Comelec has not probed 2004 poll fraud

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COMMISSION on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Sixto Brillantes on Tuesday admitted that the joint panel of the poll body and the Department of Justice (DOJ) still has no findings on the alleged cheating during the 2004 elections because the Senate had yet to come up with a committee report on its own probe.

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Speaking at a hearing of the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, Brillantes said the Comelec had not started its probe on the 2004 election.

Brillates announced in 2012 that the joint Comelec-DOJ panel will investigate the supposed rigging of the 2004 elections by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo and former Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, because the Senate committee that was supposed to conduct the probe did not act on it.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano asked Brillantes if the joint panel had findings on the alleged election irregularities and the Comelec chair said that there was none because the Senate panel tasked to conduct the investigation did not submit its committee report to them.

Brillantes insisted that the committee did not conduct the probe because there was an earlier agreement between the poll body and the Senate that the 2004 election fraud would be heard by the Senate while the Comelec would look into the 2007 irregularities.

The 2004 presidential race that was mainly between Arroyo and the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. was believed to have been rigged to ensure the victory of Arroyo.

Claims of widespread vote padding and shaving came out together with the leakage of the controversial taped telephone conversation between Arroyo and Garcillano at the height of the canvassing of votes that became known as the “Hello, Garci” scandal.

Cayetano said the Comelec’s failure to act on the 2004 elections investigation could encourage those involved to continue with their operations.

The minority leader also noted that some of the Comelec officials mentioned in the “Hello Garci” recordings were allowed to keep their jobs and were even promoted by the poll body, except for Garcillano who has retired.

Cayetano particularly cited the case of Reynaldo Sumalipao, who in 2004 was the regional election supervisor in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and a known protege of Garcillano.

Sumalipao, Cayetano said, was the one who admitted that the votes counted exceeded the total number of registered voters in the area but the Comelec official did not act on the matter.

During the hearing, Brillantes said Sumalipao did nothing wrong and that he only followed the rules of the poll body.

Cayetano and Brillantes also had a heated exchange after the latter defended himself from the attacks against him by Cayetano on May 28 following the privilege speech of Senator Grace Poe about the 2004 election fraud.

Brillantes particularly cited the majority leader’s statement tagging him as “Garci” in disguise. The Comelec chair insisted that the tag was baseless since he was not allied with the Arroyo administration in 2004.

In fact, Brillantes said, he was in the opposition and serving as the election lawyer of Fernando Poe Jr.

“[I was] not connected with Garcilliano during that period; it is the Arroyos who are allied with him and a political family in Taguig who were also allied with the Arroyo administration, they are the ones that should be investigated,” the Comelec chair said.

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