Friday, July 06, 2007

Catholic bishops slams conduct of midterm elections

CBCP slams conduct of midterm elections

The Philippine Star

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed dismay on Friday over the conduct of the May 14 midterm elections, saying the challenge of credible, honest, meaningful and peaceful polls remains.

CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo lamented that “vote-buying and other anomalies have already become systematic and even cultural.”

He said election watchdogs, including the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), said the problem no longer lies in the voters but the voting system itself and the irresponsibility of some election officials.

“If you listened to reports, you would have realized that there was very little difference between this last election and the past elections,” Lagdameo said.

PPCRV chairman Henrietta de Villa told the bishops that last May’s elections merely repeated the unresolved poll fraud issues in the 2004 race between President Arroyo and the late Fernando Poe Jr.

Lagdameo said the CBCP would call for solid measures to restore the credibility of the electoral process. He said issues related to the last elections would be at the top of the CBCP agenda in their upcoming meeting.

He said they would come up with a full assessment of the conduct of the May 14 midterm elections at the conclusion of the assembly on Monday.

“This is one of the topics to be discussed. We will get reports from poll watchdog groups like PPCRV, Namfrel (National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections), and Lente (Legal Network for Truthful Elections),” he added.

De Villa went on to liken Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol to former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

“Attorney Lintang Bedol – with his repeated defiance of summons from the National Board of Canvassers and en banc resolutions of Commission on Elections, unexplained loss of election accountable forms in his custody and the ‘kid gloves’ treatment he is being given by his superiors – seems to be a repeat of the ‘Hello Garci’ controversy,” she stressed.

Garcillano is believed to be the “Garci” in the controversial “Hello, Garci” wiretap tapes.

In the tapes, a female caller who sounds like President Arroyo discusses the May 2004 presidential election with a man she addresses as “Garci.”

Mrs. Arroyo defeated Poe in that election.

In June 2005, Mrs. Arroyo admitted talking to an “election official,” although she has not identified the official up to now.

She claimed it was a “lapse in judgment” on her part, and in a nationwide televised address said she was sorry.

The House of Representatives investigated the “Hello, Garci” scandal. Garcillano evaded investigation for six months. When he finally surfaced in December 2005, he admitted talking to Mrs. Arroyo only once during the election period and vote count in 2004.

The “Garci” tapes were made the basis of impeachment complaint against Mrs. Arroyo, which was twice dismissed on a technicality.

“How can the Filipino people feel good about our elections when the gross mistakes of the past continuously rear their heads in our electoral exercise, which can only mean that no genuine effort is being made to regain the public trust?” De Villa asked.

De Villa, former ambassador to the Vatican, admitted they were appalled by the delayed resolution of issues surrounding the elections in Maguindanao.

“For the sake of our almost 440,000 volunteers of PPCRV who risked their lives and limb to restore credibility to our elections, we call on the Comelec whom we tried with all our might to help come up with clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful elections to please stop this running travesty of the electoral process,” she appealed.

Lagdameo added the CBCP is also expected to discuss other pertinent issues, including extrajudicial killings of activists and journalists as well as the implementation of the new Anti-Terror Law.

Lagdameo, however, believed the unresolved issues of poll fraud and corruption against Mrs. Arroyo can no longer be raised in their meeting although they were consistently discussed in the last two plenary assemblies: “I don’t think that should be part of the agenda anymore,” he said.

In earlier pastoral statements, the bishops called on the Filipinos to continuously search the truth behind allegations against Mrs. Arroyo stemming from her questionable victory in the 2004 polls.

Opposition: Votes for 18 Senate bets prove fraud in

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