MANILA, Philippines — Election Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer on Wednesday denied accusations by church-based election volunteers that the Commission on Elections was giving Lintang Bedol “kid-glove treatment,” announcing that the suspended Maguindanao election supervisor could possibly be slapped with additional charges.
“Some people are saying we’re just staging a drama. Why don’t these people just wait for us to finish our duty?” Ferrer told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino.
Ferrer heads Task Force Maguindanao, which is investigating allegations of widespread electoral fraud in the southern province.
The controversial Bedol has reportedly returned to Cotabato City after he was released by Comelec just days after he was arrested on contempt charges for failing to attend the provincial canvass and hearings at the Comelec. He was also called down for his “unlawful assumption” of custody of municipal certificates of canvass which he later claimed he lost.
Bedol has been placed under the immigration watchlist. Ferrer said this would not prevent him from leaving the country but “it would at least inform the Comelec of the latter’s whereabouts.”
He also clarified that an earlier letter he penned informing the Bureau of Immigration that the controversial election official had been unanimously found guilty of indirect contempt of the Comelec, was “an error.” He said Bedol was to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
On Bedol’s fate, Ferrer said that the Comelec en banc would now ask the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “determine if there could be a basis” for charging Bedol with illegal possession of firearms.
The commission would also order its law department to study the possibility of filing before the Maguindanao prosecutor’s office a case of infidelity in the custody of public documents, Ferrer said.
He added that the Comelec law department would be asked to look at other laws Bedol has possibly violated “for all the things he has done” and to refer this to the Civil Service Commission.
Bedol could possibly be removed from office and be ineligible to hold any public office if he is found guilty of violating civil service rules, said Ferrer.
In a related development, the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday called on the public to phone in information they might have on any assets of Bedol and said this could be a basis for a lifestyle check on him.
After the Comelec resolves the Bedol issue, Ferrer said the commission “could be counted on” to go after Lilian Radam and Yogie Martirizar, election supervisors of North and South Cotabato, respectively, who are also alleged to be involved in electoral fraud.
The Comelec is working on “cleaning its bad reputation,” he said.
“We have been saddled by this (bad reputation)… Do not presume us to be bad people unless proven otherwise” he said, adding that there are some people simply out to “destroy” the Comelec.
He added: “The Comelec is the last bastion of democracy in our country because we protect the people’s right to suffrage by conducting free elections.”
Travesty of election
Earlier Wednesday, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) lambasted the Comelec for the “kid-glove” treatment it was giving Bedol
“Please put a stop to this running travesty of the electoral process. You have the power to do so,” PPCRV national chair Henrietta de Villa said in an appeal to Comelec.
She said she was making the appeal in behalf of 439,693 PPCRV volunteers who risked life and limb to restore the credibility to the elections and help Comelec conduct clean and honest polls.
“…His (Bedol’s) flagrant flaunting of anomalies constrains us to make public our discomfort, disquietude and dismay,” De Villa said.
This, she said, recalls the unsolved “Hello, Garci” tape controversy which purportedly caught President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo talking to former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano about vote leads in Mindanao.
“How can the Filipino people feel good about our elections when the gross mistakes of the past continuously rear their ugly heads in our electoral exercise which can only mean that no genuine effort is being made to regain the public trust?”
Meanwhile, Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao, head of the Philippine National Police in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, said they no longer had control over Bedol.
“I have not monitored where he went…If he used his ticket to Davao,” Goltiao told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. With a report by Alcuin Papa