Lintang Bedol: The man who would “gagawa ng paraan” in 2004 and cried “stolen documents” in 2007, is back

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DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews/19 July) — Lintang Bedol, referred to in the “Hello Garci” conversations in the 2004 Presidential elections as the man who would “gagawa ng paraan” (find a way) and who went into hiding after the May 2007 polls, is back, donning a bullet proof vest over his red and white checkered shirt at the Commission on Elections office in Manila Tuesday morning, waving his hand as he said, “hello, kumusta kayo lahat” (how are you).

He said nothing more.

Bedol re-appeared after nearly four years out of the public eye, in an interview inside a van aired on ABS-CBN News  on July 13, a day after suspended ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, in  the same TV network, declared that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel were responsible for the poll fraud in Maguindanao that allowed Juan Miguel Zubiri to win the 12th Senate seat in 2007.

Ampatuan’s disclosure came a day after he appeared, also on ABS-CBN, that he would testify against his father and brother on the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them from the media, even as he had repeatedly said he had nothing to do with it.

“Willing *po ako mag-*testify, *sabihin kahit sino man ang* involved*, magulang ko man o kapatid, at kahit sino man* involved *para sa ikakalutas ng problemang ito at pawang katotohanan lamang ang aking sasabihin.* (I’m willing to testify and speak the truth, even if my testimony will involve my father and brother),” he told ABS-CBN in an interview aired on Monday, July 11.

The next day, July 12, Ampatuan linked the Arroyos to poll fraud  in Maguindanao. He told ABS-CBN that “*grabeng dagdag-bawas ang nangyari sa*Maguindanao… *Ang alam ko lang umabot sa puntong nagkaroon ng palitan ng* official ballots *na pati nga ako, na taga-*Maguindanao during that time, *nabigla*(There was massive cheating in Maguindanao… What I know is it reached a point where there was a switching of official ballots that even I, a Maguindanaon, was shocked).”

He said the plan started  in January 2007, four months before the mid-term polls. He said the plan also involved his father, Andal Sr., who acted as
the Arroyos’ errand boy.

Ampatuan said he hopes his testimony could help and that government “could further its case if it gets hold of then Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol, who is now believed to be in hiding,” ABS-CBN reported.

Enter Bedol

As if on cue, the next day, July 13, Bedol, in an interview aired by the same network, supporting Ampatuan’s allegations against the former
President.

Bedol claimed that although Arroyo did not issue any direct order, she influenced the outcome of the elections through then Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos, who, he claimed, went to General Santos City with commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer and Rene Sarmiento, allegedly to authenticate what he said were fake election returns submitted by the different towns of Maguindanao. The three denied the allegations.

Bedol said then Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. ordered him to give zero votes to three opposition candidates, Allan Peter Cayetano, Panfilo Lacson and Benigno Aquino III.

He said Ampatuan Sr. told him that Arroyo wanted three opposition candidates to get zero: Aquino (now President), Cayetano (now senator), and Lacson (Senator).

In a controlled province like Maguindanao, it was a foregone conclusion that the administration would, like in 2004, make a clean sweep.  The Ampatuans were even more confident in 2007, when Andal Ampatuan, Sr. was running for a third term as governor, because unlike 2001 and 2004, the candidates for provincial governor (the Ampatuan patriarch), vice governor (his youngest son, Sajid) and 10 provincial board members and all candidates in 20 of  22 Maguindanao towns (many of them Ampatuan sons and relatives) ran unopposed.

Such was the confidence of the  Ampatuan clan that a few minutes after he cast his vote on May 14, 2007, ARMM Governor Ampatuan said the province would deliver a 12-0 victory for the Administration’s Team Unity senatorial ticket because Maguindanao “is an extension of the home province of HerExcellency, PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) which is Pampanga” and “considering that we have 20 mayors unopposed, these 20 mayors are allies of the administration, even those areas with opponents – Pagalungan and Talitay – the opponents, are all allies of the administration.”

“So this is definitely 12-0 here?” MindaNews asked then.

“Basically ganon ang mangyari pero iba ang sabihin ng 12-0. Ang meaning kasi ng 12-0 sa amin dito is yung first 12 candidates na boto ay in favor of Team Unity. Yung Opposition makakuha from 13 down to the last,” he said.  (Basically, that’s what’s going to happen but we have a different meaning for 12-0 here. The meaning of 12-0 here is that the votes for the first 12 candidates are in favor of Team Unity. The opposition can get from 13 down to the last).

As expected, the Ampatuans delivered a 12-0 sweep for Malacanang.

