A former Shari'a court judge has admitted helping distribute alleged bribe money to help then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo win the 2004 presidential polls.
During Tuesday's Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the PNP choppers mess, Judge Nagamura Moner said that on May 13, 2004, former Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) director general Alfonso Cusi called him up to help Mrs. Arroyo.
"I received a call from Alfonso Cusi (at) about 9:30 p.m. telling me that I should go to Cotabato City, Tawi-Tawi, and Sulu to find a way to what can be done for the elections for president in those areas because then President Gloria Arroyo was losing in those areas," Moner said.
He said Cusi was then the manager of the Philippine Ports Authority, where his brother-in-law, Efren Bollozos, worked.
A day after, he said Cusi called him again but this time he passed the phone to former First Gentlemen Mike Arroyo, who talked to him briefly.
“He just told me to do everything for the President (Mrs. Arroyo) and after the elections I will take of you and your family," Moner said.
As of posting time, GMA News Online was still trying to reach the camp of Mrs. Arroyo. The former Philippine leader has repeatedly denied involvement in any poll fraud.
At the hearing, Moner said he had refused at first but later on was forced to follow the order because he feared for the safety of his family members.
Widening the lead
He said he was first asked to "find contacts with election officers and if necessary pay them off" in several places in Mindanao to help Mrs. Arroyo win the presidency. He said he usually gave out and handled money in sums of P100,000, P300,000, and P3 million.
"At that time, the result of the counting [at the] precinct level showed FPJ winning by [a] landslide. [So the money] was to pay the election officers... for them to change the results of the elections," he said.
Mrs. Arroyo won in the 2004 presidential elections after garnering 12,905,808 votes over the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.'s 11,782,232 votes. Poe claimed that Mrs. Arroyo had robbed him of his victory. He died on Dec. 14, 2004 but his widow, Susan Roces, pursued the protest. In 2005, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) dismissed the protest.
In an affidavit submitted to the Senate, Moner said that among the areas he had visited during the canvassing of votes were Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu — which he said had a voting strength of 1.8 million voters.
He said some of his contacts included Abdul Wahab Batugan, Diana Datu-Imam (Marawi City), Amerhasaan Doro (Tawi-Tawi), Judge Bensandi Arabani (Tawi-Tawi), Manual Dirindigun (Iligan City), Judge Casan-Ali Limbona (Cotabato City), and Lomala Macadaub and Minupun Batugan (Jolo).
Moner said that he first went to Marawi City where he paid 17 election officers P5,000 each, not knowing that somebody else had already paid them P15,000 each to ensure Arroyo's victory.
During Tuesday's hearing, he said he only found out who gave the money after the elections and that the person was an incumbent government official, whom he refused to identify.
In an interview after the hearing, Moner said that they had a budget of P8 million for the whole operation, from which he pocketed P1 million. He said he specifically spent P400,000 for Tawi-Tawi and P500,000 for Sulu.
He said that the money was usually deposited to his account or brought by someone from the Presidential Security Group. He identified the person as "Dave."
But aside from the poll operation, he said he was also asked to introduce Mr. Arroyo to several political leaders who could be persuaded to switch allegiances.
In his affidavit, Moner said he was made to give 16 people P280,000 in June 2004 for them to say in press conferences and new releases that there was no cheating during the polls. He identified some of the people as:
1. Pacasirang Batidor
2. Farouk Lomondot
3. Yusoph Muhammad
4. Nasser Yusoph
5. Abdulrahim Bagundang
6. Maulawi Calimba
7. Rashde Mindalano
8. Nasser Abdula
9. Dimakuta Daranda
10. Manuel Dirindigun
Two days later, he said that the same 16 people were briefed by former Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera on how to cover up the cheating.
During the same month, he said he and his wife were invited to the Palace for the birthday of celebration of Mike Arroyo, where he was introduced as the operator in Mindanao.
"I was promised as head of the Office of the Muslim Affairs, but I did not submit my papers for the position as I was vacillating whether or not I should just stay on as Sharia judge," he said.
He likewise said that P3 million was sent to his brother-in-law and other associates so that they wouldn't be "restive" and so that they wouldn't expose their participation in the cheating.
He added that Mrs. Arroyo personally met him at a hotel in Cagayan de Oro City.
"I met GMA inside a room at the Pryce Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City with Bert Gonzales and I told her she has no problem with me, and to which she said thank you," he said.
For the truth
In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, Moner said that it took him so long to come out because he was afraid of what might happen to his family.
"Now that GMA is not in power anymore, I would like to tell the truth and correct some things I did mention and some inconsistencies," he said.
"It took me five years to decide whether I can bear the threats to my family but it seems it's a different environment, a different circumstance," he added.
He admitted, however, that he has been receiving threats. "We receive texts like hinay-hinay ka... of course unidentified numbers," he said.
Because of this, he said he approached the Carmelite sisters of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines when he finally decided to come out.
"I am under their protection. I am a Muslim that is the irony. I am a Muslim and I am being given sanctuary by the (Catholic) Church," he said.
Moner, meanwhile, asked for forgiveness from Roces, Poe's widow.
"Mrs. Poe, uulitin ko I'm sorry. Kung nasabi natin ito before proclamation baka hindi nagkaroon ng proclamation kaya lang there was no opportunity," he said.
Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona said that they are already providing Moner with security. On the other hand, Sen. Panfilo Lacson also requested security for Moner from Armed Forces chief Eduardo Oban Jr
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