Poe fears 'repeat' of 2004 polls cheating

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Presidential candidate Grace Poe, accompanied by husband Neil Llamanzares waves to the media at the Sta. Lucia Elementary School in San Juan. Fernando G. Sepe, Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Senator Grace Poe on Monday expressed concern about reports that several vote counting machines (VCMs) were found in a hotel located in the Araneta Complex owned by the family administration standard bearer Mar Roxas.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) earlier cited reports that several VCMs were discovered in rooms in Novotel Cubao, sparking fears of a government-perpetrated poll cheating.

''Kailangan talaga mapuntahan iyan agad para maimbestigahan. Maraming salamat sa PPCRV sa kanilang pagbabantay,'' Poe told reporters after casting her vote at the Sta. Lucia Elementary School in San Juan City.

Poe recalled a similar incident in the 2004 polls where several ballots were found in a hotel.

''Sa ating mga kababayan, nangyari po iyan nung 2004 kung saan ang ilang mga balota ay nakatago sa isang hotel. Ang mga nasa likod ng ganyang operasyon ay mga batikan na mga operators. Huwag po nating payagan na maulit ang ganyan."

But Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista personally went to Novotel to conduct an inspection with his team. He said no VMCs were found in the said hotel.

''Wala kaming nakitang mga VCMs sa mga kwarto. Hindi lang kwarto ng mga Smartmatic kundi pati mga katabing kwarto,'' Bautista said.

''Ang panawagan ko na lang din, sana huwag basta bastang magbibigay ng mga balita na walang pruweba o ebidensya. Makikita niyo ang daming oras na nasayang."

Administration coalition spokesperson Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez III, meanwhile, slammed PPCRV chairperson Henrietta de Villa for "repeating the rumor", calling the allegation as ''completely bereft of basis and substance."

''There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that there are VCMs in Novotel. First of all, the COMELEC has fully accounted for all VCMs, each of which has a unique ID that allows the COMELEC to know where it is. This means it is impossible for anyone to misplace these machines,'' Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said De Villa must apologize if the PPCRV's statement will be proven false.

''Like all Filipinos, we support honest and credible elections. Spreading baseless and unsubstantiated rumors is not only irresponsible, but also illegal as it undermines the credibility of the electoral process,'' Gutierrez said.