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Moner’s testimony, credibility questioned

Why only now?

Nagamura Moner did not necessarily gain support from critics of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Senate in his revised testimony that he had taken part in massive cheating in the 2004 presidential election.

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Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada on Wednesday questioned the timing and motivation of the former Shariah circuit court judge for going public—but with a different revelation—yet again.

Enrile said Moner’s credibility was in question, pointing out that he had initially denied election fraud when he first testified before the Senate in 2005.

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“What he’s saying are all hearsay,” he told the Inquirer. “If I were the lawyer cross-examining him, I don’t think he’ll be able to stand it.”

Estrada, a fierce critic of the Arroyos, said in Filipino: “I have no respect for people who keep flip-flopping.”

“I was one of those senators who were laughing at his testimony before (that there was no cheating). But why did he come out only now? Was it because there was a threat to his life?” he said.

Consistent

“These people who change their testimony so easily—or took long enough to change their minds—my goodness. Incredible.”

But Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, who did most of the questioning on Moner on Tuesday, said the former judge was credible.

“I found his answers consistent, which is an indication of truth-telling. Moner’s testimony is important in order to put a closure to the issue,” Pimentel told the Inquirer in a text message.

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Appearing before the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Tuesday, Moner implicated Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, in alleged efforts to manipulate the results of the 2004 presidential election.

Moner claimed that he had been given P8 million to bribe election officials in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

“I was involved in the cheating upon the direction of and with the blessings of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and GMA through my handler, Alfonso G. Cusi (then general manager of the Philippine Ports Authority),” he said in his affidavit submitted to the committee.

All hearsay

But Enrile expressed doubt that Moner’s account would help put closure to the election controversy.

“I doubt it,” Enrile said. “How can you have a closure when it’s all hearsay, hearsay, hearsay. He’s a judge. He should know what hearsay is.”

Estrada urged Moner to name all the people who took part in the alleged cheating under the Arroyo administration. “Let them all appear before the Senate,” he said.

Chair Sixto Brillantes of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Moner would also be summoned in the parallel investigation to be conducted by his agency jointly with the Department of Justice.

Brillantes, who was at the Senate on Wednesday for his confirmation hearing at the Commission on Appointments, said he was expecting more than 20 witnesses to appear in the investigation.

“We are talking of election officers,” he told reporters. “The election officers who participated (in the alleged cheating), we can use them as state witnesses.”

Brillantes said Comelec officials earlier implicated in the “Hello Garci” scandal in the 2004 elections had also expressed their desire to be formally investigated once and for all.

“The people named as ‘Garci boys,’ they have communicated with me that they want to be investigated … they also want to be cleared,” he said, referring to an alleged poll rigging operation by former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Witness protection

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters yesterday that after his Senate testimony, Moner went to the justice department to request inclusion in the government’s witness protection program, claiming he had been receiving death threats.

De Lima said she would “rigorously” scrutinize Moner’s application. She said Moner had a record of “flip-flopping” and that he had “appeared, reappeared and keeps reappearing” in different investigations on poll fraud.

“I’m still vetting him. But I’m not saying at this point that he’s not credible,” De Lima said.

“The important thing here is to find closure to the alleged 2004 and 2007 poll cheating. This is our last chance to put closure to something as sensitive as this.” With a report from Marlon Ramos

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TAGS: 2004 presidential elections, Arroyos, Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, massive cheating, Nagamura Moner, Senate, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada
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