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MANILA, Philippines – The known right-hand man of the suspected mastermind in the Maguindanao massacre surfaced Monday, October 3, to accuse former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband Juan Miguel “Mike” Arroyo as the brains behind the alleged cheating in the 2007 senatorial elections.
Norie Unas, provincial administrator of former Maguindanao Gov Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr from 2001-2009, was presented by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as one of the more than 15 witnesses in the alleged cheating in the 2007 senatorial polls.
Arroyo’s senatorial bets secured all the 12 senatorial seats that were up for grabs in that race.
Unas said that he decided to testify against the Arroyos only 4 years after the elections because “there was no one to turn to then.” He added: “My coming out ay hindi lang patungkol sa issue na ‘to, kung hindi what lies behind this… bakit laging nangyayari ‘to sa Maguindanao,” he told reporters. (Why is this always happening in Maguindanao?)
Aside from Unas, 15 election officers from Maguindanao also emerged Monday as witnesses in the joint probe being conducted by Comelec and the Department of Justice on the alleged poll fraud in the 2004 presidential elections and 2007 senatorial polls.
At least three other election officers are expected to submit their affidavits, according to Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr.
Unas said in his affidavit that he accompanied Ampatuan to a dinner with then President Arroyo in Malacanang days before the 2007 polls. Those purportedly present in the meeting included then presidential adviser for political affairs Gabriel Claudio, and the Arroyo administration’s senatorial candidates led by Prospero Pichay, Vicente Magsaysay,Tessie Aquino-Oreta, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
During the dinner, Unas said he recalled Mrs. Arroyo stressing to the group that her senatorial bets should win in Maguindanao. In turn, Ampatuan pledged to Mrs. Arroyo that “Maguindano was the extension of Pampanga” and that “Maguindanao will deliver the votes,” Unas said.
After the dinner, Unas said that he heard Arroyo instruct Ampatuan that “Dapat 12-0 sa Maguindanao, kahit pa ayusin o palitan ninyo ang resulta.” (It should be 12-0 in Maguindanao in favor of the administration, even if you have to manipulate the results.)
The following day, Unas said, he and Ampatuan met with Mike Arroyo, husband of the former president, at the Arroyo-owned LTA building. Unas said Ampatuan and Arroyo had a closed-door meeting.
After the meeting, Unas said Ampatuan relayed to him this message: “Utos ni FG,kailangang 12-0 ang resulta sa Maguindanao… at kailangang walang makuhang boto si Cayetano.” Cayetano is believed to be Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a senatorial candidate from the opposition at the time.
Unas said that he advised Ampatuan against doing it, but Ampatuan said he had already given his word to the Arroyos. They later met with then provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol, who was given the same instruction to ensure the victory of Team Unity (the name of the administration senatorial party) in Maguindanao. Unas said he was ordered to provide Bedol logistical support, such as transportation and offices.
Aside from Unas, the other new witnesses are:
1. Saliao Amba, acting election officer (EO) from Mamasapano
2. Ma. Susan Albano