Improbable

Voter turnout was actually negligible in most schools on May 14 but two days later, Bedol, Maguindanao election supervisor told MindaNews voter turnout in all 22 towns was at least 90%. According to the documents Bedol showed, Ampatuan town posted 93.8% as 9,958 of 10,613 registered voters allegedly voted.

Datu Unsay town, whose mayor was Andal Ampatuan, Jr., the principal suspect in the 2009 massacre, posted the highest although statistically improbable, voter turnout of 99.78%. Of 10,172 registered voters, only 22 allegedly did not show up to vote.

Also, Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson’s topping the senatorial race in Maguindanao and Sultan Jamalul Kiram, the lone Moro in the administration Lakas-Kampi’s Team Unity, ranking 12th immediately raised howls of protest and cries of cheating. For indeed, how can a Mindanawon with a distinctly Moro family name (Kiram) place 12th and the political warlord from Ilocos Sur up north top the race in a predominantly Moro province down south?

Engr. Norie Unas, then the provincial administrator and spokesperson of the Maguindanao governor, did not answer MindaNews’ question about Kiram’s landing 12th but said Kiram got more than twice the votes of the Genuine Opposition’s Chiz Escudero, who placed 13th.

Behind Unas’ desk in his office on the third floor of the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao were boxes of what he claimed were copies of the election returns for the dominant party, neatly stacked on the shelves, labeled according to municipality.

The capitol was heavily guarded on each floor, the huge compound gated and equally heavily guarded.  At one point the guards even barred reporters from entering the compound despite protestations that the canvassing was supposed to be public.

*Stolen documents*

One floor below Unas’ office,  the Provincial Board of Canvassers convened
at the Provindial Board’s session hal. It must have been the country’s most
quiet canvassing venue in 2007.

Mid-day of May 16, Bedol and members of the PBC were in a huddle, claiming
they were on recess while awaiting the arrival of the certificates of
canvass from five towns in Maguindanao. It resumed session when a ballot box
from Talitay was presented.

But only the PBC chair, Bedol, vice chair Kanguan Pendi and member/secretary
Shuaib Maulana, were present when Bedol turned to the microphone and
announced the resumption of session.

There were no lawyers or watchers from the political parties for the
senatorial level, no municipal board of canvassers, just a few members of
the office staff and the Comelec’s tally recorders.

Whether or not the ballot box contained documents from Talitay, only Bedol
and the two members of his Board could say.

On the ground floor of the capitol was the office of the Comelec. Bedol’s
office.

Bedol claimed on June 11 or nearly a month after the May 14, 2007 polls that
the election documents from the province’s 22 towns were stolen on May 29
from his office.

There was no forcible entry, he said, because the office was reportedly left
open.

How the documents could have been stolen from a tightly-guarded capitol
building and why it took him 13 days to announce the documents were stolen,
Bedol could not explain.

Curiously, the Philippine National Police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim
Mindanao had not received as of 5 pm of June 13, any report from the
Maguindanao police on the alleged stealing of documents in the Comelec on
May 29.

On August 7, 2007,  the Comelec en banc found Bedol guilty of indirect
contempt for repeatedly snubbing its summons. He was sentenced to a
six-month imprisonment at the Manila City Jail and a P1,000 fine.

Bedol was released after a night’s stay at the Comelec’s law department
after payment of a P15,000 bail. He appealed the ruling but lost, and went
into hiding.

He begins serving his six-month imprisonment at the PNP Custodial Center in
Camp Crame today, July 19, 2011.

In the 2004 Presidential elections, Bedol figured in the controversial
wiretapped “Hello Garci” conversations as the subject of seven calls between
Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and unidentified male and female callers,
one with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, one with Senator Robert Barbers
and two with Bedol himself.

In most of these conversations, Bedol  was mentioned as “tao natin” (our
man) and the  man who would  “gagawa ng paraan” (find a way), referring to
the number of votes involving presidential candidate Arroyo and senatorial
bet Barbers.

Maguindanao, in fact, was mentioned in the “Hello Garci” conversations not
for  the number of votes that were to be added, but more to ensure, as Pres.
Arroyo told Garcillano, that “consistent yung mga documents sa Maguindanao”
(the documents in Maguindanao are consistent).

Ms Arroyo won overwhelmingly over Fernando Poe, Jr. in Maguindanao, at a
ratio of 3 to 1 (199,431 against Poe’s 63,313) in 2004, prompting critics to
say Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, then mayor of Shariff Aguak town, was chosen by
Malacanang as ARMM gubernatorial bet in 2005 because it was “payback time.”
(Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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