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A watchdog loses some bite

IN WHAT could be a case for Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the notoriously slow count of the Commission on Elections has overtaken the once famous “quick count” of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) more than a week after the polls closed.

Guardians of the ballot

MOST OF them were formed in reaction to the allegations of widespread fraud that marred the 2004 polls, but even the newest among today’s poll watchdogs are admitting they are no match to the election cheats.

Then again, way before May 14, many of the election monitors — old and new alike — were already saying it was impossible to clean up the country’s election system. They had hoped, however, that their larger numbers would minimize poll “irregularities.” One of the newcomers, Kontra Daya, also said they were aiming to expose how the cheats were going to do it.

Luz Emmanuel Soriano

IN THE garden of peace that Sr. Luz Emmanuel Soriano began more than 15 years ago on the hilly Antipolo campus of Assumption College, there is evil on four legs, a stray cat that has a nasty habit of preying on the birds in the eco-park, leaving the good sister not too pleased. But even the cat that she calls a “witch” cannot seem to darken the mood of the Assumption nun, not even when she sees it slinking behind some bushes on a morning when the sky has gone gray and is threatening to unload more than a bit of rain. She simply harrumphs, the pesky cat scampers away, and Sr. Luz is back to chirping happily about the eaglets in the park, and their caretaker named Darigold.

Jose Concepcion Jr.

IT SOUNDS like a hiccup, but then Jose Concepcion Jr.’s voice breaks as he tells a story that he says he remembers as if it happened only yesterday. The story takes place on Edsa in 1986, at the height of the uprising that toppled President Ferdinand Marcos, and how Concepcion felt as he walked there with other council members of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), which he headed. A group had begun shouting “Namfrel!” and before the hefty Concepcion knew it, he was being lifted onto their shoulders.

Lanao’s dirty secrets

THE GHOSTS of the last elections haunt Lanao del Sur and they refuse to rest. They will not go away. They flit about, seeking resolution. So when Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, the commander of the Marine brigade stationed in the province during the last election, testified in the Senate in September, saying that he had been mysteriously relieved from his post two clays after the voting, the ghosts were roused again. Days after the Senate hearing, Gudani and one of his officers, Marine Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan, were sent to court martial for refusing to heed their superiors’ orders not to testily. The ghosts, having been roused, are now rattling even more noisily than ever before.

Did Mike Arroyo fund postelection ‘special operations’ in Lanao?

POONA BAYABAO, Lanao del Sur — “Fernando Poe, Fernando Poe.” With clenched fists and his right hand raised, octogenarian Hadji Mohammad Monte repeated the name of the late action star like a mantra when asked whom he voted for in the last presidential elections. He insisted that Poe was number one among the residents of this town where the late king of Philippine movies was — and still is — very popular.