By Ben R. Rosario and Chito A. Chavez
Lawmakers have demanded that Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Martin Diño personally present to the House of Representatives the list of 100 congressmen allegedly involved in vote-buying during the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections and explain how he arrived at this conclusion.
Administration and opposition congressmen chided Diño for issuing press statements linking solons to election fraud but without even offering any evidence to back his accusations.
“That’s quite a reckless statement coming from an official of the executive department. He should show proof,” said Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez.
In a privilege speech on Wednesday, Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu demanded that Diño be summoned to present the list of involved House members and evidence to support the accusations.
Abu said media reports have Diño accusing at least 100 congressmen and 1,000 local government officials of interfering in the recently held Barangay and SK elections by funding vote-buying activities.
Abu said the House should not allow Diño to engage in grandstanding to prop up his image at the expense of members of the chamber.
Assistant Minority Leader and AKO Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin admitted that there may be some politicians who supported barangay candidates but “not to the extent of vote-buying.”
“What Diño stated is a malicious and reckless imputation against congressmen. He should back up his allegations with evidence,” said Garbin.
For his part, Assistant Minority Leader and ABS Party-list Rep. Eugene de Vera stressed that no political party will place its position in jeopardy, adding that politicians are fully aware that barangay elections are non-partisan.
Makabayan bloc and Magnificent Seven lawmakers also issued strong condemnation of Diño’s accusations.
“Better for USec Martin to name names of involved in these mentioned election anomalies. TraPo at its work again,” Gabriela Party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus said.
On the other hand, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin told Diño to “let his hands do the talking not his mouth.”
Villarin, a member of the Magnificent Seven, said the DILG official has the responsibility to file cases against election law violators.
“The DILG should know better and be prepared to prevent or even mitigate these things from happening prior to the elections through a vigorous information drive about the non-partisan nature of barangay elections. Hindi yung tapos na at saka ka mag ngangawa,”Villarin said in a statement.
Vote-buying cases to Comelec
Meanwhile, DILG Assistant Secretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said vote-buying incidents and other violations in the recently concluded elections were already forwarded to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“We have forwarded all the reports to Comelec which has the mandate to investigate and hold accountable all individuals, including government officials, who contravened election laws, rules and regulations,” Malaya said.
He noted that the reports was received by the department from concerned citizens from all over the country through the office of Diño.
“We are pleased that our voters are now more vigilant and protective of their rights. We thank them for the reports we have received which we are now forwarding to the Comelec,” he added.
Malaya said reports were transmitted to the Comelec for investigation and appropriate legal action.
The DILG has deferred to the Comelec on how it would act on citizens’ reports received by Diño regarding government officials since that is within the mandate of the commission.
Malaya said the DILG has continuously been in close coordination with the Comelec as the department vowed to provide the needed assistance against local officials committing election-related violations.
He also clarified that it is within the mandate of the Comelec to issue sanctions against members of Congress violating election laws.
All winners proclaimed
Meanwhile, all the winners in the May 14 elections have already been proclaimed three days after the elections, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez announced Thursday.
“Regarding the proclamations, we’re at 100 percent as of 4:30 a.m. today (Thursday),” he said.
The proclamation involved only 41,943 barangays in the country. No elections was, however, held in Marawi due to the prevailing conditions there.
Earlier, Jimenez explained that the proclamation was prolonged because of the manual system.
“It’s a manual election. We’ve observed that the candidates are participating, especially in the counting process,” he said earlier.
“One of the main features of manual voting, the ballot can be contested down to the last ballot. There is a cost on the time spent,” Jimenez added.
In manual polls, the counting of votes is also done manually which begins at the close of voting period at 3 p.m. The Board of Election Tellers, mostly teachers, will read out the votes written on the ballots aloud, one at a time while one of the election workers tallies down the votes as they are called out. (With a report from Leslie G. Aquino)