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Ebdane denies raid, calls accuser thief

/ 12:53 AM August 06, 2011

IBA, Zambales—Finally, Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. on Friday spoke at length about his purported involvement in the switching of fake for genuine election returns (ERs) in the Batasang Pambansa complex back in 2005, denying that he had issued the order for the operation.

Ebdane said at a news conference here that he had to call three people to help him reconstruct the events on the evening of Jan. 19, 2005, when his accuser and “almost son,” Senior Superintendent Rafael Santiago, claimed meeting with him in a coffee shop to discuss the clandestine project.

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At that time, Ebdane had just retired as director general of the Philippine National Police and was serving as the national security adviser of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Ebdane said he had not intended to respond to Santiago’s allegations without first reading the latter’s affidavit, but that he was reminded of the adage that “a lie repeated too often becomes the truth to the larger public.”

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The governor had scheduled the news conference at 10 a.m. but showed up after lunch. He began the forum by extending his condolences to the family of the late Zambales Representative Antonio Diaz.

But after a 30-minute exchange with reporters, he paused in mid-sentence, rose and walked out of the room, appearing troubled and teary-eyed.

Figaro

Late last month, Santiago and his team came forward to claim that they had switched ERs to ensure that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would emerge the winner of the 2004 presidential election in the event of a recount.

Santiago, who had then been relieved of his post as police director of Zambales, surrendered to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima the ERs that he and his team claimed to have stolen from boxes taken from the Batasan complex.

He said the switching operation was undertaken on Jan. 23 and 29, and Feb. 5 and 27, 2005, on orders issued by Ebdane through subordinates.

Speaking at the news conference, Ebdane said he could not even recall going to Figaro coffee shop on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City where Santiago claimed to have met him to discuss the operation.

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Ebdane said the third person he had contacted to reconstruct events, whom he described as an engineer, confirmed that the governor was in the coffee shop “during a budget hearing in Congress sometime in 2007 [or] 2008.”

“That was the first and last time I went to that [coffee shop],” Ebdane said.

Asked why Santiago would implicate him, Ebdane said: “If you look at the series of statements [Santiago has issued], I am being targeted. He should be truthful.

“I am a senior government official. If [an individual with my rank] were to do something like this, you should be discreet. Why would I meet [him] at a place like that?”

No more bridges

Ebdane said Santiago was “almost a son” to him.

“He wasted the opportunity,” the governor said. “But nonetheless, he has made it [his decision to admit he was part of poll-related crimes] … He has burned his bridges. He has no bridge to walk on.”

Ebdane took a jab at Santiago by referring to the missing police equipment for which the latter is now being investigated.

Santiago’s successor as Zambales police director, Senior Superintendent Wendy Rosario, told the Inquirer early this week that he had formed a task force to recover the police equipment that included 30 e-bikes worth P45,000 each, Kevlar vests and helmets, rifles and computers.

Rosario said pieces of evidence in criminal cases that were being investigated, and which were in Zambales police custody during Santiago’s term, had also turned up missing.

He said these included ammonium nitrate, detonation cords, a 12-gauge shotgun and sacks of explosives confiscated from Coto Mines in Zambales.

“The electric motorcycles that were being used by our policemen, he should just return them,” Ebdane said at the news conference. “The explosives confiscated from Coto Mines … he should return them because [these] could end up being used in terror acts.”

‘Moderate their greed’

Reached on the phone for comment, Santiago denied having taken explosives, e-bikes and combat gear after he was sacked as Zambales police director.

“It’s not true. I don’t know what they are talking about. There are no explosives. They should present evidence of my accountability so I can also have the chance to show proof it’s not true,” he said.

Asked to comment on the statement of the Zambales provincial mining board linking him to illegal mining, Santiago said: “They should moderate their greed. There should be an end to their abuse of the resources of the province and of the people who work hard, who deserve the benefits of the province more than they.”

Santiago said that two weeks before he was relieved as Zambales police director, he filed criminal cases at the Department of Justice against a number of personalities involved in unauthorized mining.

“He (Ebdane) fired me because I was doing the right thing, to stop unscrupulous people involved in the illegal mining in the province,” Santiago said.

He said that as for the theft case filed against him by Rosario, “it’s all trumped up.”

“There are no electric bikes. What would these be doing with the Zambales police?” Santiago said.

He also threatened to produce documents and detailed reports of what he said he and his men had uncovered involving illegal mining in Zambales.

“These periodic reports were submitted to PNP Region 3,” he said.

Text messages

Ebdane said the last conversations he had with Santiago were tense because these involved the latter’s being relieved of his post as Zambales police director.

The governor recalled: “Some of the mayors had been requesting [Santiago’s] relief … At the time of [his] relief, he sent me a text message informing me that he had been replaced. I replied with a text message offering to talk to him. He sent me another text message, but this time it was a terrible message. I am more senior than he [and I did not take it well]. But I let it go.”

But he said that “as far as I know, [Santiago] has been [an] outstanding [lawman], except maybe for reports and complaints coming from the mayors of Subic, Masinloc and Sta. Cruz.”

Ebdane’s last statements shortly before his walkout dwelled on personal matters. He said: “I will never give in to something that will affect the future of my province. I can sacrifice my personal desires, my personal interest, if it affects my province…

“When I was younger, there were times when I thought that ‘This is the end.’ … My sin [is that] I never thought of my family. I retired, and then relocated to this province with nothing less than the interest of my province.”  With a report from Nancy C. Carvajal in Manila

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TAGS: 2004 Presidential Election, Batasang Pambansa, Batasangate, election fraud, Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., Politics, Rafael Santiago
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