Namfrel warns vs slow canvass of Lanao votes

Hadji Abdullah Dalidig, Namfrel provincial chief in Lanao del Sur, warned against delays that would slow down the canvass as this could give operators of "dagdag-bawas" (vote shaving and adding) the opportunity to muster votes for the administration's Team Unity candidates.

He said "dagdag-bawas" operators are trying to get more votes for Team Unity candidates whose ranking is nearest the 12th rank — Juan Miguel Zubiri, Mike Defensor, and Ralph Recto.

“With the presence of a number of operators here, anything can happen," he said.

The Commission on Elections held special elections Saturday to allow some 100,000 voters to case their votes.

The canvassing of votes in the municipal level ended midnight Sunday.

Based on Namfrel's partial, unofficial count, senatorial candidates of the Genuine Opposition are leading in the province.

Leading the pack in the senatorial race in Lanao del Sur is Sultan Jamalon Kiram. Other Team Unity candidates in the magic 12 are Miguel Zubiri and Edgardo Angara

Genuine Opposition candidates who are in the race are Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero, Koko Pimentel, Noynoy Aquino, Antonio Trillanes, Manny Villar, and Panfilo Lacson.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan is also in the magic 12. 

Dalidig said they heard reports that "dagdag-bawas" operators are willing to pay P25 per  vote that corrupt Comelec local officials can add  to Team Unity candidates.

He said local Comelec officials are making a beeline in one of coffee shops in Cagayan de Oro and Maria Cristina Hotel in Iligan City to strike a deal with the "dagdag-bawas operators."

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon had questioned the presence of former PNP chief Arturo Lumibao in Marawi City, identifying him as "a political operator" for Malacanang.

He said the refusal by Comelec to give Namfrel the sixth copy of the Election is "an indicator" that a "dagdag- bawas" operation is going on in Lanao del Sur.

Dalidig said that besides Lumibao, they also spotted Bebot Marahombsar and Butch Pakinggan in Marawi and Iligan cities.

Marahombsar, Pakinggan and Lumibao were implicated in the Senate investigation of former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and the cheating in the 2004 presidential elections.

Dalidig said Comelec officials have refused to provide Namfrel the sixth copy of election returns despite an order by Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.

“Twice Sarmiento issued an order to the local Comelec to give us the sixth copy, twice these officials defied the order," he said.

Dalidig said because of their stubbornness, Namfrel have decided to file a case of violation of the Omnibus Election Code against these Comelec officials.

He said they have asked the help of Lente, the lawyers' support group in the filing of cases.

Dalidig said they were able to get only 1,042 copies out of 2,609 election returns from the 39 Lanao del Sur towns and Marawi City.

“By hook or by crook, we will get those election returns. Only through them we can see if there is really a dagdag operation going on," he said.

Carlos Medina Jr., co-convenor of the lawyer’s monitoring group, Lente, said they have received the election returns from four of the 13 towns where special elections were held last May 26.

He said the canvassing of votes in five towns was finished midnight Sunday but five towns have yet to be start canvassing. Canvassing is still going on for the three remaining towns as of press time.

Medina said the canvassing of three towns has not started because the Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol Gym had became "a health hazard" because of the garbage and human waste.