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Loren Legarda: Proof of poll fraud in my protest

Investigators interested in finding out if there was massive fraud in the 2004 presidential election need not go far.

Evidence of vote-switching—including the testimony of the official printer of the Commission on Elections (Comelec)—was presented to the Presidential Election Tribunal (PET) as early as 2006 but hardly anyone paid attention to it, Sen. Loren Legarda said on Monday

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“It’s clear that the real winners were robbed of their victory but we don’t ask for any position or recognition anymore, just to correct history,” Legarda said.

The senator said she was coming out with the evidence again following recent revelations by Senior Supt. Rafael Santiago that he and his team in 2005 helped substitute manufactured election returns (ERs, or vote tallies) for presumably genuine ones kept in the Batasang Pambansa building.

Renewed allegations that then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo resorted to fraud to beat the late Fernando Poe Jr. with the help of former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano have prompted the Comelec and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to create an investigating panel.

Legarda, who was Poe’s running mate, lost to Arroyo’s vice presidential candidate Noli de Castro but filed a protest in the PET that was composed of members of the Supreme Court. Her protest was dismissed when she ran for senator in 2007.

Legarda showed reporters copies of the transcript of PET hearings in 2006.

Payongayong testimony

In his testimony, manager Robert Payongayong of Ernest Printing Press, the official Comelec printer of ERs, said one of the election returns assigned to the House of Representatives was “not authentic.”

According to the PET’s transcripts, Payongayong testified that the vote tally, supposedly from Lanao del Sur province, did not bear two security features of a genuine ER—a Comelec logo and “and the fiber that glows when placed under an ultraviolet machine.”

Legarda said that in the “fake ER,” Arroyo and De Castro won. “But the six other duplicate copies show that FPJ and Loren won. How can duplicate ERs differ in results?”

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Legarda said the declarations of Santiago and his men that the original ERs kept at the Batasan building had been substituted with bogus ones supported her protest that she and Poe were cheated.

But Legarda said she was no longer interested in reviving her protest.

Correcting history

“We can no longer change the course of history, FPJ died and my ambition for higher office died with him. All I want now is to correct a historical fact.” Legarda said.

“The evidence being presented now is not new. It was already presented to the SC (Supreme Court), to the media. These fake ERs from the Batasan were already shown to the court but only a few paid any attention to it,” she added.

“The truth was not entirely paid attention to.”

Reached for comment, Santiago said Payongayong’s testimony “corroborated” what he and his men had told the media—that there was a switching of the ERs kept at the Batasan building.

Last time

Legarda also said she was not interested in testifying in the DOJ-Comelec joint probe or any other forum.

“This is last time I will talk about this. No one gave us the time of day when we showed these things in 2005,” Legarda said.

Her voice broke as she recalled the treatment she received from the national board of canvassers at the time the opposition was asking that a spurious ER be scrutinized.

“I asked if we can look at just one ER but we were not entertained,” Legarda said in Filipino. She said that then Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan merely said “Noted” and the board ordered that her microphone be turned off.

JDV, Gonzalez

At a separate news conference, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III urged former Speaker Jose de Venecia and former Iloilo Rep. Raul Gonzalez, both former members of the national canvassing board, to speak up and enlighten investigators about the cheating scandal.

Sotto said he was making the appeal in line with the revelations of Santiago and his men.

In Cagayan de Oro City, Garcillano’s lawyer Ed Tamondong said the reported Malacañang probe into Garcillano’s assets was part of personal attacks by key members of President Aquino’s administration on his client.

Allegations that Arroyo and Garcillano had conspired to rig the results of the 2004 presidential election were based on a taped phone conversation supposedly between the two. The former President and Garcillano have denied they were involved in cheating.

Secretary Ronald Llamas, Aquino’s adviser on political affairs, said the government had been discretely looking into the assets amassed by Garcillano since the election scandal broke out.

‘Out for vengeance’

Llamas claimed the government had found that Garcillano had acquired houses and lots in Subic in Zambales province, Cagayan de Oro City, Quezon City and Cotabato. Garcillano also supposedly acquired several farms in Bukidnon province.

“There are certain people in this administration who are out for vengeance versus Garcillano,” Tamondong said in a text message.

He warned that “the effort to single out Garcillano constitutes a gross and blatant misuse and abuse of power, which is precisely what the President sought to stop.”

Tamondong said it was obvious that Malacañang was out to get Arroyo and that Garcillano was being made a sacrificial lamb.

He dismissed calls for Garcillano to be charged with perjury, falsification of documents and violation of the passport law as a rehash of old accusations.

“All of these were dismissed by the DOJ for lack of probable cause,” Tamondong said.

Garci’s farms

Regarding Garcillano’s farm in Baungon, Bukidnon, Tamondong said this was acquired in 1979 and was “built depending on the availability of materials.”

He said he had no knowledge of the other property supposedly owned by Garcillano.

Tamondong also said Garcillano would appear before a planned Senate probe, if summoned, but said there should be no more reinvestigation into the “Hello Garci” tapes.

In Manila, the military said that Army Maj. Jason Aquino, who was reportedly used as a Malacañang conduit to Garcillano, was once implicated in an alleged military attempt to overthrow Arroyo in 2006 but he was later cleared.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz said that after he was cleared, Aquino was assigned to the Army Reserve Command in Cavite.

“He was supposed to report on July 1 but it appears he has not reported,” Ortiz said, adding Aquino risked being declared AWOL (absent without leave) if he did not report to his unit immediately. With reports from Dona Pazzibugan in Manila and JB R. Deveza, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: 2004 presidential elections, Comelec, Commission on Elections, Ernest Printing Press, massive poll fraud, Presidential Election Tribunal, Robert Payongayong, Sen. Loren Legarda
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