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September 2007 Archives

By Richel Umel Inquirer ILIGAN CITY, Philippines--The special Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBoC) of Lanao del Norte has proclaimed former Iligan City Councilor Vicente "Varf" Belmonte as the winning congressional candidate for the province's first district, including this city. Belmonte's proclamation on Wednesday came after the second division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Manila finished the canvassing of the certificates of canvass (CoCs) from the district, which also includes the towns of Linamon, Kauswagan, Bacolod, Kolambugan, Maigo, Tubod and Baroy. Belmonte, of the United Opposition, garnered a total vote of 60,054 over his closest rivals, Angelique Badelles of Kampi (Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino or Partner of the Free Filipino), who took 46,630 votes, and former Lanao del Norte governor Imelda Dimaporo of Lakas, who got 44,343 votes. Reached by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQURER.net, on Thursday, Belmonte said he already took his oath of office before Iligan City Councilor Voltaire Rovira, who is also one of his lawyers. Badelles had long conceded defeat based on figures from CoCs furnished to her party but Dimaporo said her lawyers are now studying what moves to take against Belmonte's proclamation. Dimaporo told the Inquirer she is not yet giving up the fight. The delay in the proclamation of the winning candidate for the first congressional district was caused by the discovery of allegedly tampered CoCs from Maigo, Kauswagan and Bacolod towns during the provincial canvass in May. Initial figures, including those of the so-called tampered CoCs, Dimaporo was leading by over 10,000 votes. But Belmonte filed petitions before the Comelec for the exclusion of the questioned CoCs and urged the poll body to instead use its own copies and those of political parties in the canvassing. "It's over now. Justice and truth have prevailed," he said. Belmonte said among his priorities will be the delivery of development programs for his district and the creation of a separate district for the city. Vice Mayor Henry Dy said the creation of a separate district would be a welcome development. "Iliganons have long dreamed of a separate district because it will pave the way for more developments," he said.
By Maila Ager INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines--"That's his karma." This was how lawyer Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III described the controversy hounding Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos regarding the allegedly anomalous national broadband network project. According to dictionary.com, karma is "the action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation." Pimentel, who lost his senatorial bid in the last May elections, used a forum in Quezon City to ventilate his sentiments against Abalos, who he claimed had "masterminded" the alleged cheating in the elections last May. He said the NBN contract between the government and the ZTE Corp. was one of the continuing "injustices" that the country has been facing under this present administration. "Ang dami pa ring injustices hindi lamang sa aspeto ng human rights, pati na rin sa [There have been a lot injustices not only in the aspect of human rights but also in the [stealing the people's mandate and the latest one is the ZTE involving the same person, who maneuvered, masterminded the stealing of an election, is the same person now involved in this anomalous ZTE contract," Pimentel said, referring to Abalos. "So good for him [Abalos]. So that's his karma. Nobody believes him kahit anong gawin niyang paliwanag [no matter what explanation he gives]," he said. In the House of Representatives, Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros pressed for the filing of an impeachment complaint against Abalos following a detailed testimony by Jose "Joey " De Venecia III in the Senate regarding the chairman's role in the NBN fiasco. De Venecia is the son of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and a major shareholder of the Amsterdam Holdings Inc, one of the proponents of the NBN project. Hontiveros said De Venecia's sworn statement was enough to impeach Abalos. "The statement, which was given under oath, would make Comelec Chairman Abalos accountable for violating the Anti-Graft and Corruption law and betrayal of public trust," she said in a statement. "At the very least, the minority should meet and discuss whether the testimony is enough to impeach Abalos. Since Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico has not filed his complaint yet, the minority might tackle the possibility of linking up with Jose de Venecia III about the matter," she pointed out. Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño and Gabriela Women's Partylist Representative Liza Maza were no longer surprised by the younger De Venecia's mention of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and his supposed role in the deal. "If First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo is the mystery man, it doesn't take too much to conclude who the mystery woman is. Above all, she could be held accountable in the NBN-ZTE deal," Casiño said, referring to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Manila Representative Bienvenido Abante, an administration ally, joined calls for the First Gentleman to address the issue confronting him. "I think, I've been always supportive of the administration but this time, I hope he [Mr. Arroyo] will address the allegation against him," Abante said. But Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia, also an administration ally, said the President's husband could choose not to appear in a congressional inquiry since the Constitution provided that only a judge could issue a warrant of arrest or compel a person to participate in the hearing. Unlike Abante, Garcia was more interested in what the Speaker has to say about his son's exposÃÆ'©. "He [the Speaker] should not keep quiet. The people also expect to hear something from him," he said. The Cebu lawmaker would not say however how this latest exposÃÆ'© against Mr. Arroyo would affect the political alignment in the House.
By Christian V. Esguerra, Alcuin Papa View the NBN contract and related documents MANILA, Philippines--One man's scandal can be another man's excuse. The controversy hounding Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. has given congressmen yet another reason to justify their move to postpone next month's barangay (vilage) and youth elections. Davao Rep. Prospero Nograles Wednesday urged senators to support the House bill resetting the elections to May 2009 if only to allow Abalos to concentrate on his "defense" in the $329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) project. Abalos has been accused by businessman Jose "Joey" de Venecia III, son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., of brokering the deal in favor of China's ZTE Corp. and receiving a huge payoff for his efforts. Abalos has denied the allegation. "The chair of the Comelec is very busy defending himself in this ZTE issue and he's supposed to be in charge ... of all electoral processes," Nograles said in a media forum in Quezon City. He said he had relayed his proposal to Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who opposes postponement of the elections. Opposition to postponement solidified the other night when senators at a caucus decided that the Oct. 29 polls should push through, contrary to the position of some members of the House of Representatives. After Abalos retires Nograles prefers the barangay and youth elections to be held after Abalos' retirement in February 2008. By then, Nograles argued, the Comelec would have new faces who could "fully concentrate" on the elections. "Because of the supervening circumstances, maybe (Pimentel) will consider it, that we should have an election with a new chairman of the Comelec," Nograles said. House Bill No. 2417 on postponement was passed on third reading Monday and transmitted to the Senate. Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr., chair of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, said his counterparts at the Senate -- except for Pimentel -- were generally in favor of resetting the elections. Mafia rule But he said he had been told of the senators' practice of consensus-building: "Either everybody agrees or nobody agrees." "I didn't know they work together like the Mafia," he said in the same media forum. The Department of Interior and Local Government said more than 9,000 barangay captains around the country would be ineligible to run in the elections after serving three consecutive terms. In a report to Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, National Barangay Operations Office (NBOO) Director John Castañeda said 9,642 barangay captains out of the total 39,145 were now on their third and final consecutive term. The figures do not include barangay captains in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Current clamor "These third-termers are however allowed to run as kagawad or council members," Castañeda said. "Having been elected in 1994, they are already on their 13th year as chief executives of their respective barangays." Puno himself said the terms of barangay officials had already been extended for two years and the present clamor was to elect a new set. Puno also said it was time to hold barangay elections because barangay officials might already be exceeding their term limits as set by the law. He said that if the elections were postponed to 2010, then barangay officials would have been in power for a total of nine years. "Some of them will have exceeded the age limit for holders of public office as provided by law," Puno said. Gordon fumes He added that barangay officials who won a third term in 2001 would also be exceeding term limits. Administration Sen. Richard Gordon fumed against his Senate colleagues' decision not to postpone the barangay and youth elections. Gordon said that by giving the Comelec more time to prepare for the elections, the Senate was in effect allowing the poll body to again violate the election automation law. Gordon is the principal author of Republic Act No. 9369 providing for automated elections passed last January. The Comelec, under Abalos, refused to implement automation during the May 2007 senatorial and local elections, citing lack of time. Need to automate Gordon insisted the Comelec should have long prepared for the automation of the barangay elections. "We have to force the Comelec to automate," Gordon said at the plenary session. Senate President Manuel Villar insisted "there is no reason" to once more extend the terms of barangay captains and councilors as well as the youth leaders. "Some of us wanted to postpone it but we deemed it necessary to finish this issue since the candidates for the barangay elections have been waiting," Villar said. "Thus, to put this matter to rest, we made a decision and this decision is to push through with the elections." With a report from Dona Pazzibugan

