MANILA, August 18, 2005
(TRIBUNE) TO KILL ELECTION FRAUD EVIDENCE VS GLORIA, CIDG, ISAFP IN ILLEGAL RAID:  Barely three days after President Arroyo exhorted the Armed Forces of the Philippines not to engage in partisan politics and to stay loyal to the Constitution, her police and military agents from the Philippine National Police (PNP)-National Capital Region Criminal Investigation and Detection Group NCR-CIDG and the Intelligence Service of the AFP (Isafp) yesterday engaged in partisan politics as they staged an illegal raid of a house in San Mateo, Rizal, carting off 40 boxes of original and photocopied election returns used in the 2004 national elections from a house where former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) handwriting expert and chief document examiner Segundo Tabayoyong lives.

The illegal raid was conducted by the CIDG-Isafp team at 2:18 a.m. on Wednesday while claiming to have found in Tabayoyong's room the 40 boxes of original and photocopied election returns, a .38 caliber pistol, a 9 mm pistol and ammunition for a Thompson submachine gun.

In a personal interview with the Tribune yesterday, Tabayoyong said the election documents, which he stressed were original Commission on Elections materials that belong to the political opposition, were used by him for his studies on the poll fraud, but denied vehemently that he had kept firearms and ammunition in the house in San Mateo, which served as his “safehouse,” for him to conduct his studies on the poll fraud. Also carted away by the CIDG-Isafp raiding team were documents related to the Jose Pidal signatures.

The President, as well as her aides, have shown desperation in getting hold of both witnesses and documents that can pin her on charges of election fraud.

“Those documents are not illegal and should not have been seized. These were handed to me for safekeeing and my studies on the poll fraud operations,” Tabayoyong said, adding the firearms the raiding team claimed to have seized were “planted,” hinting that, having been with the NBI for years as chief document examiner, he knew the ways of the police and Isafp in planting evidence and framing people up.

The poll documents, Minority Floor Leader Rep. Francis Escudero also yesterday admitted, were part of the evidence the minority would have used for the impeachment case.

Escudero blasted the administration and its raiding team for the illegal raid, and demanded that the Congress insist on having the CIDG and the Isafp explain why a raid was necessary and why election documents owned by the opposition would now be considered evidence of destabilization.

Tabayoyong, during the interview, said he feared that the raiding team that confiscated the documents would, by now, have “substituted” these with bogus documents, and was disconsolate over the fact that his year-long studies made, which were seized as well, would be gone.

The raiding team had no search warrant and no one in the neighborhood witnessed the raid, or what were carted away.

The PNP claim was that the raid of Tabayoyong's home in Our Lady of Peace Village, San Mateo, Rizal, yielded papers bearing signatures of Jose Pidal and compact disks with photographs of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. and ousted President Joseph Estrada.

CIDG Senior Insp.Oscar Ragmac said the police received a tip on the election returns before conducting the raid, but failed to explain why seizing the ERs was deemed justifiable for conducting an illegal raid and why the team produced no search warrant.

Tabayoyong earlier refuted a PNP Crime Laboratory report that said the Jose Pidal signature and the signature of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo were different.

Escudero said the explanation from the CIDG is in accordance with House rules that provide for the protection of a potential witness.

He added the ERs seized from Tabayoyong's residence came from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) - where the alleged poll fraud took place during the 2004 elections.

Malacanang, for its part, refused to denounce the illegal raid, with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita intimating that the raid was justified.

During an interview, Ermita said Malacanang is giving PNP chief Arturo Lomibao time to defend the raid, on allegations of the opposition that it was conducted to subvert pieces of evidence that the opposition has that would pin the President in the impeachment case.

“We don't have the details on that raid but I have spoken with the PNP and the police have uncovered paraphernalia and materials to the effect of their raid. So let's just see their presentation of the contents,” Lomibao said.

“It's always their (opposition) doing -- to always throw the blame on us and make the connection that this raid is related to the impeachment (case) just because there's an impeachment hearing in Congress. That's not fair, “ he added, while appealing to the public not to take as “gospel truth” whatever the opposition feeds them.

