Maguindanao ballots to count

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Commission on Elections yesterday ordered the special provincial board of canvassers of Maguindanao to canvass the results of the elections in the province, in a move that was readily endorsed by ranking congressmen.

Comelec issued a resolution for this purpose, after a special task force led by Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer found the election documents authentic. The task force, however, failed to locate Lintang Bedol, Maguindanao’s provincial election supervisor who has been reported missing along with several pieces of election documents.

Reports earlier said that if the original certificate of canvass of Maguindanao were to be canvassed, Team Unity senatorial bet Juan Miguel Zubiri would overtake by about 17,000 votes his rival, Genuine Opposition’s Aquilino Pimentel III, who is now in 12th place.

Pimentel has filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking, among others, for a stop to the canvassing the of the controversial poll results in Maguindanao, where Team Unity scored a 12-0 sweep and 19 senatorial candidates received zero votes.

“The commission resolves, as it hereby resolves to direct the special board of canvassers of Maguindanao to conduct the canvassing at Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao,” the Comelec en banc said in its Resolution 8195 promulgated yesterday.

The poll body justified the holding of the canvassing in Shariff Aguak town based on its resolution 8062, promulgated last May 18, that “no transfer of the canvassing venue from the provinces to Manila shall be allowed.”

Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer, Rene Sarmiento and Resurreccion Borra, who were present in yesterday’s en banc meeting, signed the resolution. Commissioners Romeo Brawner and Florentino Tuazon were absent “for personal reasons.”

The resolution also directed the Task Force Maguindanao, headed by Ferrer, to turn over the 21 municipal certificates of canvass with the statement of votes by precincts produced by the election officers to SPBOC headed by lawyer Emilio Santos “for whatever it may be worth.”

But in an earlier interview, Ferrer said the SPBOC itself would decide if they would re-canvass the Maguindanao votes based on the documents retrieved from the election officers in the proceedings in Gen. Santos City last Thursday.

“Well it’s up to them because that body is supposed to be independent from the Comelec en banc. We will just submit what we found out during the proceedings in General Santos [City],” he said.

But Ferrer said that the opposition or other interested parties would still have the opportunity to question the authenticity of documents when the SPBOC decides that it can be used for re-canvassing of votes.

Ferrer reiterated his earlier position that they did not find any evidence that the election documents submitted to the poll body by the Maguindanao election officers were manufactured.

“Although we have to admit that we are not handwriting experts, we are not questioned document experts. Now it’s up to the special PBOC to find out or even engage, there is a possibility that they might engage the services of handwriting experts, of questioned document experts, that is up to them.”

At the House, Mindanao lawmakers Antonio Cerilles and Simeon Datumanong said the canvassing of Mindanao votes would give justice to the 12th senatorial winner.

The Comelec canvass would reflect the will of the Maguindanaoans who have made their choice, Datumanong said.