Even with the results in and most of the winners proclaimed, the controversy surrounding the May 14 elections is far from over.

The recently concluded polls again demonstrate a pattern of massive, deeply-rooted, systematic fraud and violence rivalling those in previous elections. The onslaught of cheating, threats and intimidation, brutality and bloodshed, could have been worse had it not been for the efforts of a vigilant citizenry, the mass media and various poll watchdogs.


The latter have gathered vital documentary and testimonial evidence of vote-shaving, vote-padding, vote-buying, disenfranchisement and fabricated election documents, all of which constitute the crime now defined as electoral sabotage.


Most alarmingly, the worst examples of fraud, violence and disenfranchisement have pointed to administration candidates as the intended beneficiaries. What is arguably the single most glaring example of systematic and wholesale cheating is the result of the elections in Maguindanao wherein a statistically improbable “0” vote count was recorded for non-administration senatorial candidates amidst serious allegations of disenfranchisement and fabrication of election documents.


It is inevitable that the tainted results of the May 2007 elections have revived the issue of the sham elections of 2004. The personalities questioned in the alleged fraud of 2004 are the same as those  implicated in the charges of cheating today. These issues will continue to hound President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo until a just and credible resolution is reached.


Meanwhile, we as a people cannot simply “move on” and close over this dirty chapter in our nation’s history…not when the issues of fraud then as now remain unresolved. There can be no “moving on” when there is no accountability. There can be no serious electoral reforms, so long as cheats are allowed the use of government positions with which to evade the reach of justice.


The current and former top officials of the Comelec, especially those who have already been implicated in the controversial Garcillano scandal, must be made accountable for the tainted outcome of the 2007 elections. A case in point is Comelec’s inaction over erring Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol and his conspirators over the past three years. Its kid gloves treatment of Bedol today, despite dramatic sound bytes from several Commissioners, demonstrates both the Comelec’s inutility and its culpability in this year’s scandalously fraudulent, anomalous and violence-ridden polls.


For starters, an impartial and thoroughgoing investigation must be initiated in the Senate, if legislated electoral reforms are to have any substance and meaning. The end goal must be to charge the sponsors and “operators” of election cheating, then and now.


Accountability of election officials: The electorate deserves it, we demand it. 


Election watchdog Kontra Daya, warned that the Maguindanao case will haunt the Arroyo administration in the same way the ‘Hello Garci’ scandal marred the legitimacy of the Arroyo presidency.


Fr. Joe Dizon, Kontra Daya spokesperson said. “There is no doubt that the Maguindanao elections and the entire elections in Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have been rigged to deliver votes for administration senatorial candidates. Miguel Zubiri, if proclaimed, will be regarded as a fake senator, someone who usurped the 12th seat in the Senate.”


Dizon recounted the many gross anomalies hounding the Maguindanao polls. “Gov. Andal Ampatuan, a known Arroyo ally, boasted on national television that he would give P1 million to each mayor who would deliver 12-0 victory for Team Unity.  Several teachers who witnessesd systematic fraud came forward; one of them, Musa Dimasidsing, was gunned down while the others are in hiding sans any protection from the Comelec. The Abalos Comelec stopped the initial canvassing of the Maguindanao votes based on the provincial certificate of canvass (CoC) because it considered zero votes for 19 non-TU candidates a  statistical impossibility. It considered declaring a failure of elections in Maguindanao after Atty. Lintang Bedol admitted to “losing” the Comelec’s copy of the municipal CoCs.  However, faced with the objections of already proclaimed local officials, including Gov. Ampuan, Abalos went on a fishing expedition in Maguindanao for supporting documents.  Comelec authorized the special provincial canvassing of the second copy of the municipal CoCs, the copy that is posted for public viewing for two days unguarded, that it gathered a month after election day.  The Abalos Comelec thus legitimized the highly questionable TU win of 12-0 originally reported by Atty. Bedol.  It flip-flopped on its position regarding the integrity of the canvassing of the Magunidanao votes in order to deliver to Mrs. Arroyo’s candidate, Mr. Zubiri, his fake victory. Meanwhile Comelec has been dragging its feet in collaring Atty. Bedol despite loud noises from Commissioners Abalos and Ferrer that they would nail him.”


