MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced Tuesday the arrest of two men who allegedly told a local candidate they could manipulate the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines for a price.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. told reporters on Tuesday that the two suspects were arrested during an entrapment operation at the Century Park Hotel in Manila on Monday.
The suspects, identified as Hadji Omar Masinding and Sultan Pundatoon Bagul, had allegedly presented themselves as engineers of Smartmatic to Abdulsalam Hadji Harun, a local candidate of Simunul municipality in the province of Tawi-Tawi, Special investigator Nelson Moreno of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) counter-terrorism division said.
Moreno said the suspects claimed they could manipulate the PCOS machines to rig the results of the elections for P5 million pesos.
The suspects wanted P2.5 million paid by Harun as downpayment and the other half to be paid after Harun is proclaimed as the winner of the local elections, Moreno said.
When Harun said he did not have P2.5 million, the suspects instead asked for P100,000. It was at that point that Harun reported the matter to Brillantes, who referred the case to the NBI.
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 operation was carried out when Harun met with the suspects around 7 p.m. inside a coffee shop of the Century Park Hotel. After Harun handed to the suspects the marked money contained inside a brown envelope, the authorities quickly apprehended the suspects.
Brillantes said this case should send a strong message to all those who are going around in the provinces and trying to swindle candidates, Brillantes said.
“They are deceiving people that the PCOS can be manipulated, but it cannot,” he said.
The two are currently being held in the NBI headquarters and have undergone inquest proceedings, Brillantes said.
They will be charged for estafa and usurpation of authority, Moreno said.