Pimentel wants poll exec linked to ‘Garci’ sacked

GMANews.TV – Wednesday, April 28SendIM StoryPrint.Fearing another “Hello Garci” vote-rigging operation, Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel on Tuesday said that he wants a Commission on Elections (Comelec) officer who reportedly has links with controversial former poll body Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to be removed from office.

Pimentel said the Comelec should remove from office Ray Sumalipao, regional director for Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), because of his alleged connection with Garcillano, who was accused of rigging the results of the 2004 elections to favor administration bets led by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“The ghosts of Garcillano are still operating in some areas of Mindanao. Under the circumstances, we can still make noises to Comelec chairman Jose Melo to remove them,” he said in a forum held in Intramuros, Manila.

Earlier, the poll body had transferred Sumalipao from ARMM to the Davao region. (See: Comelec reshuffle to affect ‘Garci boy,’ 9 other officers)

Pimentel said that instead of being merely transferred to another Comelec regional office, Sumalipao should have been relieved of his position.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo, for his part, said the transfer did not mean that the poll official was guilty of anything. He noted, however, that did have something to do with his alleged involvement in the so-called “Hello Garci” scandal.

“I’m not saying he is guilty of any shortcoming or malfeasance or whatever, but what I’m saying is, the perception of the public is that you are involved there. So as an administrator, I have to transfer you,” he said.

The “Hello Garci” scandal refers to alleged wiretapped conversations where vote-rigging in the 2004 elections was discussed by a woman presumed to be President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and a man she called “Garci,” presumed to be Garcillano.

In one of the wiretapped conversations, “Garci” was heard talking to a certain “Ray” in what sounded like an attempt to manipulate the vote. Sumalipao had admitted that Garcillano was referring to him but pointed out that their conversation made no mention of any poll-rigging scheme.

The Comelec Law Department had also earlier recommended to the Comelec en banc that charges be filed against Sumalipao, along with 12 other poll officers, for allegedly being involved in irregularities in the 2007 elections.

Sumalipao, however, denied the allegation. (See: Comelec official denies involvement in 2007 election anomalies)

“Wala akong kasalanan, wala akong kinalaman dun (I did no wrong, I wasn’t involved in that),” he said in an earlier interview.

The department later on clarified that the poll official was only investigated because of some shortcomings in the performance of his duties during that time, based on an investigation made against Camal Calandada, an election assistant in Lanao Del Sur.

The Comelec had earlier said they would be reshuffling some 50 election officers to cast away doubts of cheating in the May polls. —JV, GMANews.TV