Ret. Col. Gerry Cunanan, KontraDaya convenor, said that no less than Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must be held liable for the electoral fiasco in Maguindanao and the ARMM. “Mrs. Arroyo vowed to leave as her legacy a clean and honest electoral process that would result in unquestioned results. Since the 2004 ‘Hello Garci’ scandal to the shameless rigging of the votes in Maguindanao, Mrs. Arroyo has proven she is not interested in any serious electoral reform.  How can she when she is in cahoots with Abalos in ‘dagdag-bawas’ and other forms of cheating and her administration is the direct beneficiary of the fraudulent elections, then and now.”


Antonio Tinio, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) chair and KontraDaya convenor said, “Malacañang is in a state of denial that the victory of opposition senators and of progressive party-list groups in the May elections is a clear repudiation of the Arroyo administration. Humihirit pa. Arroyo wants a Zubiri win and Abalos is doing everything, no matter how patently illegal to do her bidding.”


Dizon also called on the incoming Opposition senators to initiate a thorough investigation into the rampant irregularities and massive fraud in the 2007 elections. “Without pinpointing responsibility and going after the guilty parties including Abalos, legislated reforms in the electoral system, including automation, will be meaningless. We will have a repeat of the cheating and violence that characterized the 2004 and 2007 polls.”


Dizon said that Abalos is accountable for his failure to relieve election officials like Lintang Bedol, Rey Sumalipao, Renault Macarambon and Jubiel Surmieda, all assigned to the ARMM and closely identified with former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano of the “Hello Garci” fame. “Bedol should be put behind bars; at the minimum, all of them must be administratively charged,” asserted Dizon.


Dizon also called on the accredited citizens’ groups, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and National Movement for Free Elections, to file appropriate charges against erring Comelec officials. He said that they are in the right position to file cases against Maguindanao election officials since they were able to witness, first-hand, election irregularities including being denied entry to canvassing areas and being denied their copies of election returns.  Dizon said, “There has been no closure in the 2004 ‘Hello Garci’ scandal. There can be no closure in the 2007 electoral fraud unless the cheaters, starting with those in the Comelec, are made to account for their crimes. Their patron, Gloria Arroyo, will find that the election fraud in 2004 and 2007 won’t easily be forgotten and will further weigh down her lameduck administration.”###



Election watchdog Kontra Daya ambasted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for canvassing the “highly-tainted” votes from the province despite contentions from the opposition and election watchdogs.  It also said in a statement that it eagerly awaits the arrest of Lintang Bedol, the head of Maguindanao provincial board of canvassers.

Fr. Joe Dizon, Kontra Daya spokesperson, said, “Why not give to the Philippine National Police (PNP) the arrest warrant on Bedol? This bolsters our suspicion that the arrest order [on Bedol] is just for a show, an attempt to assuage the public’s rage over the massive fraud in Maguindanao. The Comelec is only playing stiff to get back its lost credibility and to favor Team Unity’s Miguel Zubiri in a rather ‘discreet’ manner. Well, the Comelec cannot fool us.”

Dizon said, “The Comelec’s insistence in canvassing votes from Maguindanao is contrary to its strong warning against Bedol. Why did it give credit to election documents authenticated by Bedol’s men? Why did they count votes that are obviously manufactured by Bedol?”

Dizon asserted that it is Chairman Benjamin Abalos’ complicity that stiffened Bedol’s spine. “Bedol is acting like a spoiled brat because Abalos refused to relieve him after ‘Hello Garci’ scandal broke out.”

Dizon said that other conspirators within the Comelec must be held liable, including Abalos, Rey Sumalipao, Renault Macarambon, Jubiel Surmieda. “They must be dismissed, too.”

