballot boxes were hauled to the provincial capitol where the votes were counted. But no Namfrel volunteer was allowed to witness this.

Namfrel’s Maguindanao chair Fr. Eduardo Tanudtanud, OMI, said: “Our volunteers were told that municipal election officers issued a verbal order to withhold the release of all copies of the ERs, including Namfrel’s sixth copy.”

“In view of what we perceive as the systematic withholding of the ERs to Namfrel that casts doubt on the integrity of the sixth copy of the election returns, we will…not include the Maguindanao results in our quick count,” Tanudtanud said.

Following the teacher’s allegations, Lente urged the Comelec to send a Manila-based team to Maguindanao to investigate her charges.

Medina said the teacher had suggested that the Comelec open all the ballot boxes in Maguindanao to see the fraud for itself.

The teacher’s allegation followed reports that candidates of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were posting 12-0 scores in the senatorial race in Maguindanao, which is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Maguindanao was one of the ARMM provinces mentioned in the “Hello Garci” tapes where cheating allegedly occurred in 2004 to help Ms Arroyo win the presidential election.

The 12-0 vote TU has been getting in Maguindanao flies in the face of voting results in many other areas of the country where the Genuine Opposition candidates were registering winning tallies of 8-2-2 or 7-3-2.

While Lente remains in touch with the teacher, Medina refused to identify her.

“I cannot reveal her identity. Her safety relies on the fact that she is not known and so are her whereabouts,” Medina told reporters.

“She fears that if she is known, her entire family will be put in danger, even her relatives will be affected.”

“But what was evident in our conversation was her sense of frustration over the whole thing,” the lawyer said.

It also happened in 2004

Medina said the teacher complained this was not the first time she and her colleagues were forced to fill ballots at gunpoint.

The teacher also alleged she and the others were ordered to fill up blank ballots in the 2004 elections.

According to Medina, the teacher said she only followed orders from a superior.

“She is scared to name the governor (Natatakot niyang sabihin ang pangalan ng gobernador),” Medina said.

But the teacher was more open in discussing the specific instructions given to them.

“They had a list, first on it was Singson, second was Pichay, and so on,” Medina said in Filipino. “The instructions to them were to write these names down on the ballots.”

He also quoted the teacher as saying: “Ganito na lang ba tuwing eleksyon? Kailan ito matatapos? (Is this how it will always be during elections? When will it ever end?)”

The teacher initially sought the help of radio station dzRH, which in turn referred her to Lente — the Legal Network for Truthful Elections.

Medina said the teacher refused to execute an affidavit, give interviews or sign any document that would establish her identity.

“Time is of the essence here,” Medina said, referring to the need for the Comelec to act urgently. “If those boxes are not opened, the contents might be changed even as we speak.”

Pichay’s lawyer, Mildred Duero-Romero, dismissed the teacher’s story.

“The teacher’s accusations are unfair. Only once these are verified will we answer her. What she said was not under oath and any Tom, Dick and Harry can issue a statement like that,” Duero-Romero said in a telephone interview.

Pichay’s bailiwick

“Butch Pichay is expected to rank high in Mindanao as he comes from said region and it is his bailiwick,” she later said in a text message.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net, also sought comments from Singson and TU spokesperson Ben Evardone, but text messages to them drew no replies.

Maguindanao officials have defended the 12-0 scores for TU candidates, saying they were not part of any vote manipulation but were in line with the local culture of reaching a consensus on matters of public concern.

Medina said the teacher “and the other teachers stayed up all night, staying inside a classroom in a still unknown public school somewhere in Maguindanao until 3 p.m. of Monday, May 14.”

“She did not sleep nor was she paid. She stayed up all night along with the board of election inspectors (BEI) filling up ballots.”

No use for indelible ink

The teacher’s claims seemed consistent with those of some local officials who said no elections took place in the province.

“The teacher said that on May 14 at 3 p.m., all precincts closed and no actual voting took place, although the teachers were all inside the precincts. The indelible ink supplied by Comelec Manila was not used at all,” Medina said.

He said other teachers had indicated interest in supporting the statement of the female witness as long as they remained unidentified and their safety was assured.

Should the Comelec continue to demand documentary evidence, the fraud committed would again go unpunished, Medina said.

“We request the Comelec to send an investigation team and talk to the common folk, look for indelible ink on their fingers because the teacher said the ink was not used,” he said.

