Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Repost From Nancy C. Carvajal of Philippine Daily Inquirer

‘We switched ERs for Gloria Arroyo’

PNP team admits breaking into Batasan building

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First of a series

IT HAPPENED HERE. An Army soldier guards ballot boxes at the Batasang Pambansa building in this photo taken on May 30, 2004. The ballot switching operations perpetrated by at least 15 policemen and 10 civilians, the latter acting on orders of a Comelec supervisor, was carried out on Jan. 23 and Jan. 29, and Feb. 5 and Feb. 27 all in 2005. INQUIRER PHOTO

A police officer and his “boys” have come forward saying they stole original election returns (ERs) then kept at the Batasang Pambansa building and replaced these with fake ones to make sure Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would still emerge the winner of the 2004 presidential election in the event of a recount.

Senior Supt. Rafael Santiago, now assigned at the Philippine National Police Directorate for Operations in Camp Crame, presented to the Inquirer envelopes bearing the seal of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and containing what he said were original ERs from various areas in Mindanao.

Prior to his appointment in Camp Crame, Santiago was relieved as police director of Zambales province.

At a meeting on Tuesday evening attended by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Inquirer editors and reporters, Santiago described their coming out as “providential.”

“After I was relieved as Zambales police director, I realized now is the time to come out and tell the truth. I expect there would be mudslinging [against] me, I would be accused of sour graping, and there would be threats because we are going against a powerful man. But I am ready to face it and tell what we know,” he said.

Acting on orders

Santiago said the documents presented to De Lima were among the original ERs stuffed in more than 100 Marlboro cigarette boxes taken by his team from the Batasan main building.

He said he and his boys acted on the orders of then PNP Director General and now Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., which were coursed through the then Special Action Force (SAF) director, Chief Supt. Marcelino Franco.

Santiago also implicated Roque Bello, a former Comelec supervisor, his son El Bello, and 10 other men who purportedly took part in producing the fake ERs.

He tagged as an accomplice Chief Insp. Ferdinand Ortega, then chief of the SAF unit in charge of security at the Batasan complex.

According to Santiago, the operation was prompted by the election protest filed by Susan Roces, widow of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., who was Arroyo’s closest opponent in the 2004 election.

At the time of the operation, Santiago headed the Intelligence Division of the National Capital Region (NCR) command of the SAF unit based in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Santiago said he and his boys had mustered the courage to go public after hearing De Lima and Sen. Francis Escudero call on those who had knowledge of past election fraud to come out.

Speaking on behalf of the other policemen involved in the operation, PO2 Rudy Gahar said: “We are tired of being used and ridiculed by our colleagues for what we have done, and we also believe that now is the right time to come out because according to Justice Secretary De Lima, we could be admitted as state witnesses.

“We also want the truth to come out.”

Highly confidential

Santiago said he planned and implemented the “special operation” which was based on orders issued by Franco and originating from Ebdane, and carried out between January and February 2005.

“It was the first week of January 2005 when I was called to Franco’s office and ordered to choose my most trusted men for a highly confidential operation in the Batasan Pambansa building based on instructions from PNP chief Ebdane at that time,” he told the Inquirer.

He identified the men he later selected aside from Gahar, Senior Inspectors Raffy Lero (now assigned at the NCR’s Northern Police District), Samson Kimmayong (now posted in Central Mindanao) and Warly Bitog; Insp. Ramon Garcia (retired); Special Police Officers 2 Rommel Pahang (retired) and Paterno Gamba; Police Officers 2 Alan Layugan, Rodel Tabangin and Trifon Laxamana; and PO1 Norman Duco.

“The objective of the operation was to get the original ERs and replace them with manufactured ones prepared by El Bello and his people to ensure that the ERs reflect the same number of votes indicated in the certificates of canvass that greatly favored Arroyo,” Santiago said.

But this piece of information was not disclosed to his men before the operation.

“They found out [that the operation was all] about switching ERs when it was already ongoing,” he said.

Meeting in coffee shop

Santiago said he met with Ebdane, Franco and El Bello at a coffee shop on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City in the same week he was ordered by Franco to form his team for the operation.