Sumalipao, Macarambon and Surmieda are election officials assigned in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where irregularities took place. Like Bedol, the three are closely associated with former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Dizon criticized the Comelec for running ahead and possibly preempting the Supreme Court’s decision as it finished the canvassing of votes before the SC’s oral arguments.  “How then could the SC decide on Pimentel’s petition for temporary restraining order if the Comelec special PBoC already finished canvassing?”

Dizon warned the Comelec against officially proclaiming Zubiri as the 12th winner in the senatorial race before the decision of the high court comes out. “The Comelec says the National Board of Canvassers’ (NBC) counting is only ministerial.  If they go on with the proclamation, the Maguindanao case could again blow the lid on the disgusting machinations ang maneuverings of the administration-controlled Comelec. It could also reopen the can of worms, i.e. the ‘Garci tapes’ controversy.”

Dizon said, “The ensuing political fall-out will haunt not only Abalos, Comelec and Zubiri but the Arroyo government as well. Our people will see to it that this vulgar cheating will be politically costly for the Arroyo government.” #

Election watchdog Kontra Daya hit the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for counting the highly-tainted votes from Maguindanao. Kontra Daya joined other groups in a motorcade, June 26.

Fr. Joe Dizon, Kontra Daya spokesperson, castigated Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos for “his shameless efforts” to put Team Unity’s Miguel Zubiri on the 12th slot.

Dizon said, “It is so obvious that the Comelec made a hocus-pocus in Maguindanao. Abalos, Lintang Bedol and other Comelec officials have no credibility at all to claim that what they have now are authentic election documents.”

Abalos said that the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBoC) will be the one to authenticate the election documents. Dizon asked, “Who are they fooling here? The PBoC is composed of Bedol’s men.”

Kontra Daya urged the Comelec to set aside votes from Maguindanao and to declare Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III as senator.

Furthermore, Dizon questioned the logic behind the counting of votes in Maguindanao. “How can the witnesses of fraud testify against Bedol’s men? Their lives are already at risk. For them, going to Maguindanao is like committing suicide.”

Dizon also slammed Comelec for denying logical demands put forward by opposition lawyers.

Dizon said, “We were right on saying from the start that the cheating machinery of the Arroyo administration in 2004 has never been dismantled. In fact, the same cast of characters in 2004, led by Abalos, figured in this year’s tainted elections. Their patron, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is all the more culpable.”

Dizon asserted, “Arroyo did everything to hide the glaring truth in the Hello Garci scandal. She and Virgilio Garcillano have not paid for their crime of subverting the will of the people. The other Garci boys remain unscathed and managed to rig the recent polls.”

Dizon mentioned election officers assigned in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) such Bedol, Rey Sumalipao, Jubiel Surmieda and Renault Macarambon.

Kontra Daya asked the Philippine Senate to investigate the unresolved “Hello Garci” scandal and the massive fraud in the recent mid-term elections. “Electoral reforms will prove futile unless an honest-to-goodness investigation on the Hello Garci tapes would have been conducted,” Dizon said. #

Election watchdog Kontra Daya said Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Benjamin Abalos is an accomplice to the massive fraud in Maguindanao.

Fr. Joe Dizon, Kontra Daya spokesperson, said, “Abalos does not confront head on the accusations of massive fraud in Maguindanao. Instead, he obscures the situation to give leeway for machinations in favor of administration candidate Miguel Zubiri.”

Dizon said, “By refusing to exclude the highly tainted provincial certificate of canvass from the national canvassing and proclaim the Genuine Opposition’s Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, Abalos is still finding ways to get Team Unity’s Zubiri on the 12th slot.”

The Kontra Daya spokesperson hit the Comelec’s handling of Lintang Bedol, head of the Maguindano Board of Canvassers. “Bedol disappeared for some time then mysteriously reappeared saying that the municipal certificates of canvass (COCs) were stolen from right under his nose. Abalos has not ordered Bedol’s suspension pending a thorough investigation and now accepts uncritically the self-serving statement of Governor Ampatuan, represented by his lawyer, that elections were held in a proper and fraud-free way.  Abalos also uncritically accepts the statement of the provincial BOC that elections were held on the basis of the alleged minutes of their meeting signed by no less than Bedol himself.  Abalos handling of Bedol shows his complicity with the kind of vote manipulation and bare-faced manufacture of results that obviously took place in Maguindanao.”

