POE CAMP ACCUSED  THE NBI OF HARASSING  FRAUD WITNESSES IN  CEBU

MANILA,  JUNE 16, 2004
(MALAYA) 
The camp of Fernando Poe Jr. yesterday accused the NBI of harassing its witnesses on electoral fraud in Cebu City.

Rufus Rodriguez, KNP lawyer, said the NBI arrested without warrant two men who the NBI believes were among 10 witnesses who attended a press conference last week in Cebu City and talked of cases of electoral fraud in the city and the province.

The witnesses' faces were covered with towels during the conference.

"These two men were later released after the NBI found out that they were not really among the witnesses," Rodriguez said in a statement released by the KNP. He did not name the two.

NBI director Reynaldo Wycoco belied the kidnapping allegation and said the KNP "panicked" when it learned that Jerry Moralde, a driver who brought the supposed witnesses to the press conference, told the NBI his story about the alleged fake witnesses.

Rodriguez said the NBI apprehended Moralde who drove a van that carried the witnesses to the city.

He said that after being subjected to "coercion and intimidation," Moralde made the claim he saw money being given to the witnesses on board the van.

Rodriguez said no money was given to the witnesses who he said volunteered to expose the fraud "because they could no longer stomach democracy in Cebu being destroyed and the will of the people being frustrated through massive electoral fraud."

Moralde was presented to media yesterday by NBI director Reynaldo Wycoco.

Moralde, 37, married and of Sitio Baka, Banilad, Cebu, is a driver of the JMB Rent-A-Car firm.

Moralde said he was not paid to go to the NBI.

He said that on June 10, a Lloyd Lopez who he said was a KNP provincial coordinator asked him to be a backup driver for three vans.

Driving a Toyota Hi-Ace van, Moralde said Lopez told him to go to the Vacation Hotel. There, he picked up Lopez and they proceeded to the Labangon Barangay Hall. He said they were looking for some people, including a barangay captain, but did not see them.

They proceeded to the Sacred Heart Center, picked up 10 men and headed for the Foodarama Supermart.

He said one of Lopez' companions went inside the mart and returned with towels which were distributed to the men on board the van.

They returned to the Sacred Heart Center for the press conference held at noon.

At 9:30 p.m., Moralde said, two Tagalog-speaking men who was among his passengers told him to proceed to "Bantay Radyo" where they were interviewed on air.

Moralde said the witnesses were not members of the Board of Elections Inspectors as KNP claimed but "bugoy (thugs)" who were paid P400 each for appearing at the press conference as KNP witnesses.

Moralde also said Lopez even called him on the other night when the latter learned he went to the NBI Central Visayas office.

He said Lopez asked him about the 10 men they fetched. He said he told Lopez that he ferried them to their homes in the squatters' area after the press conference.

He said Lopez thanked him and hung up. Moralde showed reporters his cellphone that registered a call from Lopez at 7:27 p.m.

A multi-sectoral group vowed to join Poe supporters in planned mass actions against electoral fraud.

The group called Alternatiba, which is composed of at least 10 people's organizations headed by Sanlakas, Partido ng Manggagawa, Kilusan Para sa Pambansang Demokrasya and the Freedom from Debt Coalition, launched the "June 30 Watch: People's Quest for Truth and Alternative Action."

The movement aims to receive complaints of fraud, like large-scale disenfranchisement, vote-padding, fabrication of ballots and certificates of canvass and statements of votes.

Wilson Fortaleza, Sanlakas president, said their support for anti-fraud actions does not mean support for Poe.

"If evidence and proofs of fraud are all shown before June 30, we believe that there should be no proclamation ... we are ready anytime to launch mass protests actions in the streets."

In particular, Alternatiba is questioning the pre-election release of the P544 million agrarian reform fund which was intended for the use of Gloria hybrid rice program but was allegedly used for election purposes.

"Moreover some farmers' groups strongly suspect that the funds were taken from the Marcos wealth which by law should be allocated for land acquisition," the group said. (Priam Nepomuceno and Wendell Vigilia)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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