Friday, November 5, 2010

National Election 2010 Update

Electoral Politics border on a National Sport here in the Philippines, perhaps a "Blood Sport."And so it goes that despite the National Election having been held this past May 10, 2010,the nation is still dealing with violence directly tied to it. In fairness though, some of those municipalities that were declared, by COMELEC, to have been,"Failed Elections"are still trying to complete their electoral process."Bread and Circuses, read and Circuses,"if the government can not supply the "Bread,"at least it is well able to provide the "Circus."

On Tuesday, September 07, 2010 former House Speaker Prospero Nograles finally got his chance to be heard over what he characterised as gross irregularities with the campaign and election of his primary rival and eventual victor,(now Mayor) Sarah Duterte Carpio. Nograles had originally filed his 14pp complaint with COMELEC,the national electoral authority. As had been expected the complaint mentioned the investigation by NGO"PPCRV" (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting). COMELEC has agreed to an Electoral Audit for the mayoral race. Today's decison had been anticipated in view of the August 13, 2010 Ruling by COMELEC. That 11pp Ruling found that Nograles' complaint met the legal threshold in both substance and form.

The entire province of Davao del Sur performed poorly according to PPCRV's investigatory report but in Davao City itself there were 40,000 double Registrations (the same voter had been registered 2 times allowing them to theoretically vote twice). CTO (City Treasury Office) and COMELEC officials have been slowly making their way through 300 plus boxes of Ballots from the city's 1st District after complaints of extremely gross irregularities having taken place there on Election Day. At the same time even more boxes are being collected from CTO's warehouse in Dacudao District. In totality 1,172 boxes of Ballots will be shipped intact to COMELEC HQ in Manila for a COMELEC Audit.

Nograles and Mayor Duterte Carpio are being charged (finacially) for the Audit. As each box is collected at each storage site they are re-sealed by chain and lock which the 2 politicians themselves must jointly install/afix. PNP (Philippine National Police) then escort the boxes to the Super Ferry Cargo Yard for maritime shipping. Upon arrival in Manila PNP meets the ferry and again transport the boxes to COMELEC facilities. One wonders if once again security measures are served up merely for window dressing since a whole lot of people come into contact with the Boxes from the time PNP drops them off at Super Ferry.

Outgoing Mayor Durterte, now Davao City's Vice Mayor,has always kept a tight ship so that it is no suprise that little or no Election Related Violence took place. Though Duterte's reach barely extended past the city's borders there were no incidents worthy of discussion, partly because of the rare step taken by COMELEC to implement a 10PM to 5AM Curfew, from
May 09 through May 11.The rationale are 12 un-oublicised killings related to the Election since the Season began on November 04, 2090.

Elsewhere...After the the voting took place on May 10,2010 asit-down took place between the elders of the Mastura and Midtimbang Clans of Maguindanao Province. The meeting was realised when Mayor-Elect , Datu Tocao Mastura of Sultan Kudarat (the town in Maguindanao Province, not Sultan Kudarat Province which sits next to Maguindanao) was able to bring his nephew,Vice Govenor Elect of Maguindanao Province, Ismael"Dustin"Mastura to outgoing Mayor Midpantao Midtimbang of Guindulungan in that same province. Mayor Midtimbang was aimacble, finally, perhaps in light of just having lost that election and wanting to stay on the side of power (in that the Masturas, always a strong Clan, were in ascendance given dustin's having just won the Vice Governor's slot.

Midpanatao it needs to be mentioned, was Andal Ampatuan Sr's running mate and there by was running for the slot now held by Dustin.He is also a relative of Anadal Sr's by marriage since 1 of his wives (he is polygamous like many Filipino Muslims in power) is the daughter of Zaldy ampatuan, son of andal Sr and the former Govenor of ARMM, autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Ergo, Midpantao's wife is a grandaughter of Andal Sr. Zalsy, like Anadal Sr is in jail and on trial at Camp Bagong Diwa on Luzon for the Maguindanao Massacre (57 murder charges, etc).

