Video offered to media in 2006 for P30M
MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday revealed footage of the alleged switching of election returns (ERs) at the Batasan Pambansa.
Lacson said the video clip came from retired Lieutenant Joel Pinawin, who has declined media interview.
The footage was allegedly shot by a police officer who was supposed to switch original ERs with fake ones, supposedly on orders of Malacañang to justify President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's victory in the 2004 electioins.
The video shows another police officer wearing a t-shirt who entered a room carrying the supposedly fake ERs.
The clip also shows more police officers carrying out ballot boxes from the room that allegedly contain the original ERs.
Lacson said he will turn over the video to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is investigating the supposed cheating.
In an ABS-CBN News report in 2006, the video footage was being sold to the opposition and the media for up to P30 million.
No one took the offer.
ABS-CBN News was allowed to view the video then for free by a supposed member of an elite armed unit who called himself "Nestor."
The video was dark but by using image enhancement, several people in civilian clothes can be seen stuffing ballot boxes with supposedly tampered election returns.
Lacson said while it is important to find out the motive of the person who gave the video, the footage should help the DOJ with its ongoing investigation.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda has called as "breakthrough" the admission of a police officer that he was part of a break-in at the Batasan Pambansa to steal and switch election returns.
Lacierda said active officers tagged by Senior Superintendent Rafael Santiago will be made to explain their alleged roles in the incident.
Santiago, an official of the Philippine National Police (PNP) directorate for operations, claimed that upon the orders of former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and then PNP Director General and now Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., he and a group of men switched some 50 authentic election returns with fake ones in favor of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Santiago alleged that the original ERs were taken from the Batasan complex during several operations from January to February 2005.
He pointed at former election supervisor Roque Bello and several others as having produced the fake ballots.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the ERs that were given to her by Santiago appear to be authentic.
"They've no idea kung ano yung boxes na tinatransport nila. It was in the third break-in nalaman nila. Kuwento ng isa, nainitan sila sa may parking, naghahanap ng pampaypay, kumuha ng isa, they were surprised to know election returns," she said.
"Ang sabi, for insurance, for safety purposes and more or less, naka-50 sila ninakaw nila dun sa boxes. Kinuha nila then nilagay sa sasakyan ng SAF (police Special Action Force). They turned over to me the other night from 4 separate precincts [documents] in Mindanao. They'll turn over to me more," de Lima added.
Arroyos deny allegations
The Arroyo camp has dismissed the allegations as "rehash" of previous claims of election fraud.
Arroyo's legal spokesman, Raul Lambino, said an investigation of then House Speaker Jose de Venecia disproved the claims.
Former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo also denied ordering the alleged ER switching operation.
"Our persecution continues. We are continuously being vilified and maligned based on hearsay evidence," he said in a press statement.
"I don't know these people who are spreading these lies about me. After more than a year in office, it's still all politics," Arroyo added.
He accused the Aquino administration of using the Arroyos as "scapegoats" for its for failure to govern well.
"We are being used as a media fodder to mask this administration's lack of solid and long-term economic program. The Aquino administration should be reminded that our country is headed into an economic doldrum and sadly it isn't doing anything about it," he added.
Ebdane, meanwhile, said he is willing to answer the allegations in a proper forum. - With reports from Henry Omaga-Diaz, Ryan Chua and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News; ANC