Military to go after poll cheaters

Military to go after poll cheaters
By Edith Regalado
The Philippine Star

DAVAO CITY , Philippines  – Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales yesterday revealed attempts to cheat in the elections on May 10 have already started.

Gonzales said the military has started tracking down the groups behind cheating attempts that were to favor two presidential candidates.

Though he did not identify the groups and the two candidates, Gonzales told the joint forum of the Bishop- Ulama Conference, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) that arrests would be made within the week.

“There will be attempts of cheating the national elections. I’m telling you that the cheating has begun… I have revealed this so it can be stopped,” Gonzales told the forum late Wednesday.

He added a group of 50 information technology experts gathered during the weekend and discussed what they have uncovered.

According to Gonzales, some members of the police and military, even from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), formed part of the groups behind the attempt to tamper with the elections.

“In fact, there will be attempts to bribe our Armed Forces and it has already begun,” he said.

Gonzales said money is now being distributed to some Comelec officials to ignore the cheating operations on election day.

He said sources from the Comelec confirmed his suspicions that some poll officials are being bribed just to look the other way.

“Many officials in the Comelec hate being bribed. Now I can tell you that one of my sources is from the Comelec itself,” he said.

Gonzales said the bribes are being distributed to officials to ignore the rigging operations in favor of the two unnamed presidential candidates.

“We have noticed this about two, three days ago, and it is too early to tell you who are involved and how this is going to be done… it might benefit two of the presidentiables,” he said.

Gonzales cited the position paper made by former Comelec chief Christian Monsod that cheating is still possible in the country’s first automated elections.

He said the calls urging the Comelec to conduct a parallel manual count already indicate attempts to rig the election results.

Gonzales revealed the Southern Tagalog region is one of the areas where a possible rigging of election results would take place.

Gonzales also stressed that he does not share the optimism of AFP chief Gen. Delfin Bangit and PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa who earlier gave assurance that the May 10 elections would be orderly and peaceful.

“I do not share the optimism of the two officers because I know that cheating has started even before the elections,” Gonzales told the forum.

Bangit, however, was quick to point out that he would not tolerate any cheating or any attempt to disrupt the elections.

“We will stop those who will cheat. Whoever will attempt will fail,” Bangit said.

Bangit also assured the public that the military would not take part in any attempt to establish a junta should there be a failure of elections.

He said failure of elections and cheating would only happen if the people would allow it.

“The AFP was created to make sure that the people’s real voice is heard clearly. The AFP will always be on the side of the people,” Bangit said.

AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the military has no information verifying Gonzales’ claims that some members of the military are being bribed to look the other way.

“We don’t know anything about such bribery attempts. We have not monitored any attempt to bribe our military personnel,” Burgos said.

“If there will be, it is bound to fail. Our loyalty does not have a price tag. We are 100 percent certain that no one among the ranks of the military will be enticed to accept the bribes,” he added.

Gonzales also expressed apprehensions over the reported statements of Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Aquino III that if he loses in the elections, it would be an indication that he was cheated.

Although he did not specifically mention Aquino in his dialogue during the forum, Gonzales pointed out the candidate is planning to lead another popular revolt if he loses in the election.

“We have a presidential (candidate) who is assuming that he will win the elections, that if he loses… it means that he has been cheated. You know who this candidate is and they’re planning (another) people power. I am worried about this people power business,” he said.

Aquino had warned that any attempt to rig the elections on May 10 could incite another EDSA revolution.

Gonzales also denied allegations that he was openly campaigning for Nacionalista Party (NP) presidential bet Sen. Manuel Villar Jr.

“It seems to me that they are trying to show that the Secretary of National defense is not serious after all in making sure the AFP remains non-partisan in the coming elections,” he said.

Critics suspect that the AFP will be used to manipulate this year’s elections after some ranking military officers became involved in rigging the results of the 2004 presidential elections.

The following year, the names of some military generals were mentioned in a wiretap recording supposedly detailing the telephone conversations between President Arroyo and a former Comelec official in Mindanao to rig the election results in 2004. –Alexis Romero

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.