Surprise Witness

Hadji Abdullah Dalidig was a picture of calm when he testified at the second session of the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability. Just as he was calm when he faced Namfrel chairman Jose Concepcion, who kept banging on the table, and Lanao del Sur provincial election supervisor Ray Sumalipao, who theatrically promised to kill himself if election fraud is proven to be true, during the Nov. 17 Senate hearing.


He was the picture of calm as he testified on alleged fraud in Lanao del Sur province in Mindanao, southern Philippines during the 2004 election before the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA) on Nov. 9 and before the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security on Nov. 17. He certainly didn’t look like a man who had to travel under close security because of threats to his life, and one who was being tempted with bribery attempts left and right.

He was the surprise witness at the second session of the CCTA, held Nov. 9 at the College of Social Work and Community Development, University of the Philippines (UP CSWCD). He was calm even as lawyers said he had to sneak past “agents” of the administration camp who were monitoring the proceedings.

He kept his cool even as during the Nov. 17 Senate hearing, his adversaries National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) chairman Jose Concepcion was banging the table with his fists and Comelec-Lanao del Sur provincial election supervisor Ray Sumalipao was vowing he would kill himself if it was proven that there was fraud in the said province during the 2004 election.

He is Hadji Abdullah Dalidig, Lanao del Sur provincial chairman of the National Movement for Free Election (Namfrel), a non-government poll watchdog. He has been chairman of Namfrel-Lanao del Sur since 1992.

His revelations were shocking, to say the least.

Namfrel’s summary of provincial election returns, he said, showed that opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. was leading President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 42,374 to 32,389 while the opposition vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda was ahead of the administration’s Noli de Castro, 56,568 to 23,242 in Lanao del Sur.

But the congressional tally of certificates of canvass showed Macapagal-Arroyo garnering 128,301 votes while Poe got 43,302. In the special elections held in Lanao del Sur towns where failure of elections was declared, Macapagal-Arroyo is supposed to have received 30,447 votes to Poe’s 6,805.

A college dropout, Dalidig has nonetheless been many things. For several years since the late 1950s, he worked at the Bureau of Customs. He is also a media practitioner, currently having three radio programs and one TV program in his home province.

As a media practitioner, he prides himself in exerting efforts toward promotion of peace and understanding between his fellow Muslims and the Christian majority. He related that once, when a mosque was bombed in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, he promptly went on air calling on the people to refrain from using violence, and that, he said, prevented retaliations.

Before becoming chairman of Namfrel-Lanao del Sur, he was known as the founder of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reforms and Good Governance (IMERGG). The said organization, he said, aimed for what he called the “Islamization” of politics: the elimination of vote-buying, bribery, and other forms of fraud. In 1992, Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla tapped the IMERGG to serve as the Namfrel in Lanao del Sur and some parts of Lanao del Norte.

He had attempted to expose the fraud in Lanao del Sur as early as last year, he says, but neither the election officials nor the top Namfrel leadership paid attention to him.

Bulatlat interviewed Dalidig after his appearance at the Nov. 17 Senate hearing. Below are excerpts from the interview:

This whole issue about the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes, pertaining to alleged fraud in the 2004 presidential election, is being depicted by the administration camp as merely a plot by the opposition to discredit and thus destabilize the Macapagal-Arroyo government. For the record and for the benefit of our readers, do you know the late opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr?

I really don’t know Fernando Poe, Jr. I only see him in the movies. Muslims idolize Fernando Poe, Jr. But I’ve never met that fellow, I only hear about his name.

You said in your testimony before the Citizens’ Congress last Nov. 9 that the election in Lanao del Sur was the dirtiest. What made you say so?

As I said, since 1992 I’ve been in the Namfrel. It was only in last year’s election that I saw fraud committed there on such a massive scale. First, they bribed everyone involved in the election. Second, our Namfrel volunteers and even some party inspectors were not allowed to enter the polling places during the canvassing.

You know, it was also suspicious that the only votes being canvassed were those for the local candidates. For the national candidates, the election returns were canvassed but the certificates of canvass were done somewhere else. So what came out was what they wanted to come out.

So everyone was bought there. I think I can say that I’ve been the only one there so far who has dared to say what actually transpired.

What do you think there was in Lanao del Sur that fraud on such a large scale took place there?

You know, that is one of our problems. Because our leaders are like robots, they are controlled by whichever political camp that comes to power. We are ashamed of what happened.

Before you came out with these testimonies in the Citizens’ Congress and in the Senate, what other efforts did you make to expose the cheating in Lanao del Sur?

I did it through the media, the local media. And then, it was elevated here. Because you know, I am a mediaman also. That is why it is very easy for me to reveal what is going on. Namfrel chairman Joe Concepcion says I am employed by the opposition. No. It’s very easy for me to call a press conference because I am a mediaman, I talk with my brothers there in Cagayan de Oro and Lanao del Sur and I have contacts with the media here in Manila. That is why it is very easy for me to have a press conference.

It is not the opposition that arranges that. But the opposition has a participation in that because they want the truth to come out. They have also contributed.

How difficult has it been to be coming out with all these, shall we say, damning evidence of fraud? Have you experienced any form of harassment or any attempt at bribery?

Yes, the people working with me, they have affidavits. There are threats from the military and some election officers. It was really difficult for us to get copies of the election returns and certificates of canvass.

Bribery attempts? There have been so many. Since I first came out with my expose on July 4, 2004 there were so many bribery attempts. They promised me millions in exchange for turning over my evidences. They offered big positions. But I was never tempted by these offers. There are offers being made, even today – even at the last hour before I spoke in the Senate.

So far, what do you think has given you the strength to resist all these harassments and bribery attempts?

I am proud, very proud, of being Muslim. You know, my faith in Allah that gave me the strength. Money is not important, position is not important, for a Muslim. What is important is the pleasure of Allah.

You can stand against temptation because of Allah, then you know that Allah is very pleased with you.

I know there will be more threats against me. There could be someone out there who wants to do to me the worst things – after all it is the President I am going against. But who cares? If I die, I die at the pleasure of Allah. I would have nothing to regret. (

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