He said the meeting was held “to discuss the project and familiarize ourselves with the personalities involved.”

Santiago said the operation was scheduled to be carried out on Jan. 23 and 29 and Feb. 5 and 27, 2005, starting at around 11 p.m. up to around 2:30 a.m. the next day.

To ensure that no one else would be at the Batasan main building when his team moved in, a bogus bomb threat was announced, he said.

Ortega, being in charge of Batasan security, was tasked to make sure that Santiago’s team as well as El Bello’s civilian group would have unhampered access to the lobby where the boxes were kept in an area enclosed by screen dividers.

Santiago said that on each of the four nights they worked, “not less than 20 Marlboro cigarette boxes were transported, first filled with manufactured forms collected from a house in Brookside Subdivision in Cainta, Rizal province, and then with the original ERs taken from inside the complex.”

SMOKING GUN. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima examines election returns turned over to her by Senior Supt. Rafael Santiago, who says he and his men have come forward after De Lima was quoted in media that those who know about the poll fraud could be admitted as state witnesses. Santiago says he has 50 original ERs from Mindanao. PHOTOS BY ARNOLD ALMACEN

Assigned tasks

Santiago said 15 men were tapped for the operation and divided into four groups.

One group was assigned to guard the perimeter of the building to prevent anyone from getting near the area while Bello’s men were inside “opening ballot boxes, taking out the original [ERs] and replacing them with fakes.”

A second group ensured that all lights and closed circuit TV cameras were turned off during the operation. This group under Garcia also included some of El Bello’s men who took positions in the dark corridors of the building.

Santiago said Garcia had a camera in his bag and recorded the switching of the ERs: “It was Garcia who took the video of Bello’s men while they were in the restricted area, for insurance.”

The third group, composed of a van driver and a number of security escorts, was in charge of transport.

The fourth group was made up of Santiago’s team.

Santiago said two vans with SAF markings were used in the operation “to avoid being flagged down or inspected at checkpoints.”

He reiterated that his men had no knowledge of the nature of the operation: “My only instruction [to them] was to secure and transport the boxes. They did not know at first what were inside the boxes.”

First night

Gahar recounted that at around 9 p.m. of Jan. 23, 2005, the first night of the operation, he received an order to go to Ortega’s office.

On getting there, he said, he saw Franco, El Bello, Ortega, Lero, Kimmayong, Garcia and some members of the PNP’s explosive and ordnance disposal (EOD) unit.

He said his team was told to go to Bello’s house in Brookside “to load some important boxes [in the van] and bring these to the Batasan complex.”

Gahar said a civilian accompanied them to Bello’s house: “There was no talking, no [mention of] names. [The civilian] just spoke to Duco, our driver.”

This was how Gahar recounted the turn of events:

The team members went to Brookside in a three-vehicle convoy composed of a closed SAF van, a Nissan Frontier pickup, and a private car owned by Pahang.

They stopped in front of a house from which emerged five men carrying 20 Marlboro cigarette boxes that were loaded into the van.

They proceeded to the Batasan complex.

Gahar noticed that while they were in transit, the civilian kept turning his head to look at them, apparently to check if they were looking into the boxes.

At the Batasan complex, Gahar, Duco and Layugan were ordered to stay in the van to guard the boxes.

Another five civilians together with Garcia, Santiago, Ortega and some EOD members then entered the building.

In less than an hour, the boxes were brought back to the van and the team returned to Brookside where the first set of five civilians took the 20 boxes and brought them inside the house.

From Brookside, the team went back to base at Camp Bagong Diwa.


This sequence was repeated on Jan. 29, 2005, Gahar said.

But by the third night, Feb. 5, the team members had become curious about the contents of the boxes.

“It was so hot inside the van. There was no ventilation because all the windows and doors must be closed at all times. We were instructed to avoid being seen while in transit so as not to arouse suspicion,” Gahar said.

“But we got more and more curious about our cargo,” he said.

At one point, Gahar said, they noticed that one of the boxes had been left open.

He recalled: “I reached inside and took out some envelopes that we could use to fan ourselves. We were shocked to see that they were [envelopes] for original ERs.

