Bedol faces ouster, criminal raps

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Lawyer Lintang Bedol, the controversial elections officer of Maguindanao, will face criminal charges in court if he fails to show up and explain the loss of election documents.

Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos raised this possibility yesterday even as Task Force Maguindanao recommended Bedol’s relief from his duties as provincial election supervisor.

In his report, Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, head of the task force, also recommended the filing of charges of infidelity in the custody of public documents, as well as indirect contempt against Bedol, for allegedly defying summonses issued by the poll body.

Likewise, Ferrer called for a probe of Bedol in accordance with the rules of the Civil Service Commission, that could result in his termination as an election official.

Abalos said the three-day deadline given to Bedol would be reckoned from the time of his receipt of the show cause order. He said the commission has to give Bedol a chance to explain as part of due process. “Let him explain. If he cannot, we will file the charges. It would be in the court, if it’s a criminal case, although this would also be accompanied by an administrative charge.”

Bedol claimed that the election documents he collected from municipal election officials of Maguindanao were ‘stolen’ from his office.”

The opposition had alleged fraud in Maguindanao after the certificate of canvass Bedol submitted to the commission, acting as the National Board of Canvassers, showed Team Unity senatorial bets scoring a 12-0 sweep, with 19 other senatorial candidates getting zero votes.

The Comelec disregarded the COC Bedol submitted and ordered a re-canvass based on the election documents in the possession of municipal election officials.

When the Maguindanao poll officials failed to show up before the Comelec, Abalos and Ferrer went to General Santos and examined the election documents the municipal poll officers were keeping. Ferrer said the documents appeared authentic.

In a related development, Abalos defended the commission’s order for the special board of canvassers of Maguindanao to convene and determine if the available election documents can be used to canvass the votes in the province.

“We never said the documents were authentic. We just ordered them to convene and find out if they can use these documents for whatever they may be worth,” Abalos said.

Abalos also shrugged off the opposition’s threat to file a case against the commission if the canvassing of Maguindanao votes is pursued.

If the Maguindanao votes were counted, Team Unity’s Juan Miguel Zubiri would dislodge Genuine Opposition’s Aquilino Pimentel III from the 12th and last Senate slot.

“Let them do whatever they want. I cannot stop them. They can go to hell or jump into the water, they can even go to heaven, if that’s their pleasure,” Abalos said. “And no amount of threats could make us do what is best and give justice for everybody.”