SouthCot election officers summoned to explain tampering of results

Nancy Tano, Lake Sebu election officer, told reporters they received a notice from Comelec central office in Manila directing them to appear before the national board of canvassers at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) on Friday.

"We were asked to personally testify veracity of the certificates of canvass and other related election documents that we had issued and to clarify the reported case of tampering (of the results)," she said.

Tano, who refused to issue any comment about alleged tampering, said they were ordered to bring the statements of votes of all polling precincts, the municipal certificates of canvass, election returns and minutes of the canvass.

She said the group will leave this city around 3 p.m. for Davao City and catch the 9:45 p.m. flight to Manila.

Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos summoned the municipal and city board of canvassers to clarify the alleged tampering of election results coming from the province favoring at least nine of the administration's Team Unity (TU) senatorial candidates and one opposition bet.

The supposed tampering was raised by the camp of Genuine Opposition (GO) senatorial bet Aquilino Pimentel III, which found out discrepancies between the figures of the provincial certificate and statement of canvass and the copy of the election returns issued by the Comelec to the opposition party during the national canvassing last Saturday.

In a radio interview here, Pimentel pointed out that the certificate of canvass submitted by South Cotabato Election Supervisor Lilian Radam showed him trailing TU's Miguel Zubiri by at least 25,000 votes but the sixth copy of the election returns and certificates of canvass obtained by GO regional coordinator Lualhati Antonino indicated that he was ahead by almost 50,000 votes.

In the results of the provincial canvassing for senatorial candidates, which was tallied in a huge blackboard inside the provincial capitol here, Pimentel placed 10th with 192,356 votes while Zubiri was 14th with 141,674 votes.

Pimentel said Zubiri's votes ballooned to 217,000 votes and made the third place behind Loren Legarda and topnotcher Panfilo Lacson of the GO.

"This is a classic case of dagdag-bawas. I will make sure that those behind this fraudulent act will face the public since I will file a case of election sabotage against all members of the provincial board of canvassers," he said.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes, who immediately summoned the provincial board of canvassers last Monday, accused Radam as the one who tampered the election results.

"She made the DepEd representative and the provincial prosecutor to sign a blank certificate of canvass before she left for Manila to submit them to the national board of canvassers," Fuentes said.

The governor said they initially found out that aside from Zubiri, the votes of GO's Legarda and TU's Prospero Pichay, Joker Arroyo, Ralph Recto and Michael Defensor were padded by as high as 100,000 votes.

She said the canvassed results from Koronadal City submitted by Radam for national canvassing showed the votes of all but two TU senatorial candidates padded by 10,000 to 14,000 votes.

Fuentes said she has been trying to contact Radam but the latter's mobile number is no longer working.

She said the five provincial Comelec personnel who accompanied Radam in Manila claimed that the election supervisor separated from their group when they returned to this city last Monday.

"She's missing right now and not one among her staff know where she is right now," said Fuentes, who also received reports that Radam has reportedly flown to Hong Kong last Monday.

Meantime, Koronadal Mayor Fernando Miguel said he will send several lawyers to witness the scheduled appearance of the municipal and city board of canvassers in Manila tomorrow.

"I have a feeling that we were also victimized by this dagdag-bawas," said Miguel, stalwart of the administration's Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino-Lakas coalition.

The mayor, who was reelected to a third term, said the uncovering of the tampering case in the provincial canvassing reinforced his suspicions that his son Peter lost his bid for a provincial board seat because he was supposedly cheated.

The young Miguel finished in eighth place, failing to capture any of the seven contested seats allotted for the province's second district in the provincial board.

"I am glad that these fraudulent acts came out in the open. I hope that those behind this will be severely punished," he said

Miguel urged the Comelec to exercise political will in resolving the issue and eventually pursue the cleansing of the country's electoral system. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)