Dirty polls behind Yusoph kidnapping

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/20 July) — It was all about the huge amount of bribe money that corrupted election officials who issued orders to cluster polling precincts to favored politicians during the last elections in May, military officers and poll watchdog groups said.

The officers and NGO leaders told MindaNews that this was the reason why Nuraldin Yusoph, the 22-year-old son of poll Commissioner Elias Yusoph, was kidnapped in Marawi City.

“Politicians who lost a lot of money want to recoup their losses. That is the reason why Nuraldin was kidnapped,” said Brig. Gen. Ray Ardo, chief of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade. “They want to be refunded,” he added.

At the center of the controversy that hounded the kidnapping of Nuraldin is his father Elias, the only Muslim commissioner in the Commission on Elections.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in its luwaran.com website, said that “the kidnapping was a collective effort” of all losers in the election “to force him [Commissioner Yusoph] to refund the bribes given him during the elections” as it accused the election official of “[taking] money from all sides.”

There was no immediate comment from the elder Yusoph and his family about the accusation.

MindaNews was provided a copy of a Comelec order dated on May 9, 2010 ordering the clustering of polling precincts from 19 to 55 in Marawi City.

The order was signed by Comelec Chair Jose Melo who annotated that “his signature was made upon recommendation of Commissioner Yusoph.”

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento signed with “reservation” while Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer did not sign at all. Commissioners Yusoph, Armando Velasco, Gregorio Larazabal, and Lucenito Tagle also signed.

Ardo said the order benefited Marawi City Mayor Sultan Fre Fahad who went on to win the mayoralty election over former Mayor Abbas Basman.

“Did you notice that Commissioner Yusoph did not come to Marawi during the entire 29 days when Nuraldin was in the kidnappers’ custody? He was scared that all the losing politicians will gang up on him and demand a refund,” Ardo said.

Ardo himself is no stranger to election cheating. In 2004, he was among the military officers who were accused of rigging the elections for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Last February 2009, Yusoph, a provincial prosecutor in Marawi City, was appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the Comelec to replace Commissioner Romeo Brawner who died.

“Remember I did not give you a clear answer when you asked me about Yusoph after he was appointed. It is because I do not trust him at all,” said Hadji Abdullah Dalidig, head of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reforms and Good Governance (IMERGG).

Dalidig confirmed that bribes were paid to pay election officials in the last May 10 elections. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)