TALES FROM JONATHAN TIONGCO: FPJ WAS POISONED
MANILA, August 18, 2005 (STAR) By Jose Rodel Clapano - He’s no Jonathan Swift, but self-declared audio expert Jonathan Tiongco has tales of his own to tell.
Among them: Fernando Poe Jr. did not die of a stroke but was poisoned.
Tiongco also alleged yesterday that former senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan ran away with the P40-million budget for Poe’s "Bantay Balota" during the late actor’s presidential campaign last year.
According to Tiongco’s account of Poe’s death last December, the actor was poisoned during his last drinking spree with other opposition members the night before he was rushed to the emergency room of St. Luke’s Medical Centera in Quezon City.
Doctors at St. Luke’s said that Poe suffered a severe stroke, which led to his death early in the morning of Dec. 14, days after he was rushed to the hospital. The movie icon’s death certificate says as much, but Tiongco has his doubts.
"Isusunod ko na ‘yan (That will follow)," Tiongco said of his revelation, though he did not elaborate.
Tiongco made the allegations against Honasan as he prepared to file conspiracy to commit sedition, insurrection and obstruction of justice charges against opposition Senators Panfilo Lacson, Jinggoy Estrada, House Minority Leader Francis Escudero, former agrarian reform secretary and Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) president Horacio Morales, Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla, self-confessed jueteng bagwoman Sandra Cam; self-confessed jueteng operator Boy Mayor and several unidentified persons.
However, Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon did not accept Tiongco’s complaint because it was not endorsed by either the PNP, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) or other law enforcement agencies.
Fadullon advised Tiongco to follow the proper procedure and file his complaint with the local prosecution office.
In his five-page complaint affidavit, Tiongco said Morales met him on June 21, 2004 at the Podium in Ortigas shortly after a certain Rodolfo Galang was presented a the Club Filipino to expose alleged poll fraud in Mindanao.
"Morales lamented that Greg or Gringo ran away with the P40 million intended for the Bantay Balota and that he suspected that the latter was betraying (Poe) and secretly coordinating with his mistah, Lacson," Tiongco said.
Tiongco earlier corroborated the claim made by Environment Secretary Michael Defensor that the alleged "Hello, Garci" tape containing a wiretapped conversation between President Arroyo and a man believed to be former Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was spliced to make it seem they were planning to rig the May 10, 2004 elections.
He said in his complaint that Morales had asked him to form a small group purportedly to sabotage the President’s proclamation in Cebu: "Morales also asked me, if worse comes to worst, if I can form a small group to sabotage the Cebu proclamation by tossing a grenade at the crowd. The plan did not materialize after (Morales) was temporarily fired by former President Estrada due to the failure of the FPJ operations."
Tiongco said that he was hired by the opposition as a political operator and that he was receiving direct orders from Morales and Sen. Estrada.
He said that he was once an active supporter of the opposition, specifically the faction identified with former President Joseph Estrada and Lacson: "My associations with former President Estrada started when I was invited by John Robert Porter y Rendeza aka John Rendez, who was a long time friend since my teens to help them during the 1998 presidential campaign in my capacity as sound engineer, mixing minus ones for Ms. Nora Aunor. My friend was living with the Superstar during the time."
Tiongco said he eventually established a close relationship with prominent people within the Estrada camp in 2000 and maintained these relationships until the former president was ousted shortly after Aunor a joined the EDSA II uprising.
He also said he actively participated in the quashed EDSA III uprising in 2001: "From Polk street, I supervised the audio mixing of the first audio van situated at the EDSA shrine and I subsequently met Ronald Lumbao and other People’s Movement Against Poverty (PMAP) leaders there."
Tiongco said the new administration was perceived to be very hostile to Lacson in 2002.
