Sen. Pimentel: hold elections in the ARMM a week ahead

This is the “most practical way to prevent fraud operators from manipulating the

elections in the ARMM,” particularly in determining the fate of the presidential and senatorial candidates, he said.

It’s intolerable that almost every election in Muslim provinces like Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi Tawi has been marred

by widespread fraud perpetrated by non-residents for which they are usually blamed. This has got to stop and one way to do this is by holding national elections in the ARMM at least one week ahead of the rest of the country,” Pimentel said.

ARMM comprises the six provinces mentioned by Pimentel plus the Islamic City of Marawi.

Pimentel said holding the elections a week ahead of the national schedule will allow the Commission on elections to focus its attention and resources to ensure cheating can be avoided.

Pimentel’s son, Aquilino III or Koko of the Genuine Opposition, was on the 12th spot in the Senate race until the votes from Maguindanao were recanvassed, this time showing Juan Miguel Zubiri overtaking the younger Pimentel by a few thousand votes.

The younger Pimentel asked the Supreme Court to stop the recanvassing of the Maguindanao votes but the court did not issue a temporary restraining order. The court, however, gave the parties ten days to submit their memoranda.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Friday accused Zubiri of benefiting from cheating. “I wouldn't want a cheat to join me in the Senate," Trillanes told ABS-CBN News Channel.

"I believe Congressman Zubiri knows deep in his heart that he benefited from cheating. If he is decent enough, he wouldn’t accept (victory in the Senate race) because that is not something you want your kids to emulate," he added.

Zubiri, on the other hand told ANC what Trillanes said “it was uncalled for… calling me a cheat” and warned he would sue Trillanes.

Senator Pimentel said the Commission on Elections under Chairman Benjamin Abalos failed to put in place adequate safeguards in the ARMM to prevent a repetition of what happened in the 2004 presidential polls as gleaned from the wiretapped conversations between President Arroyo and former Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Chairman Abalos ignored the opposition pleas to investigate the so-called Garci boys, ground them or at least reassign them to positions where they can not engage in any activity that is detrimental to our electoral process. But instead of punishing these notorious election officers, the Comelec promoted them to very sensitive positions,” the senator from Mindanao said.

The controversial Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol, already controversial in the 2004 wiretapped conversations, was assigned chair of the Maguindanao Board of Canvassers.

Pimentel also accused “certain abusive local political leaders in Mindanao” for allegedly “conniving with fraud operators and corrupt election officials in the outright fabrication of election documents, resulting in the bloating of the votes of administration senatorial candidates to statistically improbable levels.”

He did not name the political leaders.

He also debunked their alleged capability to generate “command votes,” saying these alleged “command votes” are “nothing more than a camouflage for manufacturing election results for which they seem to have acquired a considerable degree of expertise.”