Return ‘proof of fraud,’ SC asked
Senator Loren Legarda and Commission on Elections Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. have asked the Supreme Court to let them retrieve documents they had submitted in connection with the senator’s and the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.’s electoral protest several years ago so these could be used in the reinvestigation of alleged massive fraud in the 2004 and 2007 polls.
The reinvestigation, sparked by new testimony by the former election supervisor in Maguindanao and some military and police officials, will be conducted by the Comelec and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Brillantes told the Inquirer on Saturday that among the documents he wanted to retrieve from the high court, which sat as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), were more than 100 election returns (ERs) from Lanao del Sur.
Brillantes was Poe’s lawyer in his election protest against former president now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo until the actor’s death in December 2004.
After Poe died, Brillantes became Legarda’s main counsel in her election protest before the PET.
Brillantes said he believed the Lanao del Sur ERs were fake and would ultimately “support the statement” of police Senior Superintendent Rafael Santiago and his men that they became “unwittingly involved” in the switching of ERs in the Batasang Pambansa in early 2005.
“Among the exhibits were the ERs that the PET received from Congress. We want to compare whether these are fakes or originals. I know those were fake ERs. It may even support or jibe with the statements of the police officers about the ER switching,” Brillantes said in a phone interview.
A joint agency order is expected to be issued tomorrow by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to officially open the Comelec-DOJ investigation on electoral fraud.
A five-man fact-finding committee will start by drawing up the rules for the investigation.
“There were several pieces of evidence (of fraud) that we submitted to the PET. When I prosecuted for Loren, I presented many documents. I think a lot of the copies were burned in the Comelec fire in 2007… because the original copies have been returned to their respective custodians such as the Comelec. That’s why we need the certified true copies (from the PET),” Brillantes said.
He said he wanted to retrieve the documents “to refresh my memory as to what happened (during the) 2005 election protest,” as well as to review the grounds for the protest of Legarda and Poe.
The ERs from Lanao del Sur were among the pieces of evidence in Legarda’s protest. It was by authority of the PET that the ERs were retrieved from Congress, Brillantes said.
Pursuing Poe’s protest
Brillantes said that by checking the ERs for Legarda, he was in a way also pursuing the late Poe’s protest by checking the votes he received in these ERs.
Brillantes wrote the PET on August 3 about retrieving the documents in the election protest of Poe and Legarda.
Legarda’s letter was dated August 4, while her current lawyer, Antonio Paredes Jr., had written on her behalf much earlier, on August 1.
However, the PET has only resolved “to note” the letters of Legarda, Brillantes and Paredes.
Resolving “to note” usually means the court cannot yet decide on a request, motion or petition.
Brillantes was surprised to hear that the PET’s resolution was only “to note” their requests.
“Yun lang (That’s it)?” he said.
Brillantes explained that when the court says a request is “noted,” it means “no action” has so far been taken.
“They (PET) might still deliberate on it. But all we are asking for are certified true copies of the documents so that we can review them,” Brillantes said.
Top poll lawyers
Both De Lima and Brillantes were among the country’s top election lawyers before they joined government.
De Lima served as counsel of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who was proclaimed last week after a four-year battle with Miguel Zubiri, who finally resigned his Senate seat.
De Lima said the joint investigation can only determine the culpability of those who carried out the election fraud and file criminal charges against them in court.
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