GWEN TO STAND AS WITNESS?

05/21/2010 - Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has been attending the ongoing congressional inquiry on alleged election fraud at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City since Tuesday.
Is she there as a spectator or a witness with a story to tell?

The governor declined to say what was her purpose at the House of Representatives, when CEBU DAILY NEWS asked.

Her Capitol spokesman, lawyer Rory Jon Sepulveda, said she was there as an “interested audience.”

He would not specify if Garcia would be a resource speaker at the House committee on electoral reforms chaired by Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. which is looking into allegations of fraud in the May 10 elections.

Sepulveda said the One Cebu party noticed some “discrepancies” in election results in Toledo City and Dumanjug town, bailiwicks of the Garcias.

He cited the result in Garcia’s own precinct in barangay Ilaya where she lost to rival Hilario Davide III.

“She finds it highly improbable that she lost in her own precinct,” Sepulveda said, but would not say if Garcia would raise these concerns in the committee hearing.

“She is there as an interested audience. She wanted to know what happened in the elections,” Sepulveda said.

“If they say that this is the most credible election then she is interested to know why they said so.”

Garcia declined to comment on her presence at the House in a text message to CEBU DAILY NEWS last night.

The governor flew to Manila Tuesday for what Sepulveda earlier said was a “private” meeting and was expected back in Cebu Wednesday to attend the joint birthday and victory celebration of brother Rep. Pablo John Garcia of Cebu's 3rd district.

On Wednesday noon, she was at the committee hearing on election fraud, along with former Manila mayor Lito Atienza. Her presence was acknowledged by the committee members.

The two didn't speak during the hearing that ended about 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Yesterday, Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, a minority member of the House committee on electoral reforms, said Governor Garcia was among those scheduled to attend the second day of the hearing.

“Governor Gwen will attend kuno, kay bisan nakadaug siya, nabiktima gihapon siya sa tikas (because even if she won, she was a victim of cheating),” said Ilagan in a text message to CDN yesterday.

Yesterday, only Lim was able to testify in the hearing which was also attended by top officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic-TIM.

LOSERS COMPLAIN

Atienza, who lost to re-electionist Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, repeated his earlier grievances about election returns that bore different dates and times, and the alleged preparation of election results at the Manila City Hall.

He presented Manila City Hall computer operator Ronilda Reluya, who alleged that her colleagues manufactured election results at an office under Lim.

Other defeated candidates also testified during the hearing.

North Cotabato Vice Gov. Manny PiƱol, who lost in the province's gubernatorial race, said he had high hopes for automation.

He said he was so confident of the system that he dismissed claims of people who said they were approached by certain people offering electronic votes for P300 each. He said he thought Smartmatic, Comelec's technology partner, would not risk sullying its reputation.

“In my mind, the automated elections eliminated many opportunities to cheat because the moment the voter stuffs his ballot into the PCOS machine, it will automatically be transmitted to the municipal, provincial and national tally centers and there was simply no way that can be altered. I told them the electronic system will be more efficient and faster and it would usher in a new era of relatively clean and untampered election results,” he said. “I was dead wrong,.

According to him, cheating came in the form of thousands of prepared ballots that were fed into voting machines in various precincts in his province.

He said he believed that the machines' transmission of results may have been jammed because when he visited the canvassing center, he was unable to use his cellphone.

He also discovered election returns given to watchers which were printed on thermal paper bearing the markings "Mastercard citibank." He presented photocopies of the returns to the lawmakers. Election results were accomplished before the elections, he alleged.

Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino said that although the poll body provided extra rolls of security thermal paper to the board of election inspectors, some teachers may have run out of these and used other kinds of thermal paper.

Celestino Martinez III was also in Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday but didn’t see Garcia. He said she apparently was “looking for a bridge to the Liberal Party” of presidential front-runner Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III (Cebu Daily News)

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