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Archive for May 8th, 2007

Ex-generals bare alleged vote-rigging plot by admin

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Palace denies ‘Oplan Mercury,’ blasts media

By Joel Guinto
Last updated 09:42pm (Mla time) 05/08/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Retired generals have sounded the alarm over an alleged plan to rig the May 14 elections by 14 million votes in favor of administration senatorial candidates and warned that fresh accusations of election fraud could trigger another political crisis.

“Oplan Mercury Rising,” according to retired Navy Commodore Ismael Aparri, a convenor of the anti-election fraud coalition Bantay Boto (Vote Watch), would involve cheating in Western Visayas, Eastern Mindanao, Caraga, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Pampanga, Camarines Norte, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Eastern Samar, Lanao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Sharif Kabunsuan.


Malacañang, through Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo, denied the existence of the alleged plot and blasted media for reporting on the retired generals’ disclosure without first checking on the veracity of the former officers’ claims.

At the same time, Saludo offered assurances that it was not government policy to use its personnel, whether soldiers or teachers, to influence the outcome of the elections.

Aparri said his group obtained the information from intelligence reports.

Under the alleged plot, provincial election supervisors, assistant regional election directors, and regional election directors in the identified cheating areas have been ordered to ensure that administration senatorial bets Michael Defensor, Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Prospero Pichay take the top three of the 12 seats up for grabs, Aparri said.

He also claimed the cheating would involve the use of the military, citing “reports of verbal instructions from no less then the office of AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon to all military commanders to ensure a TU [TEAM Unity] 12-0 [victory] in their respective areas, especially in military camps where the canvassing of votes will be conducted.”

“We also have reports coming from Tarlac, Samar, and Davao Oriental that during absentee voting in the AFP between May 4 to 6, Army personnel were instructed to vote straight TU as per verbal order of CGPA (Commanding General of the Philippine Army Romeo Tolentino),” Aparri added.

The plot also allegedly involves “huge cash incentives” have also been offered to local government and election officials who could deliver a 12-0 sweep in favor of the administration’s TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) Unity senatorial slate, with a “bonus” for those who ensure no votes are cast for opposition senatorial candidate Alan Peter Cayetano.

Cayetano sought President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s impeachment in 2005 and 2006 on allegations of election fraud and corruption. He also exposed First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo’s alleged secret bank deposits in Germany.

“You know the policy of our government, to allow democracy full play and, of course, not use government personnel, whether soldiers or teachers, to influence the vote,” Saludo said in Filipino. “That is not our policy. Whoever violates [the sanctity of the vote] will most certainly be reported.”

He also urged the public and media to “scrutinize all these reports instead of publishing mere accusations at this time.”

“As I have said, the problem is, if you cannot tell if something is true or not, you have to examine it. Which is why I have said that, before we believe or do not believe in the news, let us examine if there is basis,” he said.

“It’s easy enough to do, call or talk to these people and see if they have any basis or proof,” he added. “You journalists, you know how to examine these kinds of reports, don’t you?”

Senator Rodolfo Biazon, who was guest speaker at the Bantay Boto launch, pointed out what he called “signs” of cheating, including the reported deployment of soldiers to Camarines Sur province to ensure the victory of the President’s son, Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo III, who is running for congressman there.

“God forbid, because if there is again massive cheating in the 2007 elections, this could trigger another round of political instability,” Biazon said

Biazon, himself a former general and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, was referring to the “Hello Garci” scandal, when the leak of purportedly wiretapped conversations between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, which critics say proved she cheated her way to victory in 2004, triggered the most serious political crisis of her administration.

In the tapes, four senior military officers were mentioned, including incumbent Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

“We have barely recovered from the Garci tapes scandal, and yet we begin to hear reports that again cheating and unconstitutional acts are being committed to undermine the integrity of the electoral process,” Biazon said.

The senator also noted the involvement of soldiers in a shootout with the camp of Bocaue, Bulacan mayoralty candidate Eduardo “Jonjon” Villanueva Jr., a son of evangelist and Arroyo critic Eduardo “Brother Eddie” Villanueva.

Biazon said there have also been reports of vote-buying in Muntinlupa City, where his son is running for congress.

“You cannot fight cheating by words alone. You cannot fight cheating by advocacies alone. You cannot fight cheating by rhetoric alone. You need people out there at least, if not at the precinct level,” he said.

Meanwhile, retired lieutenant general Romeo Dominguez, who is also a member of Bantay Boto, warned that there will always be whistleblowers in the military should the leadership be accused again of involvement in cheating.

“The AFP as an organization is neutral. Don’t forget, despite the chaos last time, we had Balutan and Gudani. They are not alone. There is a silent majority that you can rely on to be honorable,” Dominguez said.

The retired officer was referring to Marine Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Balutan and retired Marine brigadier general Francisco Gudani. The two are facing court martial for testifying on the alleged 2004 cheating operations by the military at a Senate investigation in September 2005 without permission from their superiors.

Biazon presided over that investigation as chairman of the Senate committee on defense.

Addressing soldiers, Dominguez said: “My concern is the same; stick to the task — honest, orderly, peaceful elections. If they see something or someone enlists them to do something, they should refuse these illegal actions and make a report.”

Aparri said Bantay Boto members would deploy watchers to voting precincts. Biazon said he has volunteered to be a poll watcher for his son, reelectionist Muntinlupa Representative Rufino Biazon.

Asked what Bantay Boto would do if its members witnessed cheating, Aparri said: “Right there, I would shoot them. But they are not ready to fight. We do the normal, legal process; our legal groups will report to the Comelec [Commission on Elections].”

Aparri added: “We go through the legal process. We exhaust all legal processes. Beyond that, the people will decide what they will do.”

Aside from Yes Arms or the Young Enlisted Soldiers with Active and Military-Police for Solidarity, other groups under Bantay Boto include the Bagong Katipunan or Magdalo, the Grand Order of the Unified Guardians (GOUING), Para sa Bayan (PSB), Philippine Guardians Brotherhood Inc. (PBGI), and the Soldiers and Police for Peace and Progress (SPP).

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-05-08T14:37:52+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Tue, 08 May 2007 14:37:52 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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5 MNLF rebels killed in Sulu clash — military

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 08:40pm (Mla time) 05/08/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Five Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerillas were killed in a fresh encounter with government forces in Sulu province at dawn Tuesday, the spokesman of the Philippine Marines said.

Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Caculitan said the updated death toll, initially pegged at four rebels killed, was based on a body count.

The encounter erupted at around 5:55 a.m. between Marines and the group of MNLF commander Ustadz Habier Malik in Kambing village Kalingalan Kaluang town, said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro.

The bodies of four rebels as well as a rifle were recovered from the scene, Bacarro said earlier in the day.

The military has been hot on Malik’s trail after he allegedly ordered mortar attacks on the municipal hall and a Marine detachment in Panamao last April 13 that killed three soldiers and a civilian and touched off two weeks of running gunbattles that have displaced over 40,000 villagers.

Malik has claimed that the military provoked the attack when troops accidentally killed civilians in an earlier raid, a claim denied by the military.

Manila signed a peace treaty with the MNLF in 1996, ending a decades-old separatist campaign in return for limited Muslim self-rule. The government is now in talks with a second faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Some MNLF fighters have been integrated into the armed forces.

But Muslim areas covered in the autonomous region remain mired in poverty despite millions of dollars in development aid.

Some MNLF fighters later formed the core group of the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for a series of deadly attacks in the Philippines in recent years.

With a report from AFP; Originally posted at 11:58am

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-05-08T14:36:23+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Tue, 08 May 2007 14:36:23 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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