PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — TRUE to his words, Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol appeared at yesterday’s hearing of the Commission on Elections on the contempt charges against him, but defiantly assailed the poll body’s authority hold trial.
In refusing to put Bedol on the witness stand by insisting that the Comelec has no jurisdiction over his case, his counsel Andrei Bon Tagum was nearly cited for direct contempt by the poll body.
Tagum asked Comelec to dismiss the charges on the ground that it has no jurisdiction over the case. When the commission ruled against him, he asked for a resolution so they could “avail of other legal remedies”.
Tagum’s refusal to acknowledge Comelec’s jurisdiction drew the ire of Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, head of the Task Force Maguindanao that investigated Bedol and the alleged poll fraud in Maguindanao.
“You want to be cited for contempt yourself for refusing to submit to the jurisdiction of this commission?”
After a break, Tagum said that he would just submit Bedol’s explanation on the charges against him, as he also reserved the right to submit additional pleadings as necessary.
Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos gave Bedol 10 days to submit his memorandum—a summary of his legal positions on the charge against him. The Comelec would issue its ruling on the contempt charge on Aug. 7.
In an interview, Tagum said that when the Comelec, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers, summoned Bedol to testify on the poll fraud, it was acting its administrative capacity—not as a quasi-judicial body—and thus had no power to cite anybody for contempt.
“At that time, there was no charges yet [against my client], and he was summoned more for a fact-finding. It was not a hearing of a quasi-judicial body,” Tagum said.
Ferrer said in a separate interview that since Bedol refused to take the witness stand, the Comelec would decide on the contempt charge based on Bedol’s memorandum and other pleadings.
According to several Comelec guards, Bedol arrived around 9:30 in the morning at the Comelec, or half an hour early for the hearing set yesterday at 10 in the morning.
Bedol stayed inside the Law Department of the Comelec and was accompanied by guards to the session hall before the hearing started. Bedol, wearing sunglasses as well as a yellow and blue jacket over a red checkered polo, appeared to be in good mood, smiling as he passed by the members of the media.
He is facing charges for failure to comply with summonses to appear before the poll body, for unauthorized collection of election documents from municipal election officials, daring the poll body to file charges against him, and for packing a pistol during a media interview, as if in a “combative mood” against the poll body.
In a written explanation submitted to the Comelec, Bedol claimed he “has not committed those acts charged against him by the commission.”
Bedol claimed he tried to comply with all the summonses issued by the commission and that when he failed to do so, it was for “justifiable reasons.
Among others, he claimed he received the summons for the May 30 hearing of the poll body on the same date and he immediately flew to Manila although he came in late. Likewise, he said he needed an official order for him to travel.
“Respondent is not liable or responsible for the custody or loss of any election document. He is currently engaged in an exhaustive investigation as to the underlying circumstances of the loss,” Bedol said.
“Neither did he degrade nor challenge the authority of the commission. All he did was to state his legal prerogatives given that he appears to be blamed for certain acts which he did not commit,” he added.
Bedol also claimed he did not boast having a cache of firearms, saying he was apparently “misquoted” in an interview.