Zaldy tags Arroyos to poll fraud for Zubiri

From an exclusive report by Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 12 2011 06:15 PM | Updated as of Jul 13 2011 06:42 AM

Mike Arroyo's lawyer denies allegations

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan is also cutting his ties to his boss, former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

After linking his brother and father to the Maguindanao massacre, Ampatuan said Arroyo and her husband Mike were responsible for the poll fraud in Maguindanao in 2007 that allowed now Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri to snatch the last Senate post.

He said he is willing to testify and put closure to the case.

In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN’s Anthony Taberna inside his prison cell, Ampatuan said, “grabeng dagdag-bawas ang nangyari sa Maguindanao…Ang alam ko lang umabot sa puntong nagkaroon ng palitan ng official ballots na pati nga ako, na taga-Maguindanao during that time, nabigla (There was widespread cheating then. Even I was shocked).”

He said the plan, spearheaded by the then First Gentleman, kicked off months before the mid-term elections, or in January 2007.

He said the plan also involved his father, Andal Sr., who acted as the Arroyo’s errand boy.

Zubiri win

“Nung time na yun, nasa Century ako sabi ko, ‘Saan kayo galing?’ Sabi niya ‘Galing kami sa Makati’ kasi pinatawag sila ni First Gentleman Arroyo,” he claimed.

He said Arroyo's instruction was to ensure that then seeking Senate re-electionists Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo Lacson and Alan Peter Cayetano got “zero” votes.

He said the president’s husband justified it as such: “Hindi pwede manalo si PNoy, dahil naging presidente ang nanay, sikat na pamilya, baka may pag-asang maging presidente. Naging presidente nga. Si Senator Lacson, dahil masyadong maingay, dapat patahimikin. Tapos si Senator Cayetano, tinulungan ang tatay maging senador, tinulungan ang kapatid, tapos nung nagpapatulong si GMA, bale-wala (Aquino is not supposed to win because he is popular and may become president. Lacson could not win because he is too critical of the government. Cayetano could not win because he did not help GMA).”

The votes were eventually padded in favor of Zubiri. The latter’s win there spawned an election protest from Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who refuses to let go of the issue until now.

Ampatuan said his father had received money during the meeting with the former First Gentleman.

The deceit did not end there, he said. The then president also sent additional money to cover up any loopholes in the plan.

Ermita’s call

Ampatuan claimed then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita had to call him several times even in the wee hours of the morning.

“Ang sabi niya, Zaldy. Sabi ko, ‘Ano yun sir?’ Ang sabi niya, ‘dapat masagot nating mabuti yang problema na yan.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sir, paano ko sagutin? Tinuruan pa niya ko ng ganyan-ganyan. Ang sabi ko, ‘Sige. tapos noong ano, sabi niya dpat maayos yan’ (Ermita told me to fix all loopholes. He taught me how).”

Ermita said it was an instruction from the higher-ups.

Ampatuan said he hopes his testimony could still help in the resolution of the case even if it has long passed.

Nonetheless, he said the government could further its case if it gets hold of then Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol, who is now believed to be in hiding.

FG Arroyo denies claim

For his part, the former First Gentleman denied giving the former Maguindanao governor money to ensure the 2007 election victory of Zubiri.

"Former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo is appalled at the accusation, attributed to former [Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, that he met with, and gave money to, Andal Ampatuan, Sr/ for the purpose of manipulating the 2007 elections in favor of Sen. Miguel Zubiri. Mr. Arroyo reiterates that he has never interfered in any election.  He has certainly never spent money to illegally alter election results for or against any candidate," Arroyo's lawyer, Ruy Rondain, said.

"He therefore categorically denies that he gave Andal [Ampatuan] Sr. any amount of money for that purpose," he added.

Rondain said Zaldy Ampatuan had said he was not present at the alleged meeting between Andal Sr. and Arroyo.

"[ARMM] Gov. Zaldy could therefore not know what transpired, if the meeting took place at all," he said.

He also noted that Mr. Arroyo was in the hospital for a dissecting aortic aneurysm during the 2007 election period, and was in convalescence for months after the election.

The former First Gentleman's lawyer said Zaldy's accusation is highly suspect since he only came out 4 years after the election.

"Accusations that come 4 years too late, from one who suddenly grows a conscience, strain public credulity," Rondain said.

Zubiri airs side

In a separate interview with radio dzMM, Zubiri said he did not sanction nor have any knowledge of Ampatuan’s allegations.

“If there was indeed cheating, I did not sanction it…The culprits should be captured for electoral sabotage,” he said.

In fact, Zubiri said the votes from Maguindanao do not have any bearing on the election protest before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) anymore. He himself filed an election protest on the 2007 elections.

He said he also lost votes then, specifically in Metro Manila. The results of their findings will be revealed tomorrow or any day within the week.

“It’s also my right to reveal that I too was cheated,” he said.

Zubiri said this is precisely why he pushed for the automation of the polls to finally minimize fraudulent activities, which usually happens in manual systems. -- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News; Ira Pedrasa,