|ABS-CBN exclusive interview with Lintang Bedol.
Pure hearsay, says Arroyo camp
MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - After almost 4 years in hiding, former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol has surfaced and affirmed claims made by suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan that poll cheating occurred in the region in the 2007 senatorial polls.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Bedol accused then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the brains behind the scheme that resulted in a 12-0 landslide win in the region for Palace candidates.
He said although Arroyo did not issue any direct orders, the President influenced the outcome of the elections through former Commissions on Elections (Comelec) chair Benjamin Abalos.
Bedol alleged that Abalos, along with Comelec commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer and Rene Sarmiento, went to General Santos City to authenticate the alleged fake election returns submitted by the different municipalities of Maguindanao.
Bedol said then-Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. ordered him to give zero votes to 3 opposition candidates.
"Kinuwento niya sa akin na sinabi daw ng Pangulo na 3 tao ay kailangan bigyan ng zero -- si (now President Benigno) Aquino, si (Allan Peter) Cayetano, at si (Panfilo) Lacson. Na-worried ako kay Lacson kasi kaibigan ko yan. Pero just the same, tatlo yung sinabi niya," he added.
He said he saw the results of Arroyo's alleged orders in the election returns.
Bedol has been in hiding since the Comelec ordered his arrest in late 2007.
He said the poll fraud in the region was not a simple "dagdag-bawas" operation, claiming that all election documents used in Maguindanao were fake.
He added that the fake ballots and election returns were transported from Manila.
"Pano po nila nagawa yun? Madali lang gawin iyun. Kapag papalitan mo yung fake, yung fake na document na ganyan, sigurado inimprovised mo na yung papalit mo," he explained.
"Whoever used a fake election return and fake documents to win an election, is also fake," he said, apparently referring to now Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who led the list of administration senators who got the most votes in the region.
Bedol said he is willing to testify regarding the alleged irregularity if the Aquino administration can ensure his security.
Pure hearsay, says Arroyo camp
Rep. Gloria Arroyo's legal spokesman, lawyer Raul Lambino, dismissed Bedol's allegations as "pure hearsay."
"Wala siyang direct knowledge. Di niya nakausap na diresto si former President GMA. That's hearsay," Lambino said.
"From the very statement of Bedol ... di niya kilala si Pangulong Gloria at di naman siya nakalapit kay Pangulong Gloria," he said.
He also questioned Bedol's motive in coming out after going in hiding for 4 years.
"Timing is very bad. It would have been believable even after 3 years kung nung popular pa si PNoy at siya lumantad voluntarily. Bakit ngayon kung kailan pababa ang trust rating ni PNoy saka ngayon naglalabasan ito...weeks before the State of the Nation Address," Lambino said.
"Pulitikang-pulitika ito. Wala nang ibang dahilan. Kailangan suriin ng mamayaan. Ano ba kasunduan ni Bedol sa kung sino man sa naghandle ng administrasyon ni Presidente PNoy. Imposible namang basta na lang lalabas ng generosity," he said.
"Gusto natin malaman iyan at lahat ng kasunduan, tignan natin ano magiging hakbang dahil maliwanag naman may naglalabasang impormasyon na itong si Bedol at dating Governor Zaldy Ampatuan ay nakipag-usap na rin sa emissaries ng Malacañan," Lambino said.
He said the statements of Bedol and Ampatuan are "orchestrared moves to destroy" Arroyo and "the political system."