SAF whistle-blowers cry harassment by Ebdane aide | Inquirer News

SAF whistle-blowers cry harassment by Ebdane aide

A trusted man of poll fraud whistle-blower Senior Supt. Rafael Santiago on Tuesday said a purported aide of Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. has been “harassing” former subordinates of Santiago to force them to file “trumped-up charges” against him.

PO2 Rudy Baynihan also said he and his fellow members of the Special Action Force (SAF)—who reportedly took part in the switch of fake for genuine election returns being kept at the Batasang Pambansa building in 2005—were under surveillance by unidentified individuals.

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“Police officers close to us are being harassed and deployed to remote assignments,” Baynihan told reporters at the Department of Justice (DoJ).

“They are being accused of feeding us the information they had been getting in Zambales,” he added without elaborating.

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Baynihan, along with PO2 Alan Layugan and PO1 Norman Austria, filed a joint affidavit at the DoJ narrating their role in the break-in at the Batasan building early in January-February 2005.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the affidavit would be taken up at the inquiry into the fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections to be jointly conducted by the DoJ and the Commission on Elections.

Baynihan said one Chief Insp. Rogelio Peniones, whom he described as Ebdane’s chief of staff, had been approaching members of the Zambales police office to compel them to sign documents that could be used against Santiago.

Task Force Usig

“[Peniones] is reportedly doing the groundwork for the creation of a Task Force Usig, which will investigate us without valid reason,” Baynihan said.

He said the “task force” was also composed of Scene of the Crime Operatives and Zambales police office personnel.

“We also received text messages that members of the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) were deployed to look for us here in Metro Manila,” he said.

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Baynihan said unidentified men aboard two Asian utility vehicles were seen near the safe house where he and his colleagues had been staying since they surfaced last week.

He said that only one of the two vehicles had a registration plate, and that he and his colleagues were trying to validate it at the Land Transportation Office.

De Lima said she had informed Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo about the purported intimidation being carried out by officials loyal to Ebdane, a former chief of the Philippine National Police.

“We’re looking for ways to make sure that [Santiago’s] group is not subjected to any form of harassment,” De Lima said.

Affidavits submitted

Santiago was the commanding officer of the men who took part in the break-in and switching of election returns at the Batasan complex, which was intended to ensure Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s victory in the 2004 presidential election even in the event of a recount.

He was the head of the SAF Field Intelligence and Investigation Division at that time.

Tuesday’s inclement weather, as well as security concerns, prevented Santiago from submitting his affidavit to the DoJ, according to Vic Rodriguez, who is serving as his and his men’s legal counsel.

Rodriguez told the Inquirer by phone that Santiago might submit his affidavit today (Wednesday).

But separate joint affidavits were filed on Tuesday by Police Officers 2 Rudy Gahar, Alan Layugan and PO1 Norman Duco, and by Police Officers 2 Trifon Laxamana, Jr. and Rodel Tabangin.

Rodriguez said the separate joint affidavits were based on who were together during the break-in.

Personal redemption

The affidavits reiterated in detail what the group had told the Inquirer in interviews that were later reported in a four-part series.

“We are … respectfully submitting this joint affidavit not for our personal redemption from our misdemeanor, but to serve as a light for us to see the truth behind the election in 2004, with our fervent prayer that the truth shall set us free,” said the police officers, who had been with the SAF since 2002.

They said they were “not aware of the nature and purpose of the operation.”

They also said that not even Santiago told them the details “except for the general concept of the operation,” and that “other information was given on a need-to-know basis at that time.”

“The only order of Colonel Santiago was to prepare ourselves with complete combat equipment (full battle gear) while waiting for further instructions,” they said.

Franco sighted

Gahar, Layugan and Duco saw the former SAF chief, the now-retired Chief Supt. Marcelino Franco, at the Batasan complex on Jan. 23, 2005, the first night of the operation.

Laxamana and Tabangin also said they saw Franco arrive at the complex “from a distance.”

“[According to] his former men, [Franco] is a very principled and professional man. All of this is favoring him … to be consistent with his principles in life,” Rodriguez said.

He said Franco’s decision to also come forward and reveal what he knew of the Batasan operation in 2005 would be “crucial.”

Franco was among the senior military officers who called on the then Army chief and later Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., to join the planned military uprising against then President Arroyo in February 2006, according to Rodriguez.

The uprising, now known as the Marine standoff, failed and a number of ranking military officers, excluding Franco, were detained.

Rodriguez said he had requested Justice Secretary De Lima to subpoena Esperon’s affidavit for the court-martial of the detained military officers.

In that affidavit, Esperon detailed the meeting prior to the Marine standoff that took place in the office of then Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Generoso Senga.

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TAGS: Batasang Pambansa building, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, PO2 Rudy Baynihan, Poll fraud whistle-blower, Senior Supt. Rafael Santiago, Special Action Force (SAF), Task Force Usig, Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.
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