No more punishment for 2004 poll offenses?

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 30 2012 08:41 PM | Updated as of Aug 31 2012 04:41 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes today told a Senate committee that offenses possibly related to the 2004 national elections may have already prescribed.

Brillantes was asked by senators for progress on the investigation into the alleged electoral fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections, now the subject of a joint Comelec-Department of Justice prosecution panel.

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano confronted Brillantes about his supposed agreement with Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Koko Pimentel for the Senate to investigate the 2004 election anomalies while the panel focuses on 2007 election anomalies.

Cayetano said both senators belied there was such an agreement. Brillantes clarified that he never said the Comelec will no longer investigate the 2004 election anomalies, just that they will prioritize 2007 because that election is the one covered by the electoral sabotage law.

The electoral sabotage law was passed only in 2005.

“Sabi ko di ko unahin 2004 kasi may issue ng prescription. Unahin 2007 kasi may electoral sabotage. I never said we will not investigate 2004,” the Comelec chief said.

The 2004 elections is mired in allegations of fraud after the "Hello, Garci" wiretapping scandal revealed an alleged conspiracy to rig the elections in favor of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Brillantes was the election lawyer of Mrs. Arroyo’s main rival, Fernando Poe Jr. Election offenses usually prescribe after 5 years.

Cleansing ARMM voters’ list

In the hearing, Brillantes updated the Senate finance committee on the progress of the Comelec’s cleansing of the voters’ list in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a region notorious for electoral fraud.

Congress had annulled the voters list in the region, paving the way for a 10-day general registration in the 5 provinces of the ARMM.

During questioning, Brillantes told the committee that from the original 1.7 million registered voters in the region, some 300,000 registrants may be delisted because they are either minors or had registered more than once.

The automatic finger print verification system will be used in identifying multiple registrants.