Challenge to Abalos

To Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos’ challenge that proof must be shown that fraud was committed, Medina said: “Forego the required affidavits and witnesses. On its own, the (commission) should inspect and find out and interview people.”

One of the GO candidates fighting to stay in the Magic 12, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, and his lawyers will file an election protest with the Comelec no Monday to denounce delays in the canvassing in some polling centers in Mindanao, specifically in Maguindanao.

This was disclosed Sunday by Pimentel’s father, Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., who estimated that the election protest could affect some half million votes in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Shariff Kabunsuan.

Such a block of votes could hold up the proclamation of senators fighting for the last four to five slots, he said.

Pimentel said the reason for the delay of the canvassing was obvious — operators of “dagdag-bawas” (vote-padding and -shaving) were waiting until all the votes in other areas had been counted so they would know how many votes to produce, using rigged tallies. With reports Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Maan Festejo and Kathleen Olarte

Source: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view_article.php?article_id=67079



18 05 2007

SULU — A volunteer lawyer of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) has reported massive election fraud and violence in Jolo, Indanan, and other municipalities in Sulu.

“On election day, I visited a cluster of precincts in Barangay Pasil in Indanan, and was taken aback by the massive cheating in the area.  Earlier that day, a voter had been shot dead by a policeman who refused the voter entry to the precinct,” Attorney Raissa Jajurie, LENTE’s sole lawyer in the island province, said.

According to her, many of the precincts were conducting business behind closed doors.  “There was a military guard right outside the door.  When I tried to get in, I was told by the guard that I could not come in even after I showed him my canvassing ID,” she said.

Jajurie said that she transferred to another building where she was able to enter one of the precincts.  I was shocked to see BEIs (board of election inspectors) writing on the ballots which had already been thumb marked.  They were writing the same list of candidates on each of the ballots.  A ballot box was even open (without a padlock), while ballots were being placed inside” the LENTE lawyer said.  She also pointed out that a man armed with a bolo stood guard near the BEI while cheating was taking place.

The lawyer said that she witnessed a similar incident in many other precincts.  “PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) was there, but there was so much fear that I could not blame the watchers if they did nothing,” Jajurie said.  She said that the son of the politician whose name was being written on the controversial ballots also was present in the vicinity.  “He was going around the school,” she added.

Jajurie reported that cheating took place in yet another school.  While the BEIs were not writing names of candidates on the ballots, they did not practice vote secrecy as they allowed unauthorized persons in the rooms.  “There were people ‘assisting’ the voters,” she said.

“What happened in Sulu is a blatant disrespect for the electoral process.  Our group of lawyers will discuss the legal actions which will be taken to address the situation,” LENTE Co-convener and Ateneo Human Rights Center Executive Director Atty. Carlos P. Medina, Jr., said. “We are calling on COMELEC to immediately investigate these incidents”.


17 05 2007

Reports of violence, threats, fraud and cheating flooded the hotline of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) on Day Two of the election canvassing process.

“We continue to monitor the canvassing of votes in the country’s 17 regions to ensure that irregularities and anomalies are reported and addressed immediately.  It is sad to note that accounts of cheating and violence mar the canvassing of tallied votes.  Now more than ever, we call for vigilance among the public,” LENTE Co-convener and Ateneo Human Rights Center Executive Director Atty. Carlos P. Medina, Jr., said.

On Day Two of the canvassing process, LENTE volunteers and citizen monitors reported the following:

·    LANAO DEL SUR — According to LENTE volunteer Attorney Nasser Marohomsalic, reports are going around that certain middle-level government officials are threatening to transfer Lanao del Sur-based Commission on Elections officials to Sulu if they do not ensure a 12-0 sweep for Team Unity in the area.  “We haven’t verified this because people are afraid to talk, but news of massive special operations that aim to tweak election results have been going around since day one of the canvassing process,” he said.

The LENTE lawyer urged citizen monitors to keep close watch over the sanctity of the ballot, and requested members of the press to publish the partial results in Lanao released by the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) to deter massive special operations to change the results.

Attorney Nasser also reported cases of violence among poll watchers of competing parties.

·    OCCIDENTAL MINDORO — LENTE lawyer Attorney Margarita Tamunda reported a case of ballot switching in Precinct 3-A, District 2, in Mamburao Central School.  She said that poll watchers in the precinct caught Board of Election Inspector Supervisor Jun de Jesus sneaking an envelope into the polling area on election day.  Witnesses said that de Jesus was using ballots from the envelopes which he hid in his drawer.  The watchers urged de Jesus to open the envelope, but he refused.