The peace making was sorely needed in light of an attack that took place on May 02, 2010 just a week or so prior to the Election.At 1145PM that evening in Barangay Tambunan, Talayan, Maguindanao, Provincial Board (SP) member Mike Midtimbang was attacked by the paramilitary led by Kumander Tamano. When the gunmen, using M16s and M203 grenade launchers let loose, a round went through a huge picture window on a second floor landing of the palatial home and critically wounded 10 year old Shaina Kyla Midtimbang Hoy who unfortunately was standing in front of it looking down at the scene unfolding below. As is often the case in these sub-conflicts the actors remain untouched but bystanders get the worst of it. At the moment the bullets began to fly a Toyota Revo had the bad fortune to have been passing by , along with another SUV. Both were hit. The 2nd SUV merely took rounds but luckily nobody was wounded or killed. the Revo however, holding 11 people, yes 11, was far less fortunate with 1 man dying and 2 others critically wounded.

Councillor Mike as he is known is a staunch supporter of the Ampatuan Clan, and as I mentioned above the Ampatuans and Midtimbangs inter-marry so there is more than just a political or business aliance at stake. Kumander Tamano is allied with both the political opposition and the MILF, the latter of course being almost insanely anti-Ampatuan. Mike also figures in the latest chapter of the Ampatuan Saga in that relatives of the Massacre victims have now filed a Petition with the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Commission) at Banko Sentral. the Petition relates to the trial testimony of 1st Witness for the Prosecution, Anadal Sr's long time valet, Lakmudin Saliao. Saliao among other things spoke about Andal Sr handing out hundreds of millions in Pesos in bribes as he was in his hospital room under guard by the AFP (armed Forces of the Philippines). 1 of the people being blessed with this largesse was...Councillor Mike, to the tune of 36 Million Pesos. While the Midtimbangs as a whole are still enjoying the high life poor Councillor Mike faces a bit of turbulence over the next several months.

Sunday , July 04, 2010 in Barangay Damdamun, Pualas, Lanao del Sur, Vice Mayor Dianaton Dinog was returning to the town after the mass-oath taking for all Lanao del Sur officials winning slots in the May 10th Election in Marawi City when his SUV was ambushed by 4 gunmen. His wife Ana Tanog Dinog was badly wounded and a supporter, Abdul Benasing was killed instantly. A bodyguard was also wounded while the Vice Mayor himself was unscathed. With Election related violence in Mindanao the authorities will always point to "Rido," Clan Warfare no matter the cause unless blatantly undertaken by uniformed MILF guerillas or NPA wearing their obiqitous green teeshirts. Such was the case in this attack, blamed on the entire Sangcopan Clan despite the shooter Oday Sangcopan having been a staunch supporter of a rival candidate. Even when Rido does play a role it is almost always tied to politics because the poorest of Clans do not engage in this ritualised violence and the wealthy Clans are always tied into the existing power structure.

July 10, 2010 in Barangay Batolawan, Pikit, North Cotabato, Town Councillor Boy Alba was heading to the Town Hall for a flag raising ceremony when waylaid by a gunman on National Hiway. Taking rounds to the chest and stomach he died shortly after.

On September 08, 2010 COMELEC announced that the remaining Special Elections (aka"Re-balloting") that werent held in June 2010, will finally be held on November 06, 2010. The delay has been due to contractual issues with the primary vendor Smartmatic. The PCOSs (Optical Scanners which automated the here to fore tedious electoral process) need to be updated and Smartmatic wants to be paid for it. A very simple proposition but nothing about the Electoral Process is"simple."

