Cronyism, cheating on May elections feared

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BAGUIO CITY, PH – Partido Galing at Puso (PGP) vice-presidential candidate Sen. Chiz Escudero most recently expressed that fears of cheating in the May elections could have likely stemmed from President Noynoy Aquino’s endorsing and campaigning for the administration candidates.

He also cited the lobbying made by Aquino’s allies, now running in the elections, for appointments of their “friends” to key positions in the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

In a news conference at Prince Plaza Hotel here, Escudero accused resigned Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas, the administration’s standard bearer, and Senate President Franklin Drilon, who is also seeking re-election, as having lobbied for certain Comelec officials whom he did not name.

“I have no doubts in the fairness of President Aquino, but perhaps, the speculations of our people were due to his endorsement and campaigning for his candidates instead of ensuring a fair and objective elections, when he is not endorsing or campaigning for anybody,” explained Escudero.

“Election must not only be clean and honest; it must also be credible.” He said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda admitted that one of those holding a top position in the Comelec was a classmate of Drilon whom he lobbied to the President.

He said Lacierda also acknowledged that one or two commissioners of the Comelec was nominated by Roxas.

“If there were doubts, those came from these occurences,” further stated Escudero who was sought for his comment on Pulse Asis surveys which said that 39 percenf of Filipinos still believe there will be cheating in the elections.

Escudero surmised that maybe, there will be no speculations if the President did not endorse or campaign for any candidate. “Perhaps, that’s the source of doubts of the 39 percent Filipinos who believed there will be cheating.”

“But on the part of the President, I personally believe that it’s not in his character to cheat in this election if only to make his candidates win,” stressed Escudero.

“The (Comelec) commissioners, of course, they are political appointees,” said Poe as she underscored the importance of vigilance to the people and the media.

“It is important that we continously watch and overcome fears. Let us not stop the media so that they would remain focused. NGOs (non-government organizations) should also be watchful. If’s not only in the Comelec where there can be cheating. It can also happen in local govefnment. Let us not be complacent,” said Poe.

For his part, Roxas said, “There’s a saying in politics here in the Philippines that there will be the ones who win and those who will say they were cheated. These are just ways to poison the minds of our countrymen.”

“I just find it funny because, first of all, I know how it feels to be cheated,” said the administration standard bearer.

“When she was expecting that the President would choose her, [Poe] didn’t say a word,” added Roxas.

“What have they done in their three or six years in Senate? If this issue is important to them, they should have done something,” he also said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Roxas raised the possibility that fraud could be initiated by the camp of Poe or Vice President Jejomar Binay after poll operator Virgilio Garcillano was spotted in the same hotel where Binay and Poe were billeted during the presidential debates in Cagayan de Oro City.

“It is indeed scary to think of cheating at the polls, especially since Garcillano was seen in CDO at the hotel where Senator Poe and VP Binay were staying,” Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.

“Operators notorious for rigging elections are coming out of the woodwork. We don’t need to name these people and who they work for.”

Poe denied Garcillano sought her out. “I didn’t see him, but apparently, he was there in our hotel. I was just wondering, if he would be avoiding somebody, that would be me,” said Poe.

Garcillano, who was appointed by former President Gloria Arroyo to the Comelec, was blamed for orchestrating the alleged massive cheating in the 2004 presidential elections.

Poe’s father, Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ), was the most popular candidate in the said presidential race and was poised to beat the incumbent Arroyo. When the counting was over, Arroyo won by 1.2 million votes.

A recording of a phone conversation later surfaced where Arroyo was speaking with Garcillano and asking him if she could secure the one million votes in Mindanao needed to win the elections.

“Somebody like him, why was he being a consultant,” asked Poe who did not identify to whom Garcillano was working as a consultant.

“I’m sure it is not me,,” Poe said when asked if she could be the person for whom Garcillano was acting as consultant. “Look for the CCTV (tapes) of hotel. That’s the only thing I can tell you. But whoever it is, as long as it’s election-related, I don’t think it is proper,” she said.

In 2014, after she won as senator, Poe made a privilege speech about electoral reforms and cited the case of her father, who many believe was cheated of the presidency.

Binay, the opposition’s presidential bet, was also staying at the same hotel as Poe. Garcillano did not say who his client was.

Earlier in the campaign, Poe called on non-government organizations, election watchdog groups and media entities to be vigilant in the 2016 elections to ensure that no repeat of the 2004 election fraud would happen.

A Pulse Asia survey showed that 39 percent of voters expect cheating to occur in the polls through vote-buying, tampering of machines and the presence of flying voters. A higher number—48 percent—believe the elections will be clean and credible. (SWCA)

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