MANILA (Feb. 18) — At its plenary session on Wednesday, the Commission on Appointments’ (CA) committee on constitutional commissions and offices confirmed Lucenito Tagle and Armando Velasco to serve with the Commission on Elections (Comelec). The decision on the third nominee, Leonardo Leonida, was deferred at the request of Senator Ana Consuelo Madrigal, a committee member.
Madrigal informed Senator Panfilo Lacson, committee chairman, of her intent to field questions to Leonida but had to excuse herself from the deliberations due to a hearing of the environment committee which she had to attend as well.
At the hearing, Tagle informed the CA committee that graft charges have been lodged against Maguindanao poll supervisor Lintang Bedol with the Ombudsman in Davao City but that his whereabouts cannot be ascertained. He added that Bedol might now be in the US.
“We will try to communicate with consular offices abroad and also seek help from our people abroad,” he said.
Bedol, the controversial former Maguindanao elections supervisor, remains at large after the poll body ordered for his arrest in late 2007.
The Comelec found Bedol guilty of indirect contempt after he defied summonses to appear in investigations on his province’s voting in the May 2007 mid-term elections.
It sentenced him to six months imprisonment and fined him P1,000 but authorities have yet to locate him.
The Genuine Opposition in 2007 accused Bedol of manipulating the provincial poll results in favor of Team Unity bets.
The GO accused him of shaving the votes for senatorial candidate Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III in favor of administration candidate Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, another CA committee member, pressed Tagle further and said the information which he provided were useless unless Bedoy was arrested. Pangilinan added that if the Comelec failed to capture Bedoy, the credibility of the 2010 elections was in question.
“My fear is that come 2010 the trust and confidence of the people will not be fully restored with respect to Comelec. We may have a very difficult time ensuring credible elections. People will continue to doubt the capacity of the Comelec to do its job,” he said.
In 2008, Bedol petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify a Comelec ruling that found him guilty of indirect contempt.
Although Tagle said the Comelec was trying to rebuild its image to earn the public’s trust for the 2010 elections, Senator Pangilinan advised Tagle to prioritize the arrest of Bedol.
“You put Bedol behind bars, you send a signal anyone in wrongdoing will suffer the same fate … Your work in 2010 will be 10 times easier if you show your rank and file you are serious against election fraud. That will send a signal you will not condone wrongdoing,” Pangilinan said