, JUNE 14, 2007 (MALAYA) BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR - MALACAÑANG yesterday rejected any move to reopen the "Hello Garci" investigation because it considers the case closed.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said President Arroyo has stressed that it is time for the country to move forward and re-opening the issue is not a step in that direction.

"Nothing is being hidden about this issue. It’s a beaten up subject matter and I think it’s only an effort on the part of people to revive something that is divisive," he said.

He said the issue would not contribute to the country’s progress, particularly the bid to sustain the economic growth.

He said reviving the issue by continuously discussing it and raising questions is neither helping nor putting closure to it.

"Alam naman natin na … it was not even the source of any criminal complaint brought before the appropriate body. So at the most, what it generated…is a lot of propaganda against the administration, so sana naman ay tigilan na natin para… there can be closure to it," Ermita said.

Poll Commissioner Rene Sarmiento on Tuesday said he will ask the Comelec to re-open the "Hello, Garci" case as the personalities mentioned in the audiotape are the same ones being linked to the alleged poll fraud in some provinces of Mindanao in the May 14 elections.

Among them are Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Election Director Rey Sumalipao; Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol; Renato Mabutay, ARMM director in 2004;

Francisco Pobe, a former election supervisor in Agusan del Sur; and Renault Macarambon, who served as the vice chairman of the Lanao del Sur board of canvassers in 2004.

Bedol is a known ally of Garcillano, who has been accused of rigging the results of the 2004 presidential elections in favor of President Arroyo.

Comelec commissioners evaded questions on the re-opening of the Hello Garci case after their executive session ended shortly after noon.

"I will issue a statement some other time in the future," Sarmiento told reporters, fueling speculations of a gag order from the commission.

Alioden Dalaig, head of the Comelec Law Department, said there were no instructions in the meeting regarding the re-opening of the case.

Task Force Maguindanao will resume its hearing this afternoon where Bedol is expected to present all election documents in his possession.

Among them are the copies of the provincial certificates of canvass and Statement of Votes and the summary Statement of Votes.

Other election officials from the province including members of the municipal Board of Canvassers are expected to be present in the hearing

Task Force head and Poll Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer said the probe panel will be hearing the statements of these officials as well as compare the documents to that of Bedol’s. – With Gerard Naval

Nene: Bedol concocted tale BY JP LOPEZ

SENATE minority leader Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel yesterday accused Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol of "concocting a tale" that he could not produce the municipal certificates of canvass (COCs), Statements of Votes (SOVs) and other documents because these were stolen from his office.

"I am both amused and outraged by Bedol’s explanation that the election documents were not only missing but had also been stolen. I believe he just invented his explanation," he said.

Genuine Opposition spokesman Adel Tamano said their legal team is just waiting for Task Force Maguindanao to finish its investigation before filing criminal or administrative charges against Bedol.

Tamano said they will not allow Bedol to escape liability for the massive electoral fraud in Maguindanao.

He said the disappearance of the COCs is a clear act of negligence on the part of Bedol.

Pimentel asked why it was only now that Bedol reported that the municipal COCs and SOVs are missing.

Bedol disappeared for several days after the elections and ignored the summons of the NBC to shed light on reported poll irregularities in Maguindanao.

When he resurfaced Monday, Bedol told the NBC that vital poll documents had been stolen from his office.

He also denied he has been in hiding, saying he had not received the official summons from Comelec.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Bedol should have been more responsible in ensuring the sanctity of important documents under his care.

Ermita said the Palace is leaving it to the Comelec to decide on possible sanctions against Bedol if it has been proven that he was remiss in his duties as custodian of the election documents. – With Jocelyn Montemayor

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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