"During that time (2002), I was very close with now Congressman Jesus Crispin ‘Boying’ Remulla, whom I admired for his loyalty to the former president," Tiongco said. "I frequently visited him at the office of Sen. Loi Ejercito where he was chief of staff. Following (Remulla’s) line, I would later be involved in several covert operations to help the embattled (Lacson), specifically with regards to his pending murder cases."
He added that "Generals Victor Corpus, Eduardo Matillano and Reynaldo Berroya were very much against (Lacson) and (the opposition) needed a covert operative to spy on this group." However, he also said he chose to "reserve certain information about the operations until the proper time comes."
Tiongco said that last week, after he aided Defensor in exposing anomalies found on the "Hello, Garci" tape, Lacson "ungratefully" made several libelous statements against him.
"This includes besmirching my family’s reputation by calling me may sayad or retarded. The libelous statements were published in several newspapers and broadcast on television and radio," he said. "My 84-year-old father... fell and suffered a mild stroke. My two sisters and I had to fly home to Iloilo City on Sunday to see my father."
Tiongco said he decided to break his silence and divulge what he knows about the ongoing, multi-faceted operations to unlawfully oust Mrs. Arroyo before the end of the year.
Sometime in January 2004, Tiongco said, he received a call from Remulla at his office: "Remulla told me that the PMP/Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) urgently needed covert operatives to help the (Poe) and Ping campaigns. I accepted the dangerous mission so Boying gave me a handwritten endorsement letter addressed to Morales."
Tiongco was fuming as he denied Remulla’s claim that he is insane, adding that a few days after Remulla called him, he had a breakfast meeting with Morales and former senator Francisco Tatad at the McDonald’s restaurant in Eastwood, Libis, Quezon City.
"We discussed several potential issues, which could be used to negatively project the government, (particularly the) National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force (NAKTF)," Tiongco said. "Rubouts were rampant during the time and we later agreed to engage in a human rights program intended to demoralize the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) top brass by exposing anomalies on their anti-crime operations."
Tiongco said Interior Secretary Angelo Reyes was then one of the principal targets of the opposition’s operations, which resulted in the filing of several murder cases before the Office of the Ombudsman following the death of several alleged suspects. The cases are still pending before the Ombudsman.
"The information and cases filed against the administration’s PNP and AFP top brass were used by several KNP candidates during the campaign sorties. Now (Sen. Estrada) even went as far as promising the victims things like legal and financial support in order for them to come out and file cases," he said.
According to Tiongco, "at first, the attention given was fine until they were subsequently abandoned. From the way I see it, the situation with the jueteng inquiry and its witnesses now is quite familiar."
He said he was also informed about the KNP special operations group led by Honasan, and the group’s secret rental and purchase of a GSM interceptor from a company called Altigen.
Tiongco added that he was briefed by Morales on safety procedures in using his cellular phone. He said the results of opposition’s eavesdropping operations against the administration were comprehensively reported in newspapers all throughout May and June 2004: "My recollection on the information intercepted was similar, but not as blatant (as) the ones contained on the ‘Hello, Garci’ tapes."
He said Morales was subsequently demoted and his positions as lead operator was given to Salvador Enriquez.
Tiongco said he also met Sen. Estrada sometime in August 2004 at the Senate lounge, where they discussed the cases filed against Reyes: "(Sen. Estrada) wanted me to convince the NAKTAF victims to oppose Reyes’ confirmation (by) the Commission on Appointments. I would then be seeing (Sen. Estrada) on a regular basis, sometimes at his office in the Pacific Star Building. Sometime in September 2004, the initiation of the new batch of complainants against Secretary Reyes materialized."
"Sometime in late September 2004, (Lacson) sent one of his trusted men to my home to get copies of all the Reyes documents," he said. "The hidden video cameras captured the incident. The colonel who was sent by (Lacson) is the same person who took custody over Udong Mahusay." Tiongco added that Lacson "also sent word that he wanted me to get damaging information against Defense Secretary (Avelino) Cruz and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez to be used against them at the Commission on Appointments."
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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