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Details on 2004 presidential election fraud coming out

“We need to ask the crucial questions which Mayuga failed to ask. We need to pursue and undertake legislative remedies to ensure that election fraud is stamped out…” – Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño

Money flowed like water in May 2004, but no one is saying where all of it went and how it was used.

The two lawmakers of Bayan Muna in the House of Representatives continue to expose the anomalies surrounding the 2004 presidential elections including the massive election fraud and the money that changed hands to make the fraud possible. They have been going over the Mayuga report with fine-toothed comb and continue to demand that congress begin investigations into the fraud that took place May 2010. They said it is crucial to expose the nitty-gritty of how the fraud was pulled off so that it cannot be repeated in future polls.

The Mayuga report is the product of the body that was tasked to investigate the participation of military officials in electoral fraud during the 2004 polls. The Mayuga Board led by former Navy Chief Rear Admiral Mateo Mayuga was tasked in 2005 to investigate ranking military officials, including generals mentioned by Commission on Elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano in the Garci-tapes during the 2004 electoral campaign. The military fact-finding panel cleared the accused top military officials.

Failure to liquidate millions Arroyo released

Representative Teddy Casiño made the charge that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) failed to fully account and liquidate the more than P197 million ($ 4.69 million) it received from the Macapagal-Arroyo administration for the 2004 polls.

The lawmaker said this was evident from the documents included in the Mayuga report. Bayan Muna is insisting on a full investigation into the Mayuga report’s contents including its transcripts. The political party said the issue of what truly transpired during the 2004 polls has been swept under the rug and allowed former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to remain for another six years in office through massive cheating.

Casiño is calling on the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit on the said funds channelled to the AFP allegedly by the Commission on Elections through the joint Comelec- AFP Task Force HOPE (Honest, Orderly, Peaceful Elections).

“First, we have to know why and how Comelec gave the P197 million ($ 4.69 million) to the AFP to spend in the 2004 elections and where the funds came from. We have it from several sources that a lot of money changed hands,” he said.

Casiño said the disbursements appeared questionable.

“The fact that bulk of the funds – P101 million ($ 2.40 million) – went to an alleged ‘intelligence project’ already raises a red flag. This was mentioned in the report by a certain Ltc. Gilbert Gapay who was then directly under Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. The AFP, particularly the generals and their budget officers, have yet to submit a detailed liquidation of their expenses during and after the elections,” he said.

Casiño said the military should account for the money because the matter was mentioned in different testimonies in annexes in the Mayuga report. It was also said in the testimonies that there was no liquidation of the funds. That by itself should warrant a case against the officers involved but the Mayuga panel ignored this important detail,” he said.

Esperon, then the Deputy Commander of Task Force Hope and concurrently the J3 or Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations of the AFP told the Mayuga Commission: “On liquidation of funds, it is automatic that when you received funds, you have to liquidate that,” and “on the matter of liquidation of funds it is done by the Comptroller in the Task Force Hope but since Task Force Hope has ceased to exist effective May 25, the matter of liquidating the funds is now on the regular set up, so it’s with J6.”

But when a Lt. Col Robert Arevalo PA-Chief Budget, OJ6 was interviewed , he said he was not privy to the details of budget preparations; he was unaware about who prepared the budget of the Task Groups and he did not know where the funds went.

Arevalo also said the Comelec and not the AFP is answerable for the funds.

“It appears that they’re mixing matters of accounting. Again, this was ignored by the Mayuga Commission even as it appeared obvious that there was really no accounting,” said Casiño.

The lawmaker also cited the testimony of a Lt. Col Alexander Balutan Philippine Navy Marine-Battalion Commander of MBLT 7 who said he received from the Brigade around P50 to P60 thousand ($1,190 to $1,428) in cash as additional subsistence allowance, but the transaction did not go through clearing instruments.

A Lt. Col Victoriano Pimentel PN Marine and Battalion Commander MBLT 4 also received P90,000 to P100,000 ($2,142 – $2,380) from Task Force Comet, but he was not required to submit an expenditure report. When he was given another P70,000 ($1,666), again he was not asked to liquidate the amount. The same happened in the case of a Lt. Col Elmer Estopin PN (M), Batallion Commander of MBLT 10 when he received P75 thousand ($1,785) from a Gen. Habacon .

“Is this the common practice of the AFP? If it is, then it’s no wonder that so much money has been stolen or misused in the AFP. We suspect that the intelligence and operational funds for Task Force Hope was used for fraud. It’s crucial that the House proceeds with an in-depth probe on the Mayuga report and for the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit on the election funds handled by Gen. Esperon in 2004,” Casiño said.