Atty. Tamunda said that a search warrant was then issued, forcing de Jesus to open the envelope.  COMELEC representatives found 100 ballots in the envelope.  “Fifty of the ballots were fake,” Atty. Tamunda said.  The COMELEC is expected to take legal action in the case.

·    NEGROS OCCIDENTAL — In Kabankalan, a volunteer reported a discrepancy between the election returns and the certificate of canvass.  “There was an increase in votes in the COC, and the COCs do not have the statement of votes,” the report stated.

Election Update

17 05 2007

With the aid of its more than 10,000 lawyers, law students, paralegals and other trained volunteers, the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) is monitoring the canvassing process nationwide to deter fraud, violence, and other irregularities.

Apart From deploying volunteers on-site, the group also has set up a hotline to respond to a steady stream of phone calls on election canvassing anomalies.

On Day Two of the election canvassing process, LENTE gathered the following reports:

· DAVAO Attorney Israelito Torreon reported that two persons were killed in Malalag, and that there were alleged irregularities in Malita. He, however, said that election and canvassing are generally peaceful in some areas. Dagdag bawas is hindered because of the presence of many watchers in all canvassing areas. People are more vigilant now. Also, we have developed an effective system of delivery of election returns to canvassing centers,” he said.

· NABUNTURAN, COMPOSTELA VALLEY Violence has erupted in several areas during the canvassing. The canvass board chair in Nabunturan had to be replaced due to threats to his life. LENTE’s Attorney Nasser Marohomsalic reported that Nursaide Dapatuan, a PPCRV coordinator in Lanao del Sur, was mauled during the counting for Malabang town. He was advised to go to Cagayan de Oro or Iligan to seek the help of LENTE lawyers there, as he is being hunted down by partisan groups. Dapatuan is now in hiding.

· TUAO, CAGAYAN Noticing a discrepancy in quick count results and certificate of canvass, volunteer Manny Vicente reported a possible dagdag bawas threat in the area. A paralegal from the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) was deployed to Tugo. LENTE Region II Head Attorney Sarah Arriola also was assigned to look into the anomaly.

· BUKIDNON — Due to the delay in canvassing in Bukidnon, LENTE Region 10 Head Nikki Cruz asked LENTE lawyers to keep close watch in the area. A caller also reported a suspicious reshuffling of Commission on Election officers two weeks ago. The officers are allegedly close to Virgilio Garcillano, the former COMELEC commissioner who is running for Congress.

· ANGONO, RIZAL — A caller reported that people were not allowed to enter and witness the canvassing in a municipal hall. Moreover, there were reports of cheating. The caller requested that a LENTE lawyer be sent there.

· MASINLOC, ZAMBALES — Volunteers of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) are instructed to collect the fifth copy of municipal certificate of canvass supported by statement of votes (SOV) by precinct. A PPCRV volunteer reported that there were only four carbon copies of SOVs there. Attorney Luie Guia of LENTE advised that the SOVs could be photocopied, but only after the Board has used it.

Help LENTE guard the sanctity of the ballot.

To help monitor the canvassing process or to report canvassing irregularities, concerned citizens are encouraged to call LENTE Hotlines 0921-5355949 (Smart) and 0927-3037122 (Globe).

Enter: LENTE

16 05 2007

The canvassing of polls has begun and so has the work of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE). Its nationwide network of lawyers, paralegals and law students are now monitoring canvassing at the municipal and city levels. Other concerned citizens are also contacting the LENTE hotline numbers when anomalies are spotted. Below is a summary of issues that LENTE had tackled for Day 1 of the canvassing.

Election Officer Ruben Roluto refused to give the Election Returns (ER) to NAMFREL and the dominant majority and minority parties. According to Roluto, the ERs will be distributed at the municipal canvass instead. The LENTE volunteer assigned in that area informed Roluto of section 53 COMELEC Resolution 7815 on the right of the accredited citizens’ arm, dominant majority and minority parties to be furnished at the polling place copies of the ERs.

A concerned citizen called the LENTE hotline to report massive ballot switching in precinct number 03-A, Barangay 2, Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro. The LENTE secretariat connected the sender to LENTE lawyers assigned to the area to look into the matter.

A DepEd official reported that there was a COMELEC directive sent to all the BEIs in Ilocos stating that the tally should automatically be for two (2) votes
every time a particular candidate’s name is read . LENTE is looking into the matter and will take appropriate legal action.

