Pimentel initiates Senate probe on CDO’s dumped election paraphernalia

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/19 August) — Senator Aquilino Martin Pimentel’s declaration to set in motion a Senate investigation into the controversial “unearthing” of election paraphernalia in this city’s dumpster two days after the May 2010 polls, has rekindled hope for the electoral protest of a mayoralty bet who lost to incumbent mayor Vicente Emano by a mere 2,000 votes.

In a press conference Thursday, Pimentel, the new chair of a sub-committee on electoral reforms in the Senate, said he will summon all officials involved—including Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials—to explain at the Senate why the election paraphernalia ended up in the dumpster two days after the May 10, 2010 polls.

Also in the press conference, Pimentel told reporters he is also particularly interested on how to “lessen the role of money and time” in electoral protests since “it is quite expensive to file a protest.”

Lawyer Evangeline Carrasco, lead counsel for former 1st district Rep. Rolando Uy’s electoral protest, welcomes the Senate inquiry on the alleged irregularities in the May 2010 automated elections as it may help speed-up the resolution of their electoral protest.

Uy, then 1st district representative to Congress, ran for mayor and lost to local political kingpin Emano by 2,140 votes.

“We are hoping for the best,” Carrasco said in a telephone interview Friday.

She also asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to come out with the decision soonest, because “shuttling to Manila and back here in the city, every time I attend hearings, is getting expensive.”

Carrasco recalled what she called were clear “delaying tactics” during the elections.

“Voters in Carmen waited for hours because the election officers were having difficulty in linking their PCOS machines to Comelec’s system while in Tupagon, voters there began on time,” she said.

Barangay Carmen is a known turf of Uy, having served as its village chair. Uy’s supporters claimed that PCOS machines in polling precincts where Uy was perceived popular experienced the longest delays. In some precincts, actual voting started at noon.

At around 8:00pm, May 14, 2010, Fr. Nathaniel Lerio, then-chairman of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)-Misamis Oriental received a tip from “concerned citizen.” Together with local reporters and volunteers of Uy, they recovered three sacks of various election materials.

Then city Comelec supervisor, here, lawyer Gina Zayas-Sabio told reporters her office was also perplexed at how the poll documents ended up dumped.

However, she maintained that they received all ERs from 358-clustered polling precincts by May 11.

Sabio said the election materials—from 45-clustered precincts in Barangays Lapasan, Gusa, Cugman and F.S. Catanico—are the only ones declared missing, the rest were accounted for.

Pimentel expressed concern on what appears to be an absence of interest in pursuing an investigation on the dumped poll materials.

He added that it appeared Comelec tried to justify the disposal of the elections materials instead of starting an investigation. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)