22 more Comelec officers may testify in poll fraud probe

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2011 04:42 PM | Updated as of Sep 24 2011 06:24 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Twenty-two more officers of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) have surfaced to divulge their knowledge about poll fraud in the 2007 elections.

This was bared by Atty. Nena Santos, lawyer of Maguindanao Governor Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, to ABS-CBN News during a visit Santos and Mangudadatu paid Justice Secretary Leila De Lima at the justice department Friday afternoon.

Of these 22, 3 have executed sworn affidafits, so far, Mangudadatu's camp said.

Mangudadatu refused to give more details about these new witnesses except to say that they are election supervisors (EOs) who may support the testimonies of 2007 South Cotabato provincial election supervisor (PES) Lilian Radam and 2007 North Cotabato PES Yogie Martirizar.

"May lumabas na ring tatlong EOs na pwedeng sumupport doon sa mga PES (Radam and Martirizar). Meron pang iba, nagpapakuha pa ng statements," Mangudadatu said.

Radam and Martirizar executed sworn affidavits on their participation in alleged vote-rigging operations in the 2007 polls in favor of Arroyo administration senatorial bets.

They implicated then COMELEC chairman Benjamin Abalos, claiming Abalos personally gave them instructions to rig results for a 12-0 win for the administration's Team Unity.

Asked if he has made good his promise to help government look for potential witnesses who will pin down personalities behind the alleged massive cheating in the 2004 presidential and 2007 mid-term polls, Mangudadatu said: "Oo, para lumabas ang katotohanan. I keep on [saying] that there are people who can testify aside from [former Maguindanao PES] Lintang Bedol and [suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor] Zaldy [Ampatuan]. Why Bedol, why Zaldy?"

No to Zaldy as state witness

Mangudadatu has repeatedly opposed the idea of Ampatuan turning witness in the joint Department of Justice (DOJ)-COMELEC investigation into alleged cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections and Ampatuan's admission into the DOJ's Witness Protection Program (WPP).

Mangudadatu vowed to block Ampatuan's admission into the program, which may qualify the latter to a safehouse instead of detention on multiple murder charges for the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

The massacre left Mangudadatu's wife, Genalyn, and sisters killed. The carnage was allegedly upon the orders of prominent members of the Ampatuan clan, including the suspended governor.

Mangudadatu insists the DOJ-COMELEC joint probe does not need Ampatuan nor Bedol for it to prosper.

"Napakaganda naman ng mga testimony ng mga witnesses, nakita nyo naman," Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu and his lawyer, Nena Santos, met with De Lima this afternoon to discuss security arrangements for prosecution witnesses in the Maguindanao massacre case trial.