Froilan Gallardo: Dirty politics behind Yusoph kidnapping CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY— It was all about the huge

amount of bribe money that corrupted election officials who issued orders to cluster polling precincts to favored politicians during the last elections in May, military officers and poll watchdog groups said. The officers and NGO leaders said that this was the reason why Nuraldin Yusoph, the 22-year-old son of poll Commissioner Elias Yusoph, was kidnapped in Marawi City. “Politicians who lost a lot of money want to recoup their losses. That is the reason why Nuraldin was kidnapped,” said Brig. Gen. Ray Ardo, chief of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade. “They want to be refunded,” he added. At the center of the controversy that hounded the kidnapping of Nuraldin is his father Elias, the only Muslim commissioner in the Commission on Elections. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in its website, said that “the kidnapping was a collective effort” of all losers in the election “to force him [Commissioner Yusoph] to refund the bribes given him during the elections” as it accused the election official of “[taking] money from all sides.” There was no immediate comment from the elder Yusoph and his family about the accusation. Sources provided Mindanews with a copy of a Comelec order dated on May 9, 2010 ordering the clustering of polling precincts from 19 to 55 in Marawi City. The order was signed by Comelec Chair Jose Melo who annotated that “his signature was made upon recommendation of Commissioner Yusoph.” Commissioner Rene Sarmiento signed with “reservation” while Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer did not sign at all. Commissioners Yusoph, Armando Velasco, Gregorio Larazabal, and Lucenito Tagle also signed. Ardo said the order benefited Marawi City Mayor Sultan Fre Fahad who went on to win the mayoralty election over former Mayor Abbas Basman. Did you notice that Commissioner Yusoph did not come to Marawi during the entire 29 days when Nuraldin was in the kidnappers’ custody? He was scared that all the losing politicians will gang up on him and demand a refund,” Ardo said. Ardo himself is no stranger to election cheating. In 2004, he was among the military officers who were accused of rigging the

elections for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Last February 2009, Yusoph, a provincial prosecutor in Marawi City, was appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the Comelec to replace Commissioner Romeo Brawner who died. “Remember I did not give you a clear answer when you asked me about Yusoph after he was appointed. It is because I do not trust him at all,” said Hadji Abdullah Dalidig, head of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reforms and Good Governance (IMERGG). He confirmed that bribes were paid to pay election officials in the last May 10 elections. Dalidig, who chaired the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) in Lanao del Sur, was the 2004 whistleblower who uncovered the dagdag-bawas electoral cheating that allegedly benefited former President Arroyo. The young Yusoph was moved from one hideout to another before he was released in Cagayan de Oro City late Monday afternoon, more than a hundred kilometers from where he was abducted in Marawi City on June 20. This was the surprise ending of the 29-day hostage ordeal of the young Yusoph who was snatched in in front of the Bato Ali Mosque in Marawi City. Wearing a dark blue jacket and white tshirt, Nuraldin appeared to be dazed and at times covered his face from the glare of photographers’ flashes and TV camera lights. “I was constantly threatened and blindfolded. I was always moved around from one place to another,” the young Yusoph told reporters before he was whisked to Manila this morning. He said he was threatened to be killed at least nine times while in captivity. The 22-year-old Yusoph said he could not recall the places where his abductors had taken him during the 29-day captivity. “I only remembered the threats. I could not see anything,” he said. The young Yusoph said his kidnappers at first fed him only once a day. But his food intake was increased as the days went by. Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong said the kidnappers released Nuraldin at Junction Ilaya, Macanhan and Masterson road in Barangay Carmen, this city around 5:10 pm. Monday. Adiong said the family of Yusoph did not pay any ransom for the safe release. Nuraldin was whisked to Manila this morning and brought to his father.

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