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Comelec sets probe on 2016 fraud raps


By Angie M. Rosales and Ted Tuvera

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will probe allegations of automated poll fraud in the May 2016 national elections that Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III raised in a privilege speech last Tuesday.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said in a television interview that the Comelec is now in touch with the office of the senator to obtain documents and gather information used as his basis for his allegations.
“Comelec would want to see the documents he holds and related information based on the snapshots (in the slide presentations) that he showed,” Jimenez said.
Sotto, meanwhile, said the whistleblower who provided him information in the poll fraud expose is willing to reveal all he knows during a Senate inquiry but it should be in an executive session.
“If the Senate needs it, primarily if he has a copy of the contents of the transmissions, he is willing to appear in the hearing. If it’s in an executive session, he would have no problem but not in a public hearing,” he said.
Sotto, in a privilege speech delivered Tuesday, claimed that an “informant” disclosed to him that alleged poll results were being transmitted to various levels of board of canvassers even before actual poll exercise could formally open last May 9, 2016.
Based on the information given to him, the “transmission logs” would show that six national candidates benefited from in the apparent fraudulent early transmissions.
The senator refused to provide further details on his identity saying that he has to protect his source so as not to compromise the individual’s safety. Sotto said he has been trying to contact Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the committee on electoral reforms, to schedule the hearing the soonest time possible.

The Senate leader, however, would not drop hints as to the names of the candidates who benefitted supposedly from the early transmission but said that his colleagues already know who they are.
Different poll fraud issue
Sotto emphasized that his revelations has nothing to do with the pending electoral protests of any of the candidates who participated in the last national poll exercise.
“My point here is that the government again entered into a contract with Smartmatic which still has unresolved problems and what I raised recently would be different. It does not involve any of the protests on the poll results, or the candidates, whether the protests are on local or national level,” he said.
“I don’t want to relate it to that (pending poll protest cases). If these will affect their protests, well it’s not my fault. I’m merely bringing out an irregularity that seems to be very huge,” he said.
“All that I revealed came from my source. I don’t have the evidence. Now the evidence will come if and when we’re able to subpoena these Domain Name Service (DNS) and the logs,” said Sotto.
But the senator admitted that all the needed documents, if furnished to them by the whistleblower, will easily unmask the so-called “beneficiaries.”
What Sotto admitted was that the votes for those in the presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates were mentioned by his source as the ones “affected” by the early transmissions.
Solid proof needed
Jimenez said a zero-vote scenario was neither impossible nor uncommon. “So again, if we’re going to make a conclusion, it would be better to have a solid basis and, so far, that’s what we want to have. This might be it. Whatever Senator Sotto holds might be the solid basis for that,” he added.
Malacañang, for its part, said it will keep track of the progress of the Comelec probe.
President Duterte could order a probe on the alleged rigging of the 2016 elections, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
While the Palace leaves the investigation in the hands of the Comelec and the Senate, Roque said the President might tap investigative bodies to review the conduct of the 2016 polls.
“We hope that the Comelec probes this. The Senate could also do the same. We leave it to them,” Roque said, replying to the query if Sotto’s revelation will boost Marcos’ poll protest.
“Let us wait if the President will order the government’s investigative branches to do the same,” he added.
“We will have to closely monitor this because the President will implement our laws because our election laws are important. What could have been stolen here is the people’s mandate.”
Roque: VP, Tolentino have stakes
Confident that Mr. Duterte’s victory will not be contested, Roque said that the Palace will see to it that those who will be proven guilty must be held accountable.
Roque said that at least two politicians have stakes if the probes are pushed: Vice President Robredo and Presidential Political adviser Francis Tolentino.
“We will move forward to hold those who did election offenses accountable. But the [President’s] mandate will not be erased because we’re not facing any election contest,” he said.
Based on the official election results, Marcos lost by 263,467 votes (14,155,344 total votes) to the Liberal Party (LP) vice presidential bet Robredo who got 14,418,817 total votes.
Marcos, in his poll protest, said there was a “massive cheating” that he labeled as LP’s ‘Plan B’ seeking a recount in 27 provinces and cities covering 36,000 precincts. He particularly wants to nullify the poll results in Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur.
Marcos is a close ally of Mr. Duterte.
Tolentino, on the other hand, contests currently detained Sen. Leila de Lima’s win as the 12th placer in the Senate race.
De Lima is an LP stalwart but has been charged with drug trafficking offenses.
The camp of former Senator Marcos welcomed the expose’ made by Sotto as Vic Rodriguez, spokesman of Marcos, said in a statement “Marcos is happy that he is no longer a voice in the wilderness.”
He noted that other patriotic leaders and stakeholders have seen the extent of the conspiracy, interference and manipulation of the election results by Smartmatic and have begun to speak out.
“We congratulate Senator Tito Sotto for bringing the election anomalies to the attention of the public,” Rodriguez said.
“Informed observers have wondered why — despite all the evidence of massive cheating committed by Smartmatic, the Comelec still awarded them the contract to do the same thing all over again in the forthcoming 2019 elections,” the statement read.
“We have never understood Comelec’s insistence in again awarding Smartmatic despite the multitude transgressions attributed to it,” it added.

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