High-tech poll fraud was supposedly their specialty.
Two men who claimed they could manipulate the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to be used in the May elections at “P5 million per candidate” were arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation Monday night.
NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas said the suspects introduced themselves to prospective clients as employees of either the PCOS supplier Smartmatic or the Department of Justice, and claimed that they had access to the machines to be used by the Commission on Elections.
Hadjie Omar Masiding, who has known addresses in Muludung, Lanao del Sur province and in San Andres, Manila, and Pundatoon Bagul, also of Lanao del Sur, were arrested based on a complaint from Abdulsalam Hadji Harun, a mayoral candidate in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi province.
“They claimed that they could ensure the victory of a candidate by manipulating the PCOS machine, but in reality they were just con artists,” Rojas said.
The pair was entrapped in an operation by the NBI’s Counter Terrorism Unit at Century Park Hotel in Manila after Masiding received an envelope containing marked money from Harun.
Rojas said Harun first reported the suspects’ offer to Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, who then referred the case to the NBI.
Quoting the complainant, the NBI chief said the suspects assured Harun of victory for P5 million but asked him for a P2.5-million down payment.
The balance would supposedly be paid “after the proclamation,” he said.
But after some haggling, the suspects agreed to reduce the initial payment to P100,000, not knowing that a trap had been set.
Speaking to reporters at the Comelec main office, Brillantes said he offered the NBI team P100,000 from his personal money for the entrapment operation, P5,000 of which was marked so it could be used as evidence.
The arrests should send a strong message to those who are going around in the provinces and trying to dupe candidates, Brillantes said. “They are telling people that the PCOS can be manipulated, but it cannot,” he stressed.
Masiding and Bagul face charges for estafa and usurpation of authority.—With a report from Matikas Santos, Inquirer.net
Originally posted at 03:48 pm | Tuesday, February 19, 2013