Kontra Daya criticized the Comelec for its “deliberate effort to confuse the public, especially concerned citizens’ groups, on the schedule of hearings on Maguindanao.” Kontra Daya learned that even the party-list group Bayan Muna failed to manifest its protestations due to this.  It was pointed out that Bayan Muna was the one who presented two critical witnesses to the massive fraud in the province, one of whom has been cold bloodedly murdered. 

Dizon said, “Witnesses who have executed affidavits proving electoral fraud have not received subpoena from the Comelec. They have not aired their stories. The cover-up aims to save Lintang Bedol, Abalos and Comelec itself from any accountability on the Maguindanao fraud.” 

Dizon added, “The Comelec has not valued the life of whistle blower Musa Dimasidsing. The Comelec did not exert any effort to protect his life and the truth about the Maguindanao elections. The lives of other witnesses are in danger and the shameless Abalos does nothing.” 

Dimasidsing, a school district supervisor, was shot dead, June 9. 

Dizon said, “If the Comelec insists on counting the COCs from Maguindanao, it will only prove once again that it is the machinery of the Arroyo administration for massive cheating.”

Election watchdog Kontra Daya deemed that the grade of “Needs Improvement” given by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) as an ‘accolade undeserved by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).’

Fr. Joe Dizon, Kontra Daya spokesperson, said, “We are disappointed by how the PPCRV rates the Comelec. We expect them to join us in asserting that heads must roll because Comelec has miserably failed in ensuring honest and credible elections.”

Dizon pointed out that Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos has not implemented substantial reforms. “Comelec’s complicity in massive fraud cannot just be ignored. Abalos, among other election officials, like Lintang Bedol and Rey Sumalipao must be axed.”

 Dizon said, “The grand cheaters within the Comelec may interpret the ‘Needs Improvement’ grade to refer to their cheating.”

Kontra Daya gave Comelec a grade of “Failed” and reiterated the reasons: 

The Comelec laid the groundwork for electoral fraud which include among others the private printing of election forms, padded voters’ list, selective implementation of laws and the last-minute appointment of BEIs.

The Comelec also aided and abetted fraud through its inaction on numerous blatant violations of election laws from the shameless vote-buying by administration officials to the blatant partisanship of the Armed Forces of the Philippines

The presence and promotion of election officers previously linked to fraud in Mindanao also shows complicity to commit fraud on the part of the Comelec.

At the highest level the Comelec issued statements, policies, and resolutions that were in accordance with the interests of Malacanang particularly in the Cayetano case, the Robredo disqualification, and the “Malacanang partylist” issue.

Abalos in particular makes it a point to rationalize if not cover up election-related anomalies which have come to light. He too is in a state of almost total denial when it comes to election fraud.

Dizon said, “Abalos’ argument that the elections results speak for themselves is illogical. Despite the cheating, the people’s vigilance made it possible for opposition candidates to win.”


The provinces of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)–Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Shariff Kabunsuan and Maguindanao—figured in the “Hello Garci” tapes, the conversations between a woman who many believe to be President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and a man identified by many as former commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano.


In the 2004 elections, the opposition claimed that in ARMM, Arroyo’s votes were padded by 76,455 and her main contender Fernando Poe Jr.’s votes shaved by 41,313. In the final Congress tally, Arroyo won over Poe in ARMM, 549,944 to 272,715. But in the June 30, 2004 report of National Movement of Citizens for Free Elections (Namfrel), which had tabulated election returns (ERs) from 82.89 percent of precincts nationwide, Poe was leading Arroyo. Namfrel is a poll watchdog accredited by Comelec to do the quick count.


Three years later, many controversies continue to hound elections in Maguindanao, Sulu, Basilan and Lanao del Sur.  Indeed, myriad forms of cheating were monitored by media and election watchdog groups.