The decison was made the day before, September 07 after a whole lot of hand wringing. time, as always, is of the essence. As it turns out, November 06 is the soonest possible date because once a new contract s signed it still takes 8 weeks of logistical arrangements, etc.the contract for the update hit a wall when COMELEC Legal Dept.chief Ferdinand Rafanan found Smartmatic's price to be exorbinant. the contract has since been re-written in a mutually agreeable way but still must be composed in final form prior to signing. Meanwhile smartmatic is undergoing the neccessary preparations for the upgrade to limit possible delays.

I had posted about a political battle in Tawi Tawi's Turtle islands, the isles closest to Sabah, Malaysia. On September 10, 2010 the Sandiganbayan, Manila's Anti-Graft Court, 5th Division cleared the former Mayor of the Turtle Islands municipality of Malversation, Sarajul Jihim. He had been accused by former Town Treasurer Ismael Abdulatip who accused the former mayor of improperly liquidating cash assets. Helping to clear former Mayor Juhim, greatly was the fact that former Treasurer Abdulatip died before being able to testify on the matter.

Allegedly, Jihim had floated several personal and business checks against the municipality's bank accounts, to the tune of some 500,000 Pesos (roughly 10,000 US), in 1994 and 1995. Jihim told the Court that Abdulatip came to him in 2001 and confessed that the accusations against Juhim were entirely fabricated and that Abdulatiip had accused Juhim at the behest of jihim's political rivals. These same rivals tried to sabotage Jihim's re-election bid in 1998.

I mentioned this case, despite its having taken place around 17 years ago because it lies at the root of an issue I discussed in my entires regarding the May, 10, 2010 Election when an entire island in the 5 island Turtle group was depopulated by partisans for the current Govenor. If I have time I will fill in the blanks over the interceding 16 to 17 years.

In October the case against Camiguin Province Governor Jurdin Jesse"JJ"(also "Jes") Romualdo, who is also an ex-Congressman as well as scion of the family that has ruled the island province for decades finally faced the music for his actions on the weekend preceeding the May 10, 2010 National/Local Election. the saga began as a group of 7 freelance Cagayan del Oro based journalists and friends decided to make some easy money by taking a ferry over to the islasnd to record the deeply entrenched vote buying that has taken place there since Elections began.

On Saturday, May 08, 2010, 2 days before the Election, Rolando Bruno who professionaly uses the name,"Rolando Gono" witnessed the "bodyguards" of the Governor handing out thick white envelopes of Pesos. when his 2 friends, the father and son team of Herbert and Hugo Damaguing began filming the hand-out the pack of heavily armed men became rabid and demanded that they hand over their very expencive camera equipment for confiscation of film and audio. the duo refused and began getting pistol whipped with 45s.

At about that time, strangley coincidental, Bruno/gono received an SMS (text) from his mother back in Cagayan del Oro informing him that his 7 year old daughter had taken ill and would be going to the hospital. Taking leave from the man he had partnered with, fellow stringer Rene Albis, he began walking through the municipality of Catamaran towards the pier. Coming across the municipal PNP station he decided, supposedly on a whim, to file assault charges against the bodyguards. after doing this, walking down that same street, he too was confronted by an angry crowd. Quickly sending an SMS to his partner, saying he was in trouble, he then went off the radar.
On November 13,2010 as Re-Balloting took place in Calanogas in Lanao del Sur Province a candidate for the Municipal Council,Malik Arniful was nowhere to be seen because he and a cousin were in the town of Limbatan,in that same province as it too under went Re-Balloting.While one could easily agree that asking just why a standing candidate would abandon his or her home turf just polls open,perhaps a more pressing question would be just what caused Arniful and his cousin to draw down and engage in a 1 hour fire fight in the middle of a crowded town.Both men were badly wounded.

That same day on Basilan Island,in Isabela City, at the Re-Balloting Precinct at Isabela Central Pilot School in Barangay Aguada an unidentified man was caught stealing roughly 200 Ballots.Alert BEIs quickly notified PNP officers deployed on site as a Security Detail and officers promptly arrested the man but he had already shaded in 40 of them so that were declared ruined but the remaining 160 were salvageble.

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