[PHOTO AT LEFT: WHO’S TELLING THE TRUTH? National Archives Director Ricardo Manapat (left) listens to the testimony at the Senate yesterday of his subordinates Remmel Talabis (center)and Vicelyn Tarin(right) that they were ordered by their boss to forge the birth certificate of presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. Manapat denie the accusations. - Willy Perez]

MANILA, January 22, 2004 (STAR) By Jose Rodel Clapano - Bolstering allegations of the political opposition, three National Archives staffers yesterday accused their boss of ordering them to forge documents to support the disqualification petition against presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr.

Archives employees Remmel Talabis, Emman Llamera and Vicelyn Tarin told a Senate inquiry in detail that archives Director Ricardo Manapat began work on the forgeries as early as last November, the month Poe disclosed he was joining the presidential race.

Under a barrage of questions, Manapat denied the allegations and insisted that the documents were authentic. He complained at one point that the senators kept cutting him off when the questioning became relentless.

"If I were engaged in something illegal, it is very absurd for me to be so careless as what they claim for the confidentiality of what I have to do," Manapat countered. "The employees of the archives are holding grudges against me."

Manapat also rejected allegations that he told Talabis, Tarin and Llamera to "keep quiet" about the alleged forgery upon learning that they had been summoned to the inquiry.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who attended the hearing, said Manapat could be charged with obstruction of justice.

Asked to comment on the allegations, President Arroyo’s campaign spokesman Michael Defensor told a press conference that "Malacañang will ensure the prosecution if and when there are people who faked the documents."

Last Monday, Sen. Vicente Sotto claimed in a privileged speech that Manapat fabricated the documents, and sought a Senate inquiry by the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes and laws.

The panel, chaired by Sen. Edgardo Angara, began hearings yesterday.

The three archives staffers said they used pre-World War II birth certificates and marriage contracts, scanned them and changed the pertinent data with the use of computers to make it appear that Poe’s father was married to a Paulita Gomez.

During a Commission on Elections (Comelec) hearing last Monday, Manapat attested to the authenticity of the documents stored at the archives — mainly Poe’s birth certificate, the marriage certificate of his parents and that of his father and another woman, namely Gomez.

Lawyer Victorino Fornier, who filed the petition, says Poe should be disqualified from the presidential race because he is allegedly not a natural-born Filipino citizen.

Poe was born out of wedlock and should therefore take the citizenship of his mother, American Bessie Kelley, Fornier argues.

Even if Poe took the citizenship of his father, Allan Fernando Poe, the political neophyte should still be disqualified because his father was a Spanish citizen, Fornier contends.

Talabis, storekeeper of the archives supply section, said Manapat ordered him in November and again in December to reproduce a blank pre-World War II birth certificate and marriage certificate.

With Manapat seated only a few chairs away, Talabis related in detail how he scanned pre-war birth certificate records in November with a computer and erased the data to reproduce a blank form.

"Mr. Manapat ordered me to clean the details in the birth records and asked me to prepare a black and white copy of it. I did it with the Adobe Photoshop (a computer imaging program) and Mr. Manapat also got a printed copy of it," Talabis told the Senate hearing..

Citing Manapat’s instructions, Talabis then changed the pertinent details of a 1928 birth record. Manapat allegedly told him to use the exact font or style of lettering that were then in use, Talabis said.

"I couldn’t find the same font (lettering style) in the computer. So what I did was to cut and paste the font in the letters in the birth certificate," he related.

Talabis said Manapat asked him in December to reproduce a blank pre-World War II marriage contract form.

"He handed over to me a faxed copy of a marriage certificate and asked me to make a form of it," he said. "There are Spanish letters in the marriage contract which are fine copy. I just put a question mark on each word that I could not decipher."

But Talabis went on forced leave before he could finish work on it and handed the job to Llamera, he said.

Llamera, a contractual employee in the archives’ computer division, finished the job — complete with all the pertinent entries — by the time Talabis reported back to work on Jan. 5.

Talabis was ordered to decrease the size of the lettering used in the entries because they did not look authentic.

"When I returned on Jan. 5 for duty, Director Manapat told me to print out a marriage contract. This was the same marriage contract that he asked me to prepare last December," he said. "When I checked on it, there were already entries there of names, signatures and seals."

Tarin, a records management analyst detailed at the archives’ computer division by Manapat, related how she was ordered to choose from a selection of signatures of the names Allan Fernando Poe and Paulita Gomez and affix them on the document.

Talabis continued that Manapat later in January "asked me to scan a birth record of a certain Allan Fernando Poe and ordered me to print out a negative copy and another positive copy."

"When I saw the Xerox copy marked as Exhibit C in the disqualification case against Mr. Poe before the Comelec, I realized that it was the same birth record that Mr. Manapat ordered me to scan last December," Talabis said.

Holding up two rolls of microfilm, Manapat maintained that the documents came from the microfilm files of the archives.

Jeers of disbelief from spectators filled the inquiry room when Manapat said he did not know, however, where the original documents were being kept or if they still existed.

Senators examined the microfilm and asked an archives employee who handled microfilms attending the hearing to see if it was authentic.

When the employee said new and recently produced microfilms emitted the smell of chemicals used for developing, senators asked him to check the rolls Manapat presented.

"It’s new," the employee replied after taking a sniff.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said Manapat could face charges of forgery, falsification of public documents and obstruction of justice if found guilty. — With Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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