But the President's seizure of the election returns is seen to backfire, as opposition members immediately demanded proper accounting of the items seized even as they accused the government of resorting not only to harassment and kidnapping of hostile witnesses but also of tampering with and illegal confiscation of damning evidence on the crimes of incumbent leaders.

The confiscated ERs are part of alleged evidence to show proof over a supposed plan by the administration to pad some six million votes in favor of Mrs. Arroyo's to ensure her poll victory.

Opposition senators cited loopholes over the authorities' claims on the incident while they noted its implications on the ongoing impeachment proceedings against the President.

If the actual intent of the raid, contrary to what the raiding team had claimed, is to defeat charges against Mrs. Arroyo to warrant in court, Malacanang is in for a surprise as there remain voluminous pieces of evidence that could ascertain allegations that electoral fraud took place during last year's presidential polls.

“If they thought they have wiped out (the evidence), that they have already seized all the evidence, they're wrong. There are still a number of these. They cannot get possession of all of those in the hands of Tabayoyong because there are plenty of ERs (election returns) more in the possession of other people,” Lacson told reporters during a press conference while stressing that the Arroyo government is that desperate to resort to illegal activities in getting evidence held by the opposition.

The senator said he had to stress so as reports on the raid are being attributed to the ranks of the opposition that even a colleague, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, cried foul over the insinuation.

“I don't know what they (government) are up to. I don't know what they want to come out of this (incident),” Lacson added.

Estrada viewed the incident as yet another example of the dirty tactics being employed by the PNP to plant evidence that would implicate the opposition leaders to electoral fraud.

He echoed Lacson's statements, saying the Arroyo administration is really getting desperate and has resorted to planting evidence to frame up opposition leaders.

“It is very clear that the PNP is engaging in partisan politics and it is being used by the attack dogs of Mrs. Arroyo to discredit the opposition.

“I think there is a blatant attempt by the PNP together with this administration to link Sen. Lacson, Rep. Escudero and former Rep. Didagen Dilangalen and myself in an alleged destabilization plot against the government.

“They want to make it appear that there is a supposed conspiracy of sorts by opposition leaders to destabilize this government. We are not part of any destabilization attempts and we are not part of any plan to topple this government... this government is destabilizing itself, we need not destabilize it,” Estrada told reporters.

Both he and Lacson also pointed out the fact that the raiding team had no search warrant.

“From this alone, it's already obvious that there is something fishy in this incident. It's clear that what they did was illegal,” Estrada said.

He maintained that he has no link or involvement whatsoever with Tabayoyong, saying he does not personally know the person.

Neither he is aware, Estrada said, of the issues surrounding the confiscated ERs.

“If ever there is a search warrant, what is the offense?” asked Lacson.

“If what they are trying to say is the ERs came from the opposition for supposed poll fraud scheme, this is not feasible because what will come out of this is that the prefabricated ERs would show a massive edge in number of votes of Mrs. Arroyo. If they claim that this is evidence to plant or produce or fabricate evidence against Mrs. Arroyo, it's still not correct, he said.

Authorities should render inventory of the seized items, Lacson added.

He urged colleagues to keep close watch of the accounting of the evidence.

Lacson said it is better that the documents are “officially confiscated by the Isafp and CIDG.”

Chiding the administration, he pointed out that the raiding team would not only be held accountable in having these documents presented but also be held responsible if there would be any attempt to dispose of these materials, which he claimed can be used as evidence in cheating.

“I keep wondering why the Isapf is involved in that raid... Gestapo-style (raid), sans any search warrant... The Isafp is supposed to be concerned over national security matters. The CIDG is part of the PNP, so why are they in the picture?

“I don't see any national security matter involved in whatever offense that they are contemplating against Tabayoyong. Keeping old ERs that are official documents during the last elections is not a criminal offense. So all these will surely backfire on them,” Lacson warned. With Gina Peralta-Elorde, Gerry Baldo, Angie M. Rosales, Sherwin C. Olaes and Jojo Arazas

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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