During the first two weeks of the counting, the Genuine Opposition (GO) gained the upper hand over the administration Team Unity, with an 8-2-2 outcome (8 from GO, 2 from TU, 2 independents) both in the official count of Comelec and in the parallel count of Namfrel, its citizens’ arm. Periodically though, TU candidate Miguel Zubiri has landed in the 11th or 12th slot.


The votes from ARMM are again proving to be crucial for TU candidates desperate to make it to the magic 12. It is widely perceived that “special operations” by cheating experts in Mindanao and other regions are ongoing to dislodge GO candidates Antonio Trillanes and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel from the winning circle. It is also seen by many quarters that the Arroyo administration has targetted another GO candidate, Allan Peter Cayetano, for defeat by utilizing a namesake nuisance candidate and various other forms of harassment and sabotage. However, the Arroyo administration has so far failed to dislodge Cayetano from the top ten winning candidates.


Lanao del Sur


The Kontra Daya sent a 17-member Observer Mission to Lanao del Sur to monitor the special elections held on May 26.  Lanao has 39 municipalities and one city.  Failure of elections was declared in 13 municipalities last May 14 thus the reason for special polls. 


The special elections held recently in this province amounted to a farcical exercise and was thus rendered extremely vulnerable to vote manipulation. Chaos was the order of the day.  Kontra Daya witnessed first hand numerous violations of the new Election Code. Evidence of the Comelec’s gross inefficiency, incapacity and, worse, complicity in the cheating, were too rampant to ignore.


At the Magandia Amaloy Elementary School in Masiu town, for example, the KD Mission witnessed the following violations:


  • There were no lists of voters posted at the polling precincts;
  • There were no secrecy folders and lists of candidates inside the polling precincts;
  • Poll watchers of candidates were inside the polling precincts and were seen dictating to the voters on who to vote for;
  • Voters who had already voted were not marked with indelible ink by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs). When we asked one voter, he replied, matter-of-factly, “para makaboto uli.” (..(Its) so that I can vote again)


It was worse at the Pangandaman Central Elementary School in the same town. In all of the six precincts, poll watchers of local candidates and soldiers doing guard duty took turns in filling out the ballots of every voter. Voters did not complain or resist because they said this is the “norm” during elections.


The counting of votes was not done inside the polling precincts. The BEIs said that doing so would be too dangerous for them. After the casting of ballots, the ballot boxes were instead brought to Marawi City for counting. Since 1995, this has reportedly been the practice.


Members of accredited poll watchdog groups were barred from entering the counting areas, specifically at the People’s Park and at the Marawi National High School. The soldiers guarding these counting areas said the counting had not started or that they were not given instructions by the Comelec provincial officer to allow observers to enter.


A national broadsheet reported the “meteoric rise” in the number of registered voters in Lanao del Sur between 2004 and 2007. For the past three years, the voting population increased by 121,150 voters or 43.9 percent.


Many voters did not vote for national positions, i.e. senators and party-lists; at the same time, election officers appeared not to bother tallying votes for said positions. At the Amai Pak Pak Central Elementary School in Marawi City, for instance, the BEIs did not announce the votes for senatorial candidates and party list groups; hence, there were no tallies for these. In the same precinct, the tally sheets for the national positions were nonchalantly being used as table cloth while poll watchers sat on them. The same disregard for the votes of senators and partylists was happening at precincts 15-A, Barangay Diromoyod, and 009-A, Barangay Cabuntongan. When a member of the Mission asked for an explanation, one of the BEIs said they were ordered not to count the votes.


Alienation from the Manila government and national politics in general seems to be one reason behind this apparent indifference to the elections for senators and party lists. Another plausible explanation is the Comelec’s utter lack of a sustained education campaign on their significance and importance. In light of this situation coupled with instructions amounting to coercion given the BEI members, it becomes quite easy for the cheaters to fill out the tally sheets, the election returns (ERs) and Certificated of Canvass (COCs) themselves.


