Monday, July 16, 2007

The Election Cheating that was (2)

I was surfing the net when I chanced upon It contains an article entitled, "Mamburao Ballot Switching Caught on Tape," and three videos of Romulo de Jesus Sr., the BEI chair who allegedly did the switching of the ballots.

The following is a reproduction of the article.


"ON May 14, 2007, around nine in the evening, a teacher in Occidental Mindoro was caught red-handed switching two bundles of ballots at Precinct 0003-A in Mamburao Central School.

"Earlier, poll watcher Gaspar Bandoy allegedly saw de Jesus taking out a bundle of folded ballots from his drawer as the votes were being read, while another bundle remained inside. Bandoy then immediately called for the counting to be stopped. Bandoy said de Jesus refused to open his drawer and ordered the poll watcher to get out of the room.

"When Bandoy returned, he saw de Jesus taking the same bundle from the drawer, placed it in a brown envelope and shoved it inside his blue backpack kept under the table. Poll watchers then alerted the police.

"Tension grew as a crowd started to gather around the precinct, pressuring de Jesus to open his bag. He however refused to yield and even tied his backpack around his neck. Police then took de Jesus to the municipal hall where the canvassing was being held.

"He was kept under watch in the municipal hall for two days, until the search warrant was served on May 16, 7:30 pm. The search warrant was issued for violating Article XXII Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code or for “knowingly” using ballots other than the official ballots. (See the search warrant and police reports on the case.) When the police opened the bag, two bundles of ballots inside a manila envelope were found.

"Each bundle contained 50 ballots. All of the votes cast in the 100 genuine ballots were reportedly in favor of incumbent Mayor Joel Panaligan, who lost in that precinct. Results show Panaligan got only about 40 votes in Precinct 3-A, while rival Anthony Voltaire “Bambi” Villarosa had about 120 votes. Despite the ballot-switching, Panaligan still emerged as the winner in the mayoralty race in Mamburao.

"De Jesus was placed under arrest and was brought to the police station for booking. But the 43-year-old teacher had to be taken to the hospital because of hypertension. On May 17, 2007, he had to be released because a complaint had not been filed within the prescribed 18-hour period. Bandoy, who is now in hiding as he had reportedly been receiving death threats, failed to file a complaint.

"Under the Omnibus Election Code, the Commission on Elections has the power to conduct a preliminary investigation on all election offenses and to prosecute. However, it cannot act on a case without a complaint being filed. Any person found guilty of election offenses shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years, and shall not be subject to probation.

"In another town, at about the same time in May 14, three teachers of Caminawit Central School, San Jose were found reading votes from allegedly 90 “spurious” ballots that bore one serial number (0410158).

"The genuine ballots, as in de Jesus’s case, were found hidden inside the drawer of BEI chair Elenita Pesigan.
De Jesus and Pesigan are allegedly among the teachers tasked to switch ballots in favor of the Villarosas, a powerful political clan in that part of Mindoro.

"It was reported that on April 12, 2007, 34 teachers trooped to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa where former Occidental Mindoro Rep. and San Jose mayoralty candidate Jose ‘JTV’ Villarosa is jailed for double murder.

"The teachers, according to sources, were promised P10,000 as downpayment, and P1,000 for every ballot switched.

"Villarosa, husband of re-electionist Occidental Mindoro Rep. Ma. Amelita Villarosa, dismissed the allegations as lies and mere propaganda; although he did not deny that teachers from Mindoro still visit him from time to time.

"Despite these allegations, Villarosa was defeated by re-electionist Romulo Festin this elections. His son, Bambi Villarosa, also lost to Panaligan by 69 votes in Mamburao, where the ballot-switching involving De Jesus took place.

"This is not the first time that the Villarosas had been accused of poll fraud. In 2004, the National Bureau of Investigation was tasked to look into the alleged ballot-switching of 27,000 “fake ballots” in favor of Jose Villarosa, who then ran as governor. Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato, who again won in this midterm elections, was subsequently declared as the winner.

"Meanwhile, PCIJ sources say some of the teachers who were willing to confess are now preparing their affidavits. Some had also reportedly returned the money they were paid to switch ballots.
The three teachers in San Jose now face criminal charges for violating Article XXII Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code or for “willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously” using ballots other than the official ones.

"De Jesus, meanwhile, went back to Mamburao on May 21 and sued the townspeople for arbitrary detention and kidnapping."


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