On postponing barangay polls

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MAY 29, 2009 will be very close to the 2010 presidential election. That would be a good justification to postpone it again, perhaps to coincide with the 2010 elections. Meaning, no new faces in those mostly squatter barangay halls. Meaning, the pretty well-greased barangay gentlemen will implement the orders from the chain of command. All these made possible on the walking orders of the Lower House. What will stop the fifth column of the administration from any advance is our Senate, hopefully. -- Valdemar B Tamayo, Kamuning, Quezon City (via e-mail)

Reader wants SK abolished

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THE SK [Sangguniang Kabataan] should be abolished. If the idea is to train the youth to be leaders, a law should be passed to strengthen instead the schools' student councils. This way the students will be able to apply their learning and skills among their peers. Barangay polls must proceed -- this is the only means to change errant barangay leaders. We need to change most of these barangay officials knowing how ineffective they are in governing and administering to the needs of their constituents. We should not be again experiencing their inadequacies [in] tend[ing] to our needs. All we can see are barangay halls that have never given any good administration to the citizenry. -- Raul Loreto, Novaliches, Quezon City
HERE'S a video taken by INQUIRER.net reporter Veronica Uy at the Senate. For more video clips from INQUIRER.net, visit iVDO.

Comelec hits Bedol lawyer

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By Jerome Aning Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--The Commission on Elections on Saturday scored the lawyer of former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol for saying that the latter's camp expected the poll body to uphold its earlier decision to convict Bedol for contempt. Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said Bedol's lawyer Andrei Tagum showed his contempt for the Comelec after he admitted that Bedol was "half-expecting" the Comelec to junk his motion for reconsideration. "If we go by the history of the commission, I don't think they have ever reversed their decision because that would be an admission that they erred," Tagum was quoted as saying in media reports. Tagum said Bedol would ask the Supreme Court to overturn the Comelec's decision. Jimenez explained that when a quasi-judicial body such as the Comelec declines to reverse its decision on a motion for reconsideration, "it is because the arguments in the motion do not justify reversal, or because the motion failed to present any new arguments, that is, different from -- or perhaps better than -- those that led to the original adverse decision." "It strikes me as being extremely arrogant for defeated lawyers to claim that the tribunal before which they are arguing is composed of petty men who would rather perpetuate an injustice than to admit their error," he added. Comelec meted on Bedol a six-month jail term and a fine of P1,000 after he was found guilty of four counts of indirect contempt. The case stemmed from his failure to attend the scheduled canvassing of Maguindanao votes and the hearing of Task Force Maguindanao which looked into alleged poll cheating in the province, as well as his unlawful assumption of custody of poll documents which he eventually lost, his challenge to the Comelec to sue him for his absences, and for boasting to media that he had a cache of firearms.

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