A caller reported that Echiverri’s watchers have the PPCRV IDs with Echiverri’s name written on it instead of theirs. When the caller asked the teachers to confiscate the said ID and disqualify the watchers, the teachers refused. A LENTE lawyer is currently looking into the matter.

Barangay officials and Kagawads in the polling precinct at the Sacred Hearts parish in Dasmariňas, Cavite are loitering inside the precincts during the counting of the votes. The caller was advised by LENTE to report to the BEI of the respective precinct, and told to ask help from the police if necessary.

A concerned citizen reported that Election Returns were padlocked inside their respective ballot boxes. He/she asked if a case could be filed against the election officer concerned. The complaint was referred by LENTE to COMELEC National.

There was a report of double canvassing of election returns in San Joaquin. The LENTE volunteer was informed by the national secretariat to insist on the canvassing of ERs |in turns| as they are received by the Board of Canvassers.

A LENTE volunteer reported that the ER’s are being tampered with. The volunteer was advised to report the incident to COMELEC and to take note of the places where such incident occurred and, if possible, the persons involved. Afterwards, the sender further reported that three ballot boxes were directed to the incumbent mayor’s home before reaching the municipal hall.


16 05 2007

To prevent widespread and systematic fraud during the canvassing of tallied votes, the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) has deployed more than 10,000 lawyers, law students, paralegals and other trained volunteers nationwide to monitor the canvassing process.

“Monitoring the elections goes beyond May 14. Our work has just begun. Sadly, much of the cheating during elections occurs during the canvassing period. This is why LENTE and its partners, including those from the Commission on Human Rights, have spread out to cover all regions, provinces, cities and municipalities to ensure that the Certificates of Canvass will match the Election Returns,” LENTE Co-convenor and Ateneo Human Rights Center Executive Director Atty. Carlos P. Medina, Jr.,. said.

Jose Vicente Salazar, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, is also a LENTE co-convenor.

The lawyers’ group, members of which include the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA), the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), the Ateneo Law School Students Council, Bishop Businessmen’s Conference, are monitoring at municipal and city levels.

“Should there be irregularities, our lawyers are ready to immediately file a manifestation or protest based on the information gathered by the volunteers and citizen monitors,” Medina said.

LENTE volunteers have begun to give legal advice where there is confusion over canvassing procedures. In Tigboo, Zamboanga del Sur, for one, Election Officer Ruben Roluto refused to turn over Election Returns to NAMFREL and the dominant majority and minority parties. According to Roluto, Election Returns will be distributed at the municipal canvass. “The LENTE volunteer assigned in that area immediately informed Roluto of section 53 COMELEC Resolution 7815 which states that the Board of Election Inspectors shall deliver to the election officer copies of the election returns intended for the Commission on Elections and the Provincial Board of Canvassers,” Medina said.

Volunteers at the LENTE Secretariat also respond to calls for help over the hotlines. One caller reported massive ballot switching in precinct number 03-A. Barangay 2, in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro. The Secretariat connected the sender to LENTE lawyers assigned to the area to look into the anomaly.

The biggest difficulty hounding LENTE volunteer lawyers, Medina said, is that they have been denied entry, specifically in Caloocan, Cavite, and Pasig, by the Board of Canvassers. “Our volunteers carry PPCRV identification cards. According to a memorandum issued by COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos to all regional and provincial election officers, PPCRV identification cards must be honored,” LENTE Co-convenor Salazar said.

Many other irregularities, he said, already have been reported on election day, especially in the provinces. In Indanan, Sulu, witnesses have reported election inspectors filling up blank ballots, but poll watchers are apprehensive about objecting. In Lanao del Sur, a LENTE volunteer has described elections as a total failure after observing errors in the clustering of precincts, and disorganized election inspectors. Gunfire ensued to scare voters into picking partisan candidates.

“These and more incidents of violence and fraud, have fueled our group’s intention to guard the sanctity of the ballot,” Medina said. He also called for vigilance not only among volunteers, but also among the general public. Any interested party, even without accreditation may monitor the canvassing process, according to COMELEC rules.

To help monitor the canvassing process or to report canvassing irregularities, concerned citizens are encouraged to call LENTE Hotlines 0921-5355949 (Smart) and 0927-3037122 (Globe). 

LENTE ads in the press

15 05 2007