“We later took some of the envelopes we brought from Cainta and compared these [with those taken from the Batasan].

“The manufactured forms looked clean, while the originals were a bit crumpled. The marks on the fake appeared to include [prints] from the smallest finger, while the original bore only the thumb print.

“More than 100 boxes of original ERs were taken out of the Batasan complex. Most of them were from Mindanao.”

P10K ‘bonus’

Gahar said he and his team were able to pilfer more than 50 original ERs from the boxes that were turned over to Santiago for safekeeping.

There was to have been a fifth operation, Gahar said, but it was aborted because members of the team had to respond to an attempted jailbreak by Abu Sayyaf terror suspects at Camp Bagong Diwa on March 14.

In the end, the team members received P10,000 each from Garcia.

“This is our bonus. Just keep your mouths shut,” Gahar quoted Garcia as telling them.

Reposted From Nancy C. Carvajal of Philippine Daily Inquirer

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Repost From Aurea Calica of The Philippine Star

Carpio-Morales named ombudsman
By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) Updated July 26, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (12) View comments

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Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales stands as President Aquino announces her appointment during the SONA yesterday.
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MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino named yesterday retired Supreme Court (SC) associate justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the new ombudsman in his second State of the Nation Address.

“When the new Ombudsman, former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, takes office, we will have an honest-to-goodness anti-corruption office, not one that condones the corruption and abuses in government,” the President said, receiving one of the loudest and strongest applause when he made the announcement as part of his speech.

“I expect that this year, we will have filed our first major case against the corrupt and their accomplices. And these will be real cases, with strong evidence and clear testimonies, which will lead to the punishment of the guilty,” he said.

Carpio-Morales was the one who administered Aquino’s oath of office and was chosen over three other names submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council, including Justice Undersecretary Leah Armamento, Presidential Commission on Good Government Commissioner Gerard Mosquera and former justice secretary Artemio Tuquero.

She will replace Merceditas Gutierrez, who had been closely identified with former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Gutierrez was impeached by the House of Representatives mainly due to complaints that she failed to act on various corruption cases involving the past administration.

Arroyo had openly opposed the appointment of Carpio-Morales as ombudsman, saying as SC justice, she never voted in her favor in almost all cases.

In a statement, presidential spokesman Edwin Laceirda said, “We have consistently emphasized the need to have an ombudsman who shall act for and in the interest of the Filipino people, one who shall not let Garcias and Bolantes go scot free without answering to the people.”

Lacierda was referring to discharged military comptroller Carlos Garcia Jr. who was accused of plunder and former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante who was the alleged main architect of the fertilizer fund scam.

“An ombudsman must be independent, one of unquestionable integrity, and willing to face the rigorous task of restoring faith in our recovering institutions by ensuring that the corrupt are held accountable for their misdeeds,” Lacierda said.

A native of Paoay, Ilocos Norte, Carpio-Morales brings with her 42 years of legal experience in the executive and judiciary, with special interests in anti-corruption and human rights.

“Her integrity and impartiality are evident from her years as presiding judge of the Court of Appeals and associate justice of the Supreme Court,” Lacierda said.

Education, experience

Carpio-Morales retired in June at the age of 70. Those opposed to her appointment had linked her to a law firm that used to be for Arroyo but had turned against her.

She is the daughter of Lucas Carpio, a judge, and Maria Claudio Carpio.

In 1964, Carpio-Morales earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of the Philippines and then a Bachelor of Laws at the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1968.

From 1968 to 1971, Carpio-Morales started her career in a Manila law firm where she was an assistant attorney.

In 1971, a former UP professor of Carpio-Morales, then secretary of justice Vicente Abad Santos, took Carpio-Morales in as a special assistant at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

From 1971 to 1983, Carpio-Morales worked at the DOJ as assistant, lawyer, researcher, assistant special lawyer and senior state counsel before she became a judge.

Former President Ferdinand Marcos appointed Carpio-Morales as a trial court judge in Pili, Camarines Sur and on Nov. 4, 1986, then President Corazon Aquino appointed Carpio-Morales as trial court judge in Pasay City.

