MANILA,  JUNE 22, 2004 (STAR) A man claiming to have taken part in a secret operation to steal votes from Fernando Poe Jr. accused the administration yesterday of spending from P100 million to P200 million "in government money" to get two million votes for President Arroyo in Central Mindanao to "offset whatever initial margin" the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino standard-bearer would have over her.

Rodolfo Galang, a Mindanao businessman, was presented to reporters yesterday at Club Filipino in San Juan by former solicitor general Frank Chavez, Task Force Anti-Election Fraud (TFAEF) chairman.

Galang said he was recruited by Conrado Limcaoco, presidential adviser on media and ecclesiastical affairs, to join "Operation (Oplan) Mercury," a plan allegedly hatched by the Arroyo administration to steal the elections.

Galang said he is ready to testify and present his evidence before any "unbiased" body. "I want to tell the truth," he said. "I am not afraid like the other witnesses."

However, Limcaoco dismissed Galangís allegations as hearsay, and challenged the opposition to present its evidence before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

"The allegations made by Mr. Rudy Galang are baseless and should be brought before the proper legal forum like the Comelec instead of being ventilated before mass media," he said.

In a statement, Limcaoco said Galang had volunteered to campaign for the Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K-4) in Mindanao.

"He was never my employee or political operator," he said. "Nor did we authorize or support any illegal operation. We urged him to keep his campaign assistance to us open and legal.

"While Mr. Galang was never shy about asking for compensation for his services, we merely gave him assistance for his travel and lodging. We wonder how he was compensated for his spurious testimony," Limcaoco siad.

Galangís allegations were "intended to agitate citizens," Limcaoco added.

On the other hand, Chavez said the people should call for a total failure of elections in light of Galangís exposť.

"GMA stole the 2004 elections," he said. "I do not see how Congress should proclaim a fraud. How can a fraud become president of this country. She (Mrs. Arroyo) should resign or face the ire of the people."

Chavez said apart from Limcaoco, other key personalities who took part in "Oplan Mercury" were Agriculture Secretary Luisito Lorenzo, National Food Authority Admi-nistrator Arthur Yap, Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit, Chairman Ephraim Genuinio of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), and Nena Valdez, former classmate of Mrs. Arroyo at Assumption College, the alleged funds comptroller.

Based on Galangís revelations, he was contemplating to file additional plunder charges against Mrs. Arroyo and her officials, Chavez added.

However, Philippine National Police chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said the KNP must present evidence to show that the police were involved in alleged massive fraud in the last elections. "Were there ever fake ballots? It is easy to say they donít have evidence ... We do not have the capability to cheat ... We do not have access to the materials."

Galang said "Oplan Mercury" was executed through tampering of election results with the connivance of Comelec officials, buying off opposition candidates, and massive use of government resources.

When asked by former Comelec chairwoman Harriet Demetriou, KNP counsel, for the identities of the top Comelec officials allegedly involved in "Oplan Mercury," Galang named two commissioners.

Galang said he fears for his life after Limcaoco threatened him when he told Limcaoco that he would no longer take part in the "Mercury" operations. "Donít cross the bridge yet," he quoted Limcaoco as telling him. "It wonít take an army to get you. It only takes one man to fire a bullet."

Galang said Limcaoco first assigned him to talk with Bro. Eli Soriano of Ang Dating Daan to convince the evangelist to support Mrs. Arroyo. However, the talks with Soriano did not prosper, he added,

Galang said Limcaoco next asked him to help draft "Oplan Mercury," focusing on Mindanao where the surveys showed that Mrs. Arroyo was trailing Poe.

Having run a banana processing plant in Maguindanao, Galang said he was tasked to contact Mindanao leaders, especially those of the opposition, to convince them to support Mrs. Arroyo.

Galang said he received money from "men of GMA," but that he did not pocket any for himself because he was promised a concession to operate a slot machine business from Pagcor. ó Mike Frialde, Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved