DOJ-Comelec committee on poll fraud convenes

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2011 07:08 PM | Updated as of Aug 18 2011 03:08 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The joint Department of Justice (DOJ)-Commission on Elections (Comelec) preliminary investigation committee, which will determine the existence of probable cause against individuals implicated in the 2004 and 2007 poll fraud, formally convened Wednesday at the Justice Department.

The meeting was presided by committee chairman Prosecutor General Claro Arellano at past 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

Present were committee members Laguna provincial prosecutor George Dee (DOJ), Pasic City prosecutor Jacinto Ang (DOJ), Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan (Comelec), and Atty. Michael Villaret (Comelec).

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes also briefly sat in the meeting.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Brillantes said the committee met formally for the first time to discuss its rules of procedure which it has to submit to the Secretary of Justice and the Comelec En Banc for approval.

"They will not only talk about their ground rules today but also other procedural matters to hit the ground running," Brillantes said.

"Secretary De Lima and I will give them leeway to do their work. We will stay away a bit," he added.

While no official committee spokesperson is designated, only Brillantes and De Lima are authorized to talk on behalf of the committee and a fact-finding team also created for purposes of the joint probe.

The committee is given five (5) days from issuance of the joint order dated August 15, 2011 to submit its rules of procedure which will guide the conduct of the preliminary investigation.

The committee has reached a consensus that it shall be governed by the Rules on Preliminary Investigation, as practicable.

De Lima and Brillantes had earlier vowed that the joint poll fraud will have the end goal of filing the necessary charges against those who shall be found liable for the cheating.

"Resolutions finding probable cause for election offenses, defined and penalized under the Omnibus Election Code, and other election laws shall be approved by the Comelec in accordance with the Comelec Rules of Procedure. For other offenses, or those not covered by [the] Omnibus Election Code and other election laws, the corresponding criminal information may be filed directly with the appropriate courts," the joint order read.