In 1994, former President Fidel Ramos appointed Carpio-Morales to the CA and in 2000, Carpio-Morales was a bar examiner in legal ethics.

On Sept. 3, 2002, upon the unanimous endorsement of the members of the JBC, she was appointed SC justice.

P-Noy’s offer

It was reported that President Aquino had offered the ombudsman post to Carpio-Morales in an earlier occasion they had attended with retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.

In that event, the President himself wrote a note to Carpio-Morales asking if she was interested in the post vacated by Gutierrez.

Carpio-Morales reportedly replied to the President: “If Chief Justice Panganiban will endorse me.”

Among the four nominees of the JBC for the post, the former magistrate’s nomination had the most objections.

Several quarters have also questioned the qualification of the 70-year-old retired justice who, according to former Ombudsman Aniano Desierto and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, is no longer fit for the job that has a workload 10 times of that of an SC justice.

But Carpio-Morales said she is fit for the job as shown by a wellness exam taken in mid-May.

She likewise believes she has “the moral fiber to prosecute those who ought to be prosecuted and to ward off extra-legal factors that impede the proceedings.”

Inherited tasks

Before President Aquino’s announcement, Carpio-Morales said that should she be appointed, she would first make an inventory of cases and personnel in the anti-graft office to be able to institute necessary reforms.

She vowed not to allow delay in the disposition of graft cases and revealed that she would order a re-orientation of special prosecutors immediately.

Carpio-Morales will inherit the task of resolving at least three plunder complaints filed against Arroyo.

Yesterday, she said she is not afraid of filing cases against Arroyo.

“I cannot tell you (when we will be filing a case against former President Arroyo) because we go by evidence. You just do not file a case for the heck of filing,” she said. “You have to go through the records, testimonial and documents and see if the evidence is strong.”

Apart from resolving such complaints, she will also be left with the task of continuing the prosecution of high-profile cases at the Sandiganbayan.

Best choice

When asked for reaction, JBC member and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima lauded the decision of President Aquino to appoint Carpio-Morales as ombudsman.

“She’s the best choice for such a crucial post. No doubt. She’s made of the right stuff, both morally and cerebrally, to hurdle the challenges which inhere in such post,” said De Lima, who admitted she voted only for Carpio-Morales during the JBC deliberations for the post.

Former President Joseph Estrada, who attended President Aquino’s second SONA yesterday, also echoed De Lima’s opinion that Carpio-Morales is very much qualified for the job.

Muscular, adrenaline-packed

Santiago, meantime, said the new ombudsman should immediately order the state prosecutors to resolve within the year the entire backlog of cases pending with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Santiago said the ombudsman should have the characteristic of being “muscular and adrenaline-packed” because the office carries with it the challenge of a high caseload.

“If the President fails to set a deadline, his flagship program against corruption will become unsustainable,” Santiago said.

In the order of importance as far as the cases are concerned, Santiago said that the President should direct all the concerned personalities to prioritize the criminal cases that were unearthed recently, such as corruption among generals in the military, generals in the Philippine National Police and officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

“The way to dispose of the backlog is for the President to authorize the justice secretary to appoint special prosecutors with the sole function of resolving pending cases in the Ombudsman,” the senator said.

Santiago said that MalacaƱang should not wait for the result of probes being conducted by Congress on the alleged anomalies before acting because these inquiries usually take a long time to finish.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Repost From Jun Navarro of Philippine Daily Inquirer

NBA stars put on a show anew; ‘Redeem team’ and co. sweat out win over Smart Gilas Pilipinas

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Photo by Mark C. Giongco

MANILA—Kevin Durant was momentarily rendered powerless by a high-flying Japeth Aguilar dunk, Kobe Bryant couldn’t shake off a single-coverage defender at the post and Derrick Rose missed two pressure-free charities as chants of “M-V-P” engulfed the Coliseum.

The three American players, worshipped as gods in the basketball universe, were humans after all.

Nevertheless, the stellar cast of NBA supermen capped the Smart Ultimate All-Star Weekend with a thrilling 98-89 win over the Smart Gilas national team Sunday in a game replete with highlights every fan at the full-house Smart Dome won’t forget in a long time.

