COMMENT: Master Dissemblers

Bedol's story is too full of holes to be believed.  May 29 was a working day? Was no one at the office in the afternoon?  If no one was there – as many Muslim government employees work in the morning only — why was the door not locked? With the security guards around, could anybody just poke his nose into the Comelec's office door?

At that time, there was a protest at the provincial capital, Bedol said. Who can believe that? What was the rally for?  Against whom? No one would dare stage a protest rally at Gov. Andal Ampatuan's doorstep.  It could not be by a losing candidate for there were no oppositions either in Maguindanao or in Sharif Aquak.

Between May 29 and June 11 were two weeks.  Why did Bedol keep to himself the loss of the documents? Normally, this should have been reported immediately to the Comelec in Manila and the police. Bedol did not. The big holes were evidence that there was nothing to report.  Those documents did not exist. There was no theft. Who can steal nothing? But leaders were indignant (INQUIRER.net, June 13).

Rep. Benasing Macarambon (Lanao del Sur) wanted Bedol to explain how the CoCs were stolen and what he did to recover them. How can he explain nothing or recover nothing?

Rep. Douglas Cagas (Davao del Sur) said the missing CoCs were important in proving that the administration ticket indeed scored a sweep in Maguindanao. How can nothing prove something, granting that that something was not based on nothing?

Henrietta de Villa, chair of watchdog PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) said poll watchers were not allowed to watch the municipal and provincial canvassing. The canvassers did not like the watchers to see something come out of nothing?

Sen. Franklin Drilon and others want Bedol jailed.  He cannot be jailed for nothing.  But if jailed he be, jail him for making a fool of everybody.

Command Vote

With one phrase – "command vote" – Bedol argued that there was election in Maguindanao and that the 12-0 sweep of TEAM Unity senatorial candidates and the zero-vote for 19 candidates in 22 municipalities were not statistically improbable but normal among Maguindanaons. "Sa amin mahalaga talaga yang command vote [In our place, the command vote is a major factor]," he told reporters. (INQUIRER.net, June 11)

By command, the voters vote according to the choice of their leaders – that choice being an order. But Bedol did not explain the real practice. If voters don't vote, the leaders would let others vote for them. Voters could not object if their leaders would have their ballots filled in the night before or on the day of the election.

In practice, too, leaders could order election officials to accomplish the ERs, SoVs and CoCs as they want to — ignoring the actual voting. That, too, is "command vote" – in fact, the most potent. The 12-0 TU sweep and the zero-vote of 19 candidates were facts of "command vote".

There was election.  As reported by Carolyn O. Arquillas (MindaNews, June 10), 14 out of 987 voters (1.4%) voted in Kamasi Elementary School; 54 out of 1,981 (2.7%), in Kauran; and a few voters in Datu Zacaria Sangki.

That was the pattern – very low turnout. "Command vote" accounted for the very high official turnout. Ballots of those who did not vote were voted upon. Or, the election officers filled the Ers. SoVs and CoCs as commanded. This had happened long before the May 14 election.

In Dilemma

The election commissioners are in a dilemma.  They are doing their utmost best – even at a very clear disregard of election laws – to have the Maguindanao CoC authenticated with the use of the municipal SoVs and CoCs.  But to their consternation, no such documents were submitted since they were "allegedly stolen". Neither did the proclaimed local officials appear last June 11 to justify their proclamation.

Instead of setting aside the Maguindanao CoC, the NBoC set another meeting on Friday, June 15.  That is a very obvious act of having evident fraud justified in disregard of election laws. If on Friday, the CoC cannot be saved, will the Commission set aside the spurious CoC or will it declare a failure of election and set a special election?

But there was election. The congressional, the provincial and municipal (in 20 towns) candidates – all unopposed – have been declared winners and proclaimed.  Also proclaimed were winners in Pagalungan and Talitay, the only municipalities where election was contested. Let their proclamation stay.

Only mayoral candidate Norodin Matalam is contesting the proclamation of his rival in Pagalungan.  A petition had been filed for the annulment of the proclamation. There is no reported protest in Talitay.

Only the senatorial vote is being hotly contested.  There is already more than enough evidence of fraud. Setting this aside is the only legitimate recourse.  This would not disenfranchise the Maguindanaon voters. "Command vote" has already deprived them of their right of suffrage.

("Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You may e-mail your comments to patpdiaz@mindanews.com)

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