New witness directly links GMA to 2007 poll fraud

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 03 2011 03:11 PM | Updated as of Oct 04 2011 03:29 AM

Arroyo to Andal: 'Ayusin o palitan nyo ang resulta sa Maguindanao'

MANILA, Philippines (6th UPDATE) - The joint Department of Justice (DOJ)-Commission on Elections (COMELEC) probe into alleged poll fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections no longer needs the testimony of suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, said Justice Secretary Leila De Lima at a news conference with Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Sixto Brillantes today.

This, after former Maguindanao Provincial Administrator and known Ampatuan clan ally Norie Unas surfaced to testify about supposed knowledge on how the polls were rigged in the 2007 mid-term polls in favor of the Arroyo administration's Team Unity ticket. 

Unas, along with 14 Maguindanao election officers (EO) and 1 computerized voters list (CVL) technician who also executed sworn statements, were presented to the media by Brillantes and De Lima today.

"Kung makikita n'yo mga affidavits nila, and lalo na kay Unas, and mayroon din daw supplemental affidavit si [former Maguindanao pronvincial election supervisor] Lintang Bedol baka today... we don't think we really need Zaldy Ampatuan. Unless, he is willing to issue a more detailed affidavit na willing niya ituro diretso sa itaas based on his own personal knowledge," De Lima said.

"Nakita n'yo sa affidavit niya(Zaldy), napakakulang, and it's more of hearsay," De Lima added.

Quarters had opposed the possibility of Zaldy Ampatuan turning witness in the poll fraud probe for fear he may evade incarceration for the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre which led to the death of 57 individuals, mostly journalists. Zaldy Ampatuan and Andal, Sr. are among the 196 accused for the massacre.
Unas, who served as Maguindanao provincial administrator from July 2001 to September 2009, executed a 6-page affidavit today, October 3, 2011, directly linking former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to plans to rig poll results in 2007.

The affidavit states that a few days before the elections, Mrs. Arroyo sponsored a dinner for Team Unity senatorial candidates and provincial governors. In her speech, Mrs. Arroyo allegedly said: "Dapat 12-0 kayo sa inyong mga probinsya, kailangan 12-0."

Unas's affidavit further states that Mrs. Arroyo personally instructed Andal, Sr. during the gathering to deliver a clean sweep for the administration senatorial candidates at all costs.

"When the President was about to exit from the hall as she was shaking hands with several participants, the President signaled Datu Andal to a corner and I heard the President told again Datu Andal: "Dapat 12-0 sa Maguindanao kahit oa ayusin o palitan nyo ang resulta," to which Governor answered "Opo, Ma'am," Unas' affidavit read.

"Direct knowledge"

Asked if Unas' testimony is enough to pin down Mrs. Arroyo, De Lima said: "Diretso ito, it's not hearsay... that's very damaging. First hand knowledge ito kasi nandito siya palagi sa palasyo (Malacanan)... and in one of those meetings talagang diretso at categorical ang mga instructions for a 12-0 win."

Brillantes said the elections of 2007 in Maguindanao was "marred by an absolute commission of fraud and irregularities starting from the lowest level up to the highest."
"The results of Maguindanao senatorial elections was 12-O. Meaning, all the 12 candidates of  the Team Unity then defeated all of the 12 Genuine Opposition (GO) candidates. How can this be done? When [in] the entire results in the country, nanalo nga ang Genuine Opposiion and [there was] no other province na nag-12-0. The only place this happened was in Maguindanao," Brillantes said.

Election officers did not prepare ER's for national positions

Election officers of Maguindanao province at the time of the 2007 polls presented to the media included Saliao Amba (Mamasapano), Ma. Susan Albano (Datu Unsay), Nena Alid (Talayan), Alice Lim (Pagagawan), Susan Cabanban (Gen. S.K. Pendatun), Magsaysay Mohammad (Sultan sa Barongis), Araw Cao (Mangudadatu), Estelita Orbase (Shariff Aguak), Jeehan Nur (Ampatuan), Ragah Ayunan (Rajah Buayan), Russam Mabang (Pandag), Asuncion Reniedo (Paglat), Rohaida Khalid (Datu Saudi-Ampatuan), and Norijean Hangkal (Guindulungan).

Lone CVL technician presented was Salonga Edzela.

All 15 also executed their sworn statements.

Most of them, Brillantes bared, did not prepare the election returns (ER) for the senatorial candidates and were merely made to affix their signatures in prepared authentic returns.

"Ang kinanvass lang nila legitimately, yun yung local [candidates]. In Maguindanao, in 16 municipalities, walang kalaban yung mga mayors ni Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. The national ERs were not prepared by them. Binigay sa kanila only when they reached the provincial [canvassing] level based on what was prepared by other people. And results dun, 12-0 na," Brillantes said.

"Ang number 1, si Chavit Singson. Yun ang unang lumabas. Later on, there will be developments that these same documents were altered and in a canvass in Shariff Aguak, naging number 1 na si [resigned senator Miguel] Zubiri," he added.

Speaking to reporters, Orbase said: "Willing kami ilahad ang katotohanan base sa aming nalalaman." 

Unas and 15 other witnesses will be interviewed by the DOJ-COMELEC fact-finding team within the day for clarificatory questioning.

While the 15 EO's and CVL technician are not applying for the DOJ's Witness Protection Program(WPP), Unas' affidavit states he intends to be covered by the program. 

Three EOs from Maguindanao are set to arrive in Manila today to execute their affidavits with the COMELEC. Two EOs had executed their affidavits ahead of the batch presented to media today, bringing the total number of 2007 Maguindanao EOs willing to testify before the poll fraud probe committee to 19.

The rest have died or had already retired.

Mike: Defies common sense, logic

Mr. Arroyo on Monday denied Unas' allegations. The former First Gentleman said he and his wife were not running for any elective position in 2007.

"So why should we order cheating?  What will we get out of it?  It defies both common sense and logic," he said in a press statement.

He also described as "tragic and suspicious" for Comelec and the Department of Justice to give importance to the allegations made by Norie Unas. 

Arroyo said Unas had no supporting proof and admitted to graft and corruption as well as election sabotage in Maguindanao.

"Whatever happend to fair play and impartiality?  If evidence and due process are no longer necessary under this current administration, and questionable people are allowed to commit libel and defamation against the current administration's perceived political foes, then what kind of justice can we expect?" he asked.

GMA lawyer questions timing, motive

Mrs. Arroyo’s legal spokesperson Raul Lambino assailed Unas’ credibility, saying it is questionable  because he himself is admitting to election sabotage and graft and corruption in Maguindanao.

Lambino said he is still looking for the affidavit of Unas before making any more comments.

Still, this did not stop him from blaming Malacañan for this latest attack against his principal.

Lambino said the timing and motivation of the expose is suspicious especially since the administration is under fire now for alleged insensitivity and indifference to the typhoon victims.

Lambino said Malacañan is just covering up for this supposed indifference.

At the same time, he also questionned the motive of Justice Secretary de Lima, noting she has political ambitions and she hasn’t been confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.

Arroyo is still resting after a series of surgeries to address her pinched nerve and prevent paralysis.

2007 Team Unity Senatorial Candidate Vic Magsaysay also disputed claims by Unas that there was a Palace meeting in 2007 where then President Arroyo supposedly ordered the rigging of the mid-term elections.

In a phone conversation, Magsaysay said "there was no meeting, I don't remember any meeting, and if there was any meeting wala ako dun. He (probably) just mentioned my name as one of those senatoriables of Team Unity." -- with reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News