Fourth hearing of `People’s Court’
Three witnesses presented evidence last Nov. 16 that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies cheated in the 2004 presidential election.
By Jhong dela Cruz
An independent study by a computer expert which supported earlier claims that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s win in the 2004 election was fraudulent, was one of the evidences presented at the fourth hearing last Nov. 16 of the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA).
Robert Verzola’s “The True Results of the Philippine Presidential Election Based on the NAMFREL Tally,” published in the November 2004 issue of Kasarinlan, a quarterly publication of Third World Studies Center at the University of the Philippines (UP), concluded that the 2004 presidential election tally was biased for President Arroyo.
Verzola, an official observer of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), said that the results of the 2004 elections were marred by massive padding and discrepancy in favor of Arroyo.
His study matched the circumstances in the allegedly wiretapped conversations between Arroyo and then Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. The mostly southern provinces mentioned in the conversations – where the late presidential candidate and actor Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ) reportedly won – were also the ones where Verzola noticed huge discrepancies.
According to him, cheating occurred after the votes were counted at the precinct level and the more than 216,000 election returns proved to be more credible than the 177 certificates of canvass which were counted at the national canvassing in the House of Representatives.
He identified provinces of Basilan, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur and Sulu (all located in Mindanao) where “reversal of leads” took place. He reported that in those areas, about 41 to 75 percent differences were tampered in favor of Arroyo. Other areas were Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao, Lanao del Norte, Saranggani, Romblon and Zambales.
He said Namfrel was apparently “sympathetic” to Arroyo during the elections, where huge discrepancies were evident in Arroyo’s bailiwicks. He noted that farmed-out votes mostly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Ilocos and Central Visayas were counted at a hundred or over a hundred percent in favor of Arroyo.
About 600,000 were “tampered” votes in Mindanao to augment Arroyo’s votes, and 463,000 in Ilocos and Central Visayas. “There were about five million votes that were not properly tallied, four million in pro-FPJ areas and only one million in GMA areas,” he said, explaining that the Namfrel tally was only 83 percent complete.
In the National Capital Region alone, FPJ’s lead was understated with some one million votes uncounted. He stressed that the 681,000 lead by GMA recorded by Namfrel, was bound to go down due to discrepancies.
Teary-eyed former social welfare department secretary Dinky Soliman on the other hand testified at the CCTA that no less than Macapagal-Arroyo’s cabinet and public resources were used for her former boss’ candidacy in the election.
She revealed that cabinet members met regularly once every two weeks in January 2004 to map out plans to bolster Arroyo’s bid in areas known to be strongholds of FPJ, her closest opponent. From this time up to March 2004, she said, government agencies were keen on implementing projects that could serve as campaign propaganda for the president.
“There were meetings chaired by the president herself but Secretary Alberto Romulo took over when she is absent,” she said. Areas where the president are weakest were pre-determined by a palace aide who conducts and present polls for prevailing survey results for the office of the president.
The prevailing context among the cabinet members she said was that, “by providing government service and maintaining good governance, GMA’s chances of winning will accelerate”.
Soliman issued a public apology and urged her former boss to do the same accounting for betraying public trust. She also urged the middle class to act so as not to erode morality. Under the present administration, she said that Arroyo’s allies who remain loyal have quashed constitutional avenues for truth telling.
She regretted being party to a scam that would later appear as one of the instruments for Arroyo’s campaign blitz. She cited the controversial distribution of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) cards, which bore Arroyo’s likeness and a slogan, GMA para sa Masa, para sa Lahat (GMA for the masses, for all) during the campaign period. The card, valued at P1,600 ($29.31, based on an exchange rate of P54.59 per US dollar) to cover medical assistance to indigent families, were purportedly flooded to areas where FPJ could win.
Soliman recalled having handed some 1,000 Philhealth cards in Pangasinan sometime in March 2004 before the elections. The distribution to some 100 family recipients were undertaken during meetings that were organized by political allies of Arroyo, she added.
This came following a series of cabinet meetings that tackled campaign strategies to augment the vote for Arroyo. “We assessed that the opponent was strong in Pangasinan and that led us to the distribution,” she said. According to her, other government agencies also allocated funds to programs that promoted Arroyo’s candidacy in areas where she is perceived to be “weak.”
Whether the Philhealth card distribution in Pangasinan truly reached the 30 percent lowest brackets of poor families, she said that at that time, there was no way to verify.
Asked about the source of funds for the project, she said that the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) jointly initiated the project.
Maita Santiago of Migrante International in her testimony revealed that the overseas workers’ funds were used to prop up the Philhealth insurance.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), a government branch, apportioned its resources worth P4 billion ($73.3 million) of Medicare funds intended for migrant workers, for the manufacture and distribution of Philhealth cards.
The campaign strategy, according to Santiago, was hatched by former chair of Philhealth and now health department secretary Francisco Duque III by signing a 2002 memorandum urging Arroyo to approve Executive Order No. 182 transferring the amount to provide health insurance to eight million indigents.
She said Duque’s deliberate attempt to hide the orchestration from the main stakeholders later came out in a July 2003 forum in Hong Kong where Duque said that the neglect was an oversight.
From January to March 2004, roughly 27 million Philhealth cards were distributed in various areas, a figure Arroyo boasted during campaign rallies.
Former Vice President Teofisto Guingona hailed the testimonies as ones that showed “the frame of mind of the President to survive politically.”
Guingona, chair of the CCTA’s 15-member presidium, said the hearing had so far inched closer to the truth where testimonies have corroborated to show that there was indeed electoral fraud committed by Arroyo’s camp.
Earlier in the morning, CCTA Floor Leader Rep. Teddy Casino reported that a group of complainants would come to interrupt the hearing to deliver subpoenas to the people’s court organizers. CCTA’s first hearing at UP last week was interrupted when the pro-administration Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) interrupted the proceedings, claiming that the peoples’ court was backed by the communists.
CCTA lead counsel Atty. Romeo Capulong said there would be two more witness in the fifth hearing day on Nov. 23 to strengthen allegations of electoral fraud, one of which is a known personality expert in technical matters of election paraphernalia.
Various groups under the Bukluran Para sa Katotohanan (Coalition for Truth) launched the CCTA last November as an alternative venue to look into allegations of electoral fraud, graft and corruption and gross human rights violations hurled against Arroyo, after the impeachment of President Arroyo at the House of Representatives on September 6 was killed by administration legislators.
After next week’s hearing, the presidium is expected to come up with its findings and recommendations to be presented to the public for scrutiny, a copy of which will also be given to President Arroyo who will in turn be given a 15-day period to answer the allegations. (Bulatlat.com)