ABS-CBN senior correspondent Ricky Carandang and DZMM reporter Noel Alamar were able to uncover the questionable, if not illegal, transfer of ERs from the provincial capitol to a hotel in Iligan City where Comelec officials were billeted. Comelec Commisioner, Rene Sarmiento, eventually acknowledged the transfer (after initially denying this fact to the two reporters) by saying that he ordered the transfer based on a recommendation of the SAG.


When subsequently interviewed, Sarmiento said there was nothing irregular about the incident. After their expose’, Carandang and Alamar have been receiving death threats. We can only suspect that operators of the ongoing massive fraud are the ones behind this kind of harassment.


The rottenness of the electoral process is exemplified in the Lanao del Sur elections. The Comelec failed in overseeing fair and free and honest elections, especially in Lanao del Sur, where the poll body was an abject failure.  The heated and often violent conflicts among local rival politicians simply provide the fertile ground for crooked election officers, acting as a criminal syndicate, to engage in wanton election fraud.


The extreme poverty of the Maranaos is also being exploited by the cheaters. Lanao del Sur is among the top 20 poorest provinces. Nine of its municipalities (Marogong, Piagapo, Tuburan, Sultan Dumalondong, Calanogas, Binidayan, Kapatagan, Bumbaran, Pagayawan) were included in the country’s 40 poorest municipalities in the year 2000.


Maranaos are commonly known as the Muslim tribe that derived its livelihood from trading activities or what is called “buy-and-sell”. In the rural areas, the Maranaos trade their local products such as palay (rice grains), corn, coconut, tobacco and coffee. In urban centers, they vend a wide array of products such as low-budget apparel, costume jewelry, movies in VCDs and DVDs, etc.




Maguindanao has also been at the center of controversy. The pro-Arroyo governor, Andal Ampatuan, boasted of a TU sweep in his province a few weeks before the elections. Subsequently, all twelve TU senatorial candidates reportedly won while the GO candidates obtained an almost zero vote in the entire province. This is not only politically implausible; it is statistically improbable, if not impossible but apparently the elections cheats did not bother coming up with more credible, albeit manipulated, results.


The opposition and almost all election watchdogs have called on the Comelec to disregard or set aside the COCs from Maguindanao because of the patent and wholesale fraud that marked the entire election process. Their charge: no real elections took place in Maguindanao.


For example, more than 100 election inspectors were forcibly taken and detained, for three nights and two days, and made to manufacture votes for a local mayoralty candidate and the administration senatorial bets. This was according to four election inspectors presented by the opposition as witnesses to poll fraud in the province.

In an affidavit, a BEI member said that the authorized elections officer had yet to collect the election returns and the 38 ballot boxes from Pagalungan, Maguindanao. The 190 uncanvassed ERs contained all the votes in eight of 12 barangays in the said municipality. How can the provincial canvass be over, and a 12-0 sweep declared, when there remained untabulated election returns in this town?


If the administration would insist on canvassing the votes from Maguindanao, such blatant cheating will haunt the Arroyo regime in the same way as the “Hello Garci” scandal has marred Arroyo’s legitimacy as president.  The 12-0 victory is just too unacceptable for the Filipino people who utilized their votes to protest against the anti-people and repressive Arroyo administration.


Sulu, Basilan


In Sulu, a public school teacher testified before the Comelec that she saw her fellow school teachers and a barangay chair fill out ballots in their town in the early hours of election day.


In a press conference, GO lawyer Diego Palomares Jr. said that no elections ever took place in the second district of Sulu. The latter has 10 municipalities with around 100,000 votes.


Lente lawyer Raissa Jajurie, in an account published in an online publication, said she saw the BEIs writing on the ballots which had already been thumbmarked.


At the national canvassing, TU allegedly won in Sulu with 10-2 outcome against the Genuine Opposition (GO).


Meanwhile, in Basilan, congressional candidate Jim Hataman-Saliman had sought the declaration of failure of elections in “certain barangays” in at least six towns of Basilan province.

The canvassing of votes in the remaining town of Basilan was suspended after Saliman filed the petition. The Comelec has yet to hear Saliman’s petition.