Mayuga report downplayed crucial testimonies

Still on the 2004 poll fraud, Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares said the Mayuga panel for all but erased all references to the testimony of a Comelec regional director that a nephew of then Comelec Commissioner Garcillano tried to bribe her to tamper with election results in favor of Macapagal-Arroyo in Zamboanga during the 2004 elections.

Colmenares said he was “surprised to see hidden in page 40 of the Summary of Testimonies annexed to the Mayuga Report that Comelec Region IX Director Atty. Helen Flores testified that Garcillano’s nephew and security aide Capt. Valentino Lopez approached her during the tabulation of the canvassing at the Zamboanga Coliseum. Flores said she was ‘bribed with a huge amount ‘ not only to favor a mayoralty candidate but also to ‘remedy the big lead presidential contender Fernando Poe Jr. had.’ Mayuga did not even mention this in his report,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares said Flores even mentioned that the first offer was P50 million ($1.19 million) and the second was P100 million ($2.38 million). This was all stated in the report annexes.

“The Mayuga Panel which was tasked to investigate involvement of the military in election fraud did not find this reference to Macapagal-Arroyo important, never mind that it was one of the most damning testimonies on the issue. Worse, Mayuga did not even mention the confirmation of Capt. Lopez that Garcillano was really in Mindanao during the 2004 elections. This despite Garcillano’s strong denial that he was there at the time,” Colmenares said.

Garcillano was initially appointed by then Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos to be the Commissioner in Charge (CIC) of the regions in Mindanao, but was transferred to the Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions due to the protest of then Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

According to reports, Garcillano used his assignment to Bicol as an alibi to deny that he was in Mindanao at the height of the elections. Certain quarters have also pointed out that it was suspicious how Abalos also appointed him to be his Deputy Commissioner in charge of Personnel during the elections because the post practically gave him the power to redeploy Comelec election officers in Mindanao and even the generals of the AFP deputized by Comelec.

“Capt. Lopez in page 45 of the same Summary Annex testified that he is the nephew and security aide of Garcillano going with him in his travels during the elections. He then admitted that he travelled with Garcillano to Tawi-tawi, Zamboanga, Sulu, Cagayan de Oro and Batangas, and even confirmed that he met with Atty. Flores in the Zamboanga Gym during the canvassing as Garcillano’s advance party as the latter saw to the canvass,” Colmenares also shared.

The lawmaker said this was a detail that should have caught the attention of serious investigators, “But Garcillano’s presence in Mindanao did not merit any mention in the Mayuga report. Whether or not these allegations are true, Mayuga should have probed deeper into these testimonies if he was intent on finding out the truth,” he insisted.

He added that Abalos was suddenly hospitalized for “internal bleeding” just before the 2004 elections and could not be found during the election day on May 10. Abalos left Garcillano in charge of Comelec personnel movements and deployment.

In 2004 known Garcillano protégés Wilfredo Daraug and Borromeo Patangan were assigned as election officers in Basilan where Arroyo got 79,702 votes against Poe’s 48,685.

Comelec Director Rey Sumalipao was assigned in Lanao del Sur where Arroyo got 128,301 votes against a surprisingly low 43,302 votes for the popular Poe. Director Wayne Asdala, who was killed a few years later, was assigned in Maguinadanao where Arroyo got 193,938 votes against Poe’s 59,892.

Garcillano protégé Mike Abbas was assigned in Tawi-Tawi where Poe, despite his popularity among Muslims, only won by 15,000 votes over Arroyo.

“The Mayuga Panel also chose not to interview Comelec Director Atty. Joselyn de Mesa, who presided over the canvassing in Sulu where Poe won by nearly 18,000 votes. According to reports, she refused the bribes offered by military officers and politicians to reverse the votes in Sulo,” Colmenares said.

He said de Mesa will be invited once the House investigates the 2004 election fraud.

“This is one more reason why Congress should investigate what really happened during the 2004 elections. We need to ask the crucial questions which Mayuga failed to ask. We need to pursue and undertake legislative remedies to ensure that election fraud is stamped out. Otherwise, we will be suspected of avoiding investigations that involve the Arroyos. In fact, the investigation is not mainly about Rep. Arroyo at all, but rather about the need to amend the Election Code to insulate it from partisan electioneering by military and other public officials,” he said. (INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO)