After losing confidence in PPCRV, bishop forms own poll watchdog
Citing several instances which led him to lose confidence in the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), an incensed Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles on Tuesday said his archdiocese has formed its own election watchdog group called the Lipa Archdiocesan Council for Electoral Reforms (LACER).
"Yun ang pang-substitute namin dito sa Lipa, sa Archdiocese of Lipa," Arguelles said in an interview aired over GMA News TV's “News To Go.”
PPCRV volunteers in Lipa will now become LACER volunteers who would focus on voter education and monitoring on May 13, Election Day, Arguelles said, adding they also aim to monitor the performance of officials even after the elections.
"LACER is also for good governance," he said.
GMA News Online could not immediately reach the PPCRV for a comment, but its chairperson, Henrietta de Villa, had earlier said Arguelles' departure would not affect their preparations for next month's midterm elections.
Arguelles said his frustration with the PPCRV has left him with no choice but to cut ties with the group.
"I think [the] PPCRV, hindi na 'yun watchdog,” he said. “They are defending always the Comelec (Commission on Elections) kaya sabi namin we don't want to be party to that."
According to the bishop, this was shown when the PPCRV sided with the Comelec in defending the glitches that marred mock elections.
"Halimbawa, inamin nung mock elections [na] maraming mga deficiencies. Sabi ng Comelec 'yun naman daw ay minor lang. Parang nag-echo ang PPCRV, minor gltiches lang naman. We were expecting the PPCRV to insist on remedying 'yung maliliit na problema," he said.
Another instance, he said, was when Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machines, the technology used in the 2010 automated elections and the same one that will be used in next month's midterm polls, were reportedly found in a hotel room in Tuguegarao.
"May explanation ang PPCRV na 'yun daw ay gagamitin kung saan [pero] dapat nasa Comelec office ['yun] or a place secure," Arguelles said.
Aside from this, Arguelles said he opposed the acceptance of former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, one of the officials behind the implementation of the use of PCOS machines during May 2010 elections, as PPCRV vice chairman for external affairs.
"Bakit nagiging vice chairman yata ng PPCRV ay 'yung isang dating Comelec official na medyo may doubtful reputation tsaka electoral lawyer siya?" he said.
Larrazabal refused to comment but told GMA News Online that he has been on leave from the PPCRV since November 2012.
Arguelles, meanwhile, said the "last straw" was the PPCRV's alleged denial of their request to view the contents of the fourth copy of the election returns (ERs)."Ang last straw na noon lang in-announce sa amin... ay 'yung fourth copy ay hindi muna ipapakita sa amin ay medyo nagalit ang mga pari," he said.
The PPCRV, as an accredited citizens' arm of the Comelec, will be given copies of the ERs to be printed by the PCOS machines in the 2013 polls. Section 52 of the Omnibus Election Code gives the Comelec the power to enlist non-partisan organizations to assist them in ensuring free, orderly and honest elections.
De Villa had earlier said that volunteer poll watchers would be able to see the contents of the ERs. She also said she was "hurt" over reported innuendos linking some members of the PPCRV to alleged business interests in the counting machines.
Citing the aforementioned reasons, Arguelles said he told other bishops that they need to "review" their relationship with the PPCRV. He claimed that some bishops have already cut ties with PPCRV and have been working with the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel).
Earlier, the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) also severed ties with PPCRV and said it will work with Namfrel. Manila Auxiliary Bishop and NASSA chairman Broderick Pabillo said that, in NASSA's case, the PPCRV allegedly did not want to coordinate with them.
"Sabi nung ibang obispo ay they are also considering [getting] out of PPCRV [because] they don't want to give their blessing to something na baka gamitin for corruption. Ngayon kung meron pang susunod 'di ko alam," said Arguelles without mentioning names.
Arguelles also said they have written De Villa a letter informing her of their decision, and that she accepted it. He said they have already asked the Comelec for their own copies of the ERs but that the deadline for accreditation is already over so they are considering working with other groups like Namfrel.
"Sabi ko we can work together, but we will not work under you," he said. — Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News