Garci boys


In areas where these election irregularities have been recorded, Comelec men closely identified with the notorious former Comelec Commissioner Garcillano, have retained their positions, or worse, have been promoted..


Among them are Jubiel Surmieda and Renault Macarambon, members of the Comelec’s Special Action Group (SAG) tasked to oversee the conduct of special polls in ARMM.  Another is Jose Tolentino Jr., head of the SAG, who was implicated in the MegaPacific scam but was not charged. (The scam involves a multi-billion contract to automate the 2004 elections.)


More to the point, election officials repeatedly mentioned in the “Hello Garci” tapes such as Lintang Bedol and Rey Sumalipao, are still very much around, supervising the conduct of the polls in ARMM.  


Sumalipao is the former Lanao del Sur provincial election officer who confirmed in 2004 that the wiretapped conversation between him and Garcillano was true. He has been promoted as the regional director for ARMM.  No less than Comelec executive director Jose Pio Joson said in a news report, that he wants Sumalipao to be axed ‘to end poll fraud noise.’ Joson was quoted as saying, “Since 1995 he [Sumalipao] has always been involved in alleged fraud. The Commission should not be complacent about it.”


In 2004, Bedol was assigned to Sultan Kudarat shortly before the 2004 elections. He also sat as chairman of the Cotabato City board of canvassers. In these two areas, the count turned out to be problematic.  Today, Bedol is the chairman of Maguindanao provincial board of canvassers. 


Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos has refused to dismantle the cheating machinery in ARMM by pulling out these implicated election officials and having them investigated. Calls for such decisive action alongside other major electoral reforms before the May 14 elections have consistently fallen on deaf ears – both at the Comelec and in Malacanang.




The same cast of characters that marred the 2004 elections in the ARMM were activated for the 2007 mid-term elections. The Comelec has been exposed as the main instrument of the Arroyo administration for the massive fraud that took place, and is thus most immediately liable.


The cheaters and their patrons have been taking advantage of the prevailing socio-economic, political and cultural conditions of the Bangsamoro people to advance their vested interests. Extreme poverty is a condition that has been fully exploited by the poll cheaters who believe that anyone in dire need can be bribed.


The ARMM is one of the poorest regions in the entire country. Its per capita gross regional domestic product is only P3,433 or a staggering 75.8 percent lower than the national average. Poverty incidence in the region is a high 45.4 percent in 2003, almost twice the national average of 24.4 percent. 


Based on 2003 Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS), ARMM has the lowest literacy rate with seven out of 10 persons aged 10 to 64 years considered as basically literate. It also has the lowest functional literacy rate with 62.9 percent.


The Bangsamoro have traditional practices for selecting leaders which involve ijima (consensus) and shura (consultation). Elections have led to the disintegration and corruption of these traditional practices to varying degrees.  Moreover, mayors have now generally become more influential than the sultans thus underscoring the fierce rivalry for such local elective positions.


The Maranaos have a traditional practice called ‘kanduri’ or thanksgiving, in which gifts are shared with extended family on special occasions like birth and others. Kanduri has been exploited by politicians; it is used as a guise for bribing voters and provides cultural acceptability for such illegal and corrupt practices.



While the wealthy and powerful spend hundreds of millions of pesos on their electoral campaigns, buying out rival candidates, rigging votes and engaging in various other forms of electoral manipulation, the Bangsamoro people suffer a deprivation of essential social services, maldevelopment and extreme poverty.


Although elections seem to have become an opportunity for the poor and desperate to earn a few pesos, it is undoubtedly the grand cheaters in power who bag the biggest loot.


As in the 2004 presidential elections, the Arroyo government has cynically and deliberately exploited the impoverished and anarchic situation in Mindanao to achieve its narrow partisan objectives. It has belabored an incredible 12-0 sweep by Team Unity in selected provinces, as part of a clumsy attempt to shoehorn its trailing candidates into the 11th and 12th slots in the national count. Ultimately, the Arroyo administration must bear the onus of failing miserably in fostering conditions for fair, credible, and free elections in Muslim Mindanao.  ##