Friday, May 11, 2007

Prefab TU ERs stashed in 396 ballot boxes bared

International observers, monitors and opposition poll watchers should focus on vote counting at municipal and provincial levels. The first three days is the most critical part in the election. Manual counting is prone to fraud. Pre-fabricated election returns are all over the place. Malacanang's so-called "command votes" is equals to cheating.

Prefab TU ERs stashed in 396 ballot boxes bared
By Angie M. Rosales
Daily Tribune 05/12/2007
Big-time electoral fraud has been started, long before the polls open on Monday.
Malacañang was virtually caught with its pants down as its alleged massive cheating schemes have been discovered and bared by an opposition senator.
Not only have pre-fabricated election returns (ERs) favoring President Arroyo’s Team Unity (TU) senatorial candidates contained in 396 ballot boxes been unearthed, but also the discovery of reportedly fake P500 bills running in the billions to be used for buying votes in the Visayas and Mindanao, where cheating is expected to occur.
Earlier, in Abra, there was also a proliferation of P500 bills being handed out by armed men stashed in the barrel of their Armalites, with notes for them to vote for certain candidates.
This and more were bared yesterday by Senate Minority Leader Aquililno “Nene” Pimentel Jr., before Senate reporters during a luncheon conference.
Even the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds have reportedly been used again to finance the placements of television advertisements of some TU senatorial candidates, some of whom are the biggest spenders on TV campaign ads, which collectively comes up to some P2.5 billion.
Pimentel disclosed to reporters the information on an alleged shipment on board a bantay dagat pump boat, which is claimed to belong to a non-government organization advocating clean environment, which was intercepted by the Philippine Navy last May 9 in Zamboanga carrying “tens of millions worth” of money which was alleged to have been fake.
Based on the report given to Pimentel, the pump boat took off from the municipality of Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte and was on its way to Sibuco, also in Zamboanga del Norte, when it was intercepted by the authorities. It was then that this was found to have been loaded with “millions of P500 bills” which are said to be fake.
“Obviously these bills, having been discovered and intercepted during the election period, could have no other purpose but to be used in vote-buying, again to thwart the will of the people.
“We don’t know (in whose custody the P500 bills are now). We don’t know what happened to the money. There are too many loose ends,” he said, but stressed that “if the money is intended for electoral purposes, the money should have been deposited at least with the Comelec and let the poll body dispose this. But up to that point, we don’t know. It seems that the money got lost,” he said.
Pimentel added that he is now bringing this out in the open, to help in tracing what has happened to these bills, because otherwise, it will be an open-ended case for me.”
The senator, this early, is already poised to engage his colleagues into conducting a full-blown investigation as this is proving to not be an isolated one as there have been discovered other election-related incidents involving, this time, pre-fabricted ERs , which were also intercepted in Mindanao.
In separate incidents also last May 9, 16 ballot boxes were discovered to have contained prefabricated ERs in the municipality of Quezon, Bukidnon while another batch, totaling 380 were found by a certain Fr. Dan Paciente in Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte.
The ERs showed results favoring TU candidates, Pimentel said.
As for the ERs found in Singangan, Pimentel said Genuine Opposition (GO) volunteers were even tipped off by elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) themselves, leading them to the whereabouts of the said election paraphernalia.
“After that, however, the ballot boxes again suddenly disappeared. We can no longer trace the ERs’ whereabouts.” Pimentel noted.
“What happened in the discovery of Fr. Paciente, I am informed, is that the matter was reported to the Comelec but up to now, whatever action was taken by the Comelec is not known,” he stressed, adding: “But as you can already see, if this happened in the municipality of Quezon, Bukidnon, it is easy to imagine that it is happening in other places in Mindanao.”
He said that all these incidents have something in common, which is that they all suddenly disappear, leaving no traces.
“Again, as of now we don’t know what happened to these cases. These are all troubling signs and please note the these three incidents I mentioned happened in Mindanao which probably means that there will be massive operations to cheat in Mindanao in behalf of the TU candidates,” he noted.
Also concerned NGOs have disclosed to Pimentel the alleged financing made by PCSO to TU candidates, saying funds by the said government agency were used to pay for their propaganda advertisements and other election activities.
“For that, we surely be going to subpoena the documents of the PCSO as well as the media outlets paid for by the PCSO to establish misuse of funds of the government for electoral purposes.
“I can already easily project who will be hit by this. You look at the list of those candidates whose names have come out as top spenders in the media especially in the broadcast media and you can easily see who are with the administration who could probably be beneficiaries of the PCSO funds,” he said.
“This PCSO funds information, I received from an NGO communications to me saying that really, the TU propaganda is being paid for, among other sources of funds, by the PCSO.”
Pimentel announced that he will be initiating a probe to unmask the purported culprits and the extent of supposed misused government funds by the PCSO.
It is not the first time PSCO funds have been used to finance Mrs. Arroyo’s candidates in 2001. A tape of this campaign expenditure by the PSCO surfaced, where this was taken up in a board meeting.
“My immediate reaction is, we will look into this and certainly we will subpoena the records of PCSO and of course the records of the media outlets which received PCSO funds in payment of TU propaganda materials,” he said.
Pimentel clarified, however, that media outlets will not be held liable, if the allegations will be proven true, only the PCSO, as it is the responsibility of the government agency not to use its funds for what he called as “illegal advertising.”
“I do not have the exact figures yet but easily, this could translate to billions of pesos. You can just imagine the amount of money that has gone to the TU candidates,” he said.
Pimentel also raised the issue of the so-called command votes, not of religious organizations but by the hierarchy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over their active members.
“When we speak of the command votes, we refer principally to command votes involving the Armed Forces because the AFP elements are being made to vote according to the command of their superiors, purposely to deliver a 12-0 vote in the AFP stations all over the country.
“We believe that the Visayas and Mindanao will probably be again, the ‘playground’ of the administration in the matter of twisting the will of the people so that it can ensure a 12-0 victory for the TU candidates.
“I have just been to the several places in the Visayas and Mindanao and that is the talk. As to the Pagcor, what I heard is that the cheating and spending will be done by the Pagcor, basically in Makati. That would be the battleground of Pagcor’s involvement.”
The opposition leader also pointed out that there had been a similar case in the past which the Senate also investigated and this will be made a reference “to show that this has been the pattern.”
“We will tie it up…to prove further that it has been the traditional source of electoral spending which is not one of its mandates and therefore you can easily see that the misuse of the PCSO funds to that extent, will deprive funds intended for medicine, for indigent people, all kinds of social work of the PCSO,” he said.
Administration lawmakers on Friday quickly denounced as baseless propaganda the claim of GO that manufactured election returns are now in place in four provinces in the country.
Kampi Rep. Anthony Miranda (Isabela) and Lakas-CMD Rep. Eduardo Roquero ( San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan) assailed GO for tainting the reputation of their provinces by including in its latest cheating tale.
The lawmakers said the GO’s allegations that manufactured ERs are now in place in Isabela, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Sorsorgon was just a last ditch effort to offset the overwhelming advantage of the administration candidates in the field.

Negros Oriental Comelec official nabbed for extortion
ABS-CBN source: Genuine ERs being sold for poll fraud

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