MANILA, MAY 8, 2007 (MALAYA)  BY VICTOR REYES - AN umbrella organization composed of retired military and police generals and military-based groups yesterday said the Arroyo administration plans to cheat in 16 provinces and regions involving 14.7 million votes.

"Intelligence reports reveal the existence of Oplan Mercury Rising. The operational plan has identified specific areas where massive election fraud will be committed," said a Bantay Boto document, read by Commodore (ret.) Ismael Appari.

The convenors include former PNP chief Recaredo Sarmiento, former Army chief Lt. Gen. Raul Urgello, and former Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Dominguez.

The group identified the provinces as Ilocos Sur with 345,981 registered voters; Pampanga, 1,131,627; Camarines Sur, 222,691; Cebu, 2,104,738; Bohol, 661,041; Leyte, 940,738; Eastern Samar, 234,559; Lanao del Norte, 484,091; Davao del Sur, 1,232,053; Lanao del Sur, 396,722; Maguindanao, 336,774; and Shariff Kabunsuan, 198,280.

The supposed region-level cheating would be launched in Region VI (Western Mindanao) with 3,667,151 voters; Region XI (Southern Mindanao), 994,552; Caraga, 1,238,982, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 572,248.

The figures cited account for 14,762,228 votes or 32.8 percent of the total registered voters.

"These voters are classified as those that can be manipulated," said Appari, leader of the Young Enlisted Soldiers with Active and Retired Military-Police for Solidarity (YesArms).

The other groups under the Bantay Boto are Bagong Katipunan, also known as the Magdalo Group; Federation of Retired Commissioned and Enlisted Personnel; Grand Order of the Unified Guardians; Para sa Bayan; Philippine Guardians Brotherhood Association, Inc. and Soldiers and Police for Peace and Progress.

The Para sa Bayan, led by former Scout Ranger chief Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, was involved in the failed power grab in February last year. The Magdalo Group mounted the short-lived Oakwood mutiny in July 2003.

"The respective provincial election supervisors, assistant regional election directors and regional election directors in these provinces and regions were allegedly ordered to see to it that TU (Team Unity) candidates (Michael) Defensor, (Juan Miguel) Zubiri and (Prospero) Pichay should rank in the first three slots," the document said.

"We also have reports that certain local government and Comelec officials whom we will not name here were offered huge cash incentives to deliver 12-0 in favor of TU and an added bonus was promised if GO (General Opposition) candidate Alan Peter Cayetano gets zero vote," the document said.

The document also cited an alleged verbal instruction from the office of Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to all military commanders to ensure a 12-0 win for TU.

"We also have reports coming from Tarlac, Samar, and Davao Oriental that during the absentee voting in the AFP between May 4 to 6, 2007, Army personnel were instructed to vote straight TU as per order of CGPA (Army Chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino)," it added.

The Bantay Boto document also alleged that the soldiers were guarded by their officers and senior non-commissioned officers "to ensure that they vote as ordered."

"In one area, the ballots which were in sealed envelops were collected and placed in a mere sack, not ballot box. The soldiers were directed to put their thumb marks and affix their signatures on blank sheets of paper which were collected by HPA (Headquarters, Philippine Army) personnel administering the absentee voting," it said.

It claimed that the absentee voting was not presided by Comelec officials, only by direct commanders, AFP officers and NCOs."

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the Senate committee of national defense who was invited as a resource person, said there are already indicators that "cheating and unconstitutional acts are being committed to undermine the integrity of the electoral process."

He cited the involvement of soldiers in the alleged tearing down of a party list campaign poster in Bulacan, and those supporting the election of the Bantay party list of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, which he said is suspected of being a tool of Malacañang.

Biazon also said soldiers are campaigning for presidential son Dato Arroyo who is running for congressman in Camarines Sur.

AFP public information chief Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said the reports about Oplan Mercury Rising are "bereft of the truth."

He appealed to the retired generals not to tarnish the image of the military as an institution.

Presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio, in a text message, said the allegation of Bantay Boto is "a serious claim and accusation" and urged the Commission on Elections to investigate. – With Jocelyn Montemayor

Mike back at St. Luke’s for checkup MALAYA  MAY  9,  2007

PRESIDENTIAL spouse Jose Miguel Arroyo yesterday went back to St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City for his first checkup after undergoing heart surgery last April 9.

Arroyo had an aneurysmectomy and a triple bypass. He was discharged on May 1.

Marilen Lagniton, hospital vice president for customer affairs, said Arroyo, accompanied by President Arroyo, checked into the hospital shortly after 6 a.m.

"It’s just a scheduled follow-up or post-operative checkup and rehabilitation…There’s no big deal," Lagniton told reporters waiting in the hospital lobby.

She said Mr. Arroyo was "better than fine" and that "he came in and walked all the way."

She said the checkup ended before 11 a.m. but Mr. Arroyo had to take his breakfast, do his cardiac rehab, and rest. She said Mr. Arroyo looked fine during the session and even watched golf on television.

The First Couple left St. Luke’s before 4:30 p.m. in high spirits although Mr. Arroyo still looked haggard after heavy weight loss.

"I am okay," Mr. Arroyo told reporters. He was wearing rubber shoes, khaki pants and a blue jacket. – Regina Bengco

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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