When the final buzzer sounded, the nine-man NBA crew and the national team, soaked by the crowd’s deafening adoration, gathered on center court for photos and autographs.

Seven-footer JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards then untied the shoelaces of his size-15 boats and hurled them to the Upper Box section.

Four-time NBA All-Star MVP Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers joined in the fun and also tossed his pair of Nike high up in the stands.

“They have very talented players who played extremely well,” said Bryant, referring to the Rajko Toroman-coached national team.

“They know how to play as a team and executed their plays pretty well,” added the member of the gold-medal winning US “Redeem Team” in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

From an 85-67 deficit, the Nationals refused to call it a day as Marcio Lassiter, Marcus Douthit, JV Casio and Dylan Ababou conspired to chop it down to a single digit.

McGee was called for a goal-tending on a layup by Casio but made up for the miscue by running the length of the court and stuffing it in with his trademark Statue of Liberty slam.

Casio then drilled a three-pointer, 89-96, before rookie Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves closed out the scoring with a rim-rattling windmill dunk.

“They have good guards who play defense well. You’ll love the team because everybody can shoot the ball,” said Chris Paul, Bryant’s teammate in the Olympics and a prime NBA point guard from the New Orleans Hornets.

The national team probably drew inspiration from Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, who arrived when Smart Gilas was trailing by 18 early in the fourth.

Bryant approached Pacquiao seated on the other side of the floor and exchanged pleasantries.

During a timeout, the world’s pound-for-pound boxing king went to the bench of the NBA stars, which also included Derek Fisher of the LA Lakers and James Harden of the Oklahoma Thunder, and greeted the visitors.

Paul even threw a banter on Pacquiao as the 2006 NBA rookie of the year playfully challenged the Pacman to a quick sparring by bobbing from side to side, drawing loud cheers up to the rafters.

WBO flyweight champion Brian Villoria, Senator Antonio Trillanes III, Philippine Olympic Committee chair Monico Puentevella, Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson and celebrities Willie Revillame and Aga Mulach were among the 20,000-plus crowd who attended the highly charged affair organized by the MVP Sports Foundation of chairman Manny V. Pangilinan as a gift to the fans.

Aguilar’s two-handed slam over Durant on a fast break kicked off the excitement in the first quarter and the two-time NBA scoring champion from the Oklahoma Thunder quickly retaliated with a thunderous throw down on the other end.

McGee, shackled by 6-foot-10 Marcus Douthit underneath, curled to the right and the NBA slam dunk competition runnerup from the Washington Wizards finally broke free for his first dunk of the match to the delight of the crowd.

Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, Paul and Williams then launched a series of fan-titilating attacks before Marcio Lasiter’s three cut it down, 31-38, from a double-digit lead.

A lob by Smart Gilas skipper Chris Tiu to a streaking Aguilar led to another explosive jam and Evans converted from a steal with 1.3 ticks left to make it 55-37 at halftime.

“It’s an entirely different game than yesterday (against the PBA),” said national coach Rajko Toroman. “We tried to push the ball, shot well and even had the chance to keep it much closer.”

“It was practically a great experience for the team.”

Smart Gilas had several inspiring plays worthy of world-caliber competition.

The 6-foot-9 Aguilar stifled Bryant on the low blocks, forcing the two-time Finals MVP into a turnover.

Lassiter knocked the leather out of bounds after nearly snatching it from a driving Rose while Aguilar swatted away a high-arching shot by Evans.

The scores:
SMART ALL-STARS 98—Bryant 17, McGee 16, Durant 16, Harden 15, Evans 9, Williams 8, Rose 6, Paul 6, Fisher 5.
SMART GILAS 89—Casio 16, Douthit 14, Lutz 12, Hontiveros 11, Lassiter 9, Tiu 8, Aguilar 6, Williams 4, Ababou 4, Alapag 3, Baracael 2, Ballesteros 0, Barroca 0, Taulava 0.
Quarters: 28-16; 55-37; 79-60; 98-89

Reposted From Jun Navarro of Philippine Daily Inquirer


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