SC suspends ex-Comelec exec from law practice for premature announcement of special polls

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 25 2019 01:28 PM

MANILA – The Supreme Court has suspended former election supervisor Lintang Bedol for prematurely issuing a notice for special elections in a precinct in Maguindanao some 15 years ago. 

In a resolution dated Sept. 16, the SC Third Division suspended Bedol from the practice of law for 1 year with a stern warning that “a repetition of the same or a similar offense will warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.”

The case stemmed from a disbarment complaint against Bedol, which alleged that he issued a notice for special election on July 23, 2004, 3 days before Comelec declared a failure of election in a precinct in Maguindanao. 

Under the law, only the Comelec en banc can declare a failure of elections.

"Respondent’s act of issuing those notices ahead of the issuance of the COMELEC en banc Resolution calling for a special election was not in compliance with the procedures under the law and the COMELEC rules," the resolution penned by then-Associate Justice and now-Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said. 
 
"In so doing, he breached his duty to obey the laws and the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities, thus, violating Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility," it added. 

The SC resolution adopted the recommendation of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors. It was concurred in by 4 other members of the Third Division.

The resolution rejected Bedol’s excuse that he issued the notice due to lack of time to prepare for special elections and reminded lawyers in public service to follow the law, as required by Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

“A government lawyer is a keeper of public faith and is burdened with a high degree of social responsibility, higher than his brethren in private practice,” the resolution said.

Bedol became controversial when he figured in the Hello, Garci scandal which implicated former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 electoral fraud case and the 2007 midterm polls where Bedol accused Arroyo of ensuring a 12-0 sweep for administration senatorial candidates in Maguindanao. 

The results in Maguindanao allowed Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri to edge out Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III for a Senate seat in 2007.

But Zubiri resigned in 2011 following Bedol’s and former ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan’s revelation that there were irregularities in Maguindanao in the 2007 polls.

The Senate Electoral Tribunal eventually declared Pimentel the 12th winning senator after the election protest showed there were many spurious ballots. 

This led to the filing of an electoral sabotage case against Arroyo, ex-Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and Bedol which a Pasay City court junked in December 2018.

The 2004 Hello Garci case meanwhile lapsed in 2014.