LENTE lawyers in car chase for 6th copy of ERs

The protagonists were neither politicians nor smartly dressed movie actors: they were members of the municipal Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) and a group of lawyers belonging to the electoral watchdog, Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE).

The lawyers were running after the BEI to get the sixth copy of election returns from the municipality of Lumbayanague.

"It is really frustrating. The BEIs simply refused to give us ER copies. They are following their own law here. They are not even obeying orders from the national Comelec," lawyer Carlos Medina, Lente co-convenor said.

Medina said local BEIs refused to comply with  the order of Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento who twice ordered them last May 19 and May 23 to give the sixth ER copy to the National Movement for Free Elections.

When they asked the BEI of Lumbayanague why she would not give them the ER copies, Medina said they were told that no such order was allegedly issued by the Lanao del Sur election supervisor.

Medina and the Lente lawyers finally got 31 ER copies from the Lumbayanague BEI when she alighted from the van inside the MSU campus.

Lente, Namfrel and the Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms (C-Care), have been complaining against the refusal by BEIs to give them the ER copies.

Aside from the 31 copies from the Lumabayangue, Medina said they were able to retrieve 87 copies from the 13 towns in Lanao del Sur where special elections were held last Saturday. A total of 494 ERs are supposed to be given to Namfrel.

Frustrated by the refusal, Namfrel provincial chair Hajji Abdullah Dalidig turned over the task of retrieving the ERS to Lente, who fielded 15 lawyers to monitor the Lanao del Sur special elections.

Dalidig said they were only able to retrieve 1,042 ERs out of 2,609 expected from the 26 towns where elections was held last May 14.

Medina said they were able to get hold of the ERS from Sultan Dumalundong municipality before the ballot boxes were taken away by unidentified persons Monday night.

He said they failed, however, to get the ERs from the municipality of Madalum when the counting was finished Monday afternoon.

"We do not know where are the ERs. Nobody is telling us," Medina said.

Medina said they are also baffled by the absence of a number of BEIs yesterday and this morning.

He said many of the BEIs had reported "sick" or were "taking a rest" in neighboring Iligan City.

Medina said with the way the canvassing has been going in Lanao del Sur, he would not be surprised if it will last for a month. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)