BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
A former commissioner of the Commission on Elections said that the issue of alleged fraud in the 2004 presidential election is not yet closed as documents on the alleged cheating were shown at a Senate hearing.
A former commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that the issue of alleged fraud in the 2004 presidential election is far from being a closed issue, as documents of cheating in the 2004 presidential elections were presented at the Senate last week.
“It’s difficult to close such an issue,” lawyer Mejol Sadain told Bulatlat in an interview. Sadain retired from the Comelec in February.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been hounded by allegations of electoral fraud even before she was proclaimed winner of the 2004 presidential election. The surfacing in mid-2005 of the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes further fuelled these allegations. In the tapes, a woman with a voice similar to Arroyo’s instructed an election official, widely believed to be former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, to rig the polls in her favor.
Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos dismissed the allegations of poll fraud in 2004, saying the issue is a closed book.
“So many questions are still unanswered, and I think it’s not for the Comelec to immediately say that there has been no cheating,” Sadain said. “It is for the Comelec to investigate whether or not there was really cheating. Only thereafter can we say whether or not there was cheating.”
No investigation of cheating allegations
When the “Hello Garci” tapes surfaced, Sadain issued a memorandum to the commission en banc to refrain from talking to the media about the issue pending an investigation. The en banc commission then created a committee to look into the allegations.
“The problem was, Chairman Abalos’ position was that we needed to authenticate the tapes first before we can use them for the investigation,” Sadain disclosed.
Sadain said that Comelec could have done the investigation even without an authentication of the tapes.
“Why wait for the authentication of the tapes when they themselves mention people – officials of the Comelec? We are in official possession of documents which were the ones allegedly used in the cheating. Why don’t we start there? Let’s ask our people, let’s check our documents, get affidavits,” he said.
Nothing came out of the investigation even as Sadain left the Comelec. “In so far as the documents are concerned, they didn’t look into any of these,” he said.
It is these documents, Sadain said, that are now surfacing in the ongoing Senate investigation on the “Hello Garci” controversy.
Indications of “election manipulation”
During the Senate hearing last week, Comelec Commissioner Resurreccion Borra admitted that the 2004 election was marred by irregularities.
Sadain said that while he did not see the documents presented to the Senate, he still believes what Borra said. “I’m inclined to believe him because he knows the documents and he knows what he’s talking about. There are really indications that there was election manipulation particularly in the Muslim areas.”
Borra, however, said the cheating was not done by one party or candidate alone, but was “endemic.”
Sadain agreed, however, saying that the candidates most capable of cheating are usually those who are incumbent. “They command a vast array of resources. They are the ones who have people, who have money, who have power, they’re the ones with the advantage,” he said.
This is the reason the 1987 Constitution prohibits a second term for a sitting president, he added. “Because the president controls a vast array of resources,” he said. “So if he or she runs for reelection, he or she can always use this array of resources against his or her opponents.”
A technicality circumvented the constitutional provision seeking to prevent this, Sadain added.
Criticism not destabilization
Asked to comment on Abalos’ recent statement that the renewed allegations of fraud in the 2004 election “could be part of another destabilization plot,” Sadain chose to give a general statement.
“There can be no destabilization if there is no weakness in the foundation of the government,” he said. “Besides, when you criticize certain institutions and institutional processes, it is unfair to almost always label these criticisms as destabilization. There are criticisms which are constructive and are aimed to improve the system. So how could you differentiate constructive criticism from other forms of criticism if you immediately say that these are destabilization moves?” (Bulatlat.com)