Iligan folk stage protest vs. ?tampered? COCs

The Movement for Truth, Justice and Peace (MTJP), initiated by religious and civil society, in a statement said that “in spite of vehement protests that these tampered CoCs should not be used for the canvassing, the PBOC (Provincial Board of Canvassers) proceeded.”

“The canvassed results based on these tampered CoCs showed that the tallies do not coincide with the CoCs of the minority party and the PPCRV. The tally is statistically improbable based on the total voters’ turnout. This created an atmosphere of doubt, uncertainty and anger in the minds of the people of District 1 Lanao del Norte,” the statement said.

"The original figures of the COC (certificates of canvass) were ‘snowpeaked’ (erased and changed), numbers of votes were altered, signatures and ink used which appeared in the COC were different compared to other authentic COCs held by Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections), majority and minority parties," lawyer Arthur Abudiente, lead counsel of the opposition, told the provincial Commission on Elections.

Allegations of vote-padding and vote-shaving based on the questioned COCs have prevented the PBOC in Lanao del Norte to declare a winner for the congressional seat of the province’s first district.

The alleged tampering of COCs from the towns of Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan reportedly benefited Gov. Imelda Dimaporo and reduced the number of votes for two other congressional candidates, Nikki Badelles (Team Unity) and Varf Valmonte (Genuine Opposition).

MTJP planned to march around the city every 7p.m. from June 1-3.

Fr. Nasser Zaragoza, chairperson of Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)-Iligan, said the group wanted to show to the country “that we don’t agree that fake CoCs be canvassed.”

In a program Friday night beside St. Michael Church, lawyers of the genuine opposition related what they supposedly saw on the COCs from Maigo, Bacolod and Kauswagan.

They said the ‘tampered’ COCs that were canvassed by the PBOC were “lies and injustice visible to naked eyes”. They vowed to appeal to the Comelec en banc to exclude the questioned COCs.

They suspected that the tampering had the “blessings of Malacanang.”

“This is just another Hello-Garci scandal. But for evil to triumph is for good persons to do nothing,” lawyer Manuel Salibang, of the GO, told the people who attended the program.

Dr. Chonilo Ruiz, re-elected city councilor, recalled that “in previous elections in Iligan, winners are winners; losers are losers… but this time, the loser wants to win.”

In a press conference Friday afternoon, MTJP appealed to the Comelec en banc to “heed our call and struggle for truth, justice and peace to triumph in this election.”

They asked that the Municipal Certificates of Canvas inside the “tampered ballot boxes of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Maigo should be excluded as basis for proclaiming a Representative to the House of Congress for District 1 Lanao del Norte.”

“We ask Comelec en banc to proclaim our representative that is truly chosen by electorates of Iligan and Lanao del Norte as reflected in the authentic copies of CoCs held by Namfrel/PPCRV, majority and minority parties,” the group said.

They also asked the media to exercise prudence in their reports and emphasized that the incidents relating to the election should not be played up as a manifestation of religious conflict between Muslims and Christians.

“The issue here is just what is true and what is right based on authentic CoCs held by Namfrel/PPRCV and [the] minority party,” said Dr. Melchie Ambalong, chair of Peoples Electoral Alliance for Credible Election (PEACE) and co-convener of PPCRV.

MTJP planned to hold a series of activities until the “legitimate representative” is proclaimed.

Outside the Catholic Church now, streamers proclaiming Varf Belmonte as the legitimate representative of First District Lanao del Norte hanged.

Supporters of Dimaporo also hanged streamers on trees expressing her thanks to voters.