Iliganons troop to streets over disputed congressional race

Protesters under the umbrella of Movement for Truth, Justice and Peace (MTJP) — conceived by religious leaders, local government officials and the civil society of Lanao del Norte and Iligan — marched towards the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in Barangay Palao and demanded why the Comelec is giving weight to the supposed tampered certificates of canvass.

The COCs in question were those coming from the towns of Bacolod and Maigo, which were canvassed on June 2 despite protest from lawyers of the Genuine Opposition (GO), who insisted that the "tampered COCs" be excluded as basis for proclaiming the winner of the congressional race in the first district. They instead suggested that the representative to be proclaimed should be the one "truly chosen" by the people of Iligan and the first district of Lanao del Norte "as reflected in the
authentic copies of COS held by Namfrel/PPCRV and minority parties."

But as they held protest outside the Comelec, the office was closed although there were a few staff inside. A soldier also sat at the door way.

"We are now standing on Comelec's ground that is supposed to be an edifice of our sacred votes. Sadly, this has become an instrument of cheating," lamented city councilor Moises Dalisay Jr..

City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said he was angered and disgusted with the attempt to manipulate election results. He urged Iliganons not to be afraid to fight against the moneyed and those with firearms "because we are on the side of righteousness. "

He pointed out that the "authentic copies" of Namfrel/PPCRV showed that opposition candidate Varf Belmonte won as congressman, way ahead of rivals Nikki Badelles and Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo, the administration candidate whose husband Abdullah was reelected representative of the second district and neophyte son Khalid as her successor as governor.

Cruz said counsels of the opposition will appeal to central office of the Comelec to exclude the alleged tampered COCs from being canvassed.

"Iligan will lead the struggle against electoral fraud," he said. "Those responsible of committing this criminal act must be penalized," the mayor added.

For the past three days, Iliganons have lit candles outside the St. Michael Cathedral in a prayer vigil. They displayed election results as gathered by Namfrel/PPCRV.

Dr. Melchie Ambalong, co-convenor of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the Peoples Electoral Alliance for Credible Election (PEACE), pointed out that the Iliganons outrage was "purely political" and not hatred towards the Maranaos, apparently referring to the Dimaporos.

"The people are angry because they were cheated," she stressed. A Maranao youth leader, Cae Amerol, seconded Ambalong. "We Maranaos also don't agree on cheating," said the rallyist from the Sumpay Mindanao, Inc.

Protesters agreed to sustain the nightly prayer vigil, the lighting of candles, and the peace concerts "until the genuine winner will be proclaimed by the Comelec."