MALACAÑANG on Saturday challenged the Liberal Party (LP) to name poll officials who are part of what it claimed as “vendetta politics” that unseated Ed Panlilio as Pampanga governor.

Deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said this would be better than making sweeping accusations that Panlilio is a victim of Malacañang’s “vendetta politics.”

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“They are always blaming the Palace for this and that. To clear the air, they should name the Comelec (Commission on Elections) commissioner who they believe had ill motive to unseat Panlilio. Then let’s see if they can prove their claim. I will bet they can’t do that,” Saludo said on government-run dzRB radio.

He insisted that the Comelec is “independent,” and Malacañang does not interfere in its decisions.

Besides, Saludo said naming names will finally give the Comelec official involved the chance to defend himself or herself.

“Just say who is biased, so the official involved will have a chance to rebut those claims,” he added.

Earlier this week, the Comelec's second division ordered Panlilio, who is critical of the Arroyo administration, to step down after recount showed he lost in the 2007 gubernatorial race in Pampanga.

In the recount result, former Provincial Board member Lilia Pineda, an ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, won 2,011 votes more than that of incumbent Panlilio.

Pineda received 190,729 votes, while Panlilio only 188,718 votes.

Pineda's husband Rodolfo Pineda, meanwhile, had been tagged as a gambling lord during the Senate trial on the plunder charges against former President Joseph Estrada.

The Pinedas’ bailiwick is Lubao, the district where President Arroyo is running for a congressional seat in the coming May elections.

The same division of the poll body also unseated Isabela Governo Grace Padaca, who was also a critic of President Arroyo, and Bulacan Governor Joselito Mendoza, who left the administration-backed Lakas-Kampi-CMD and transferred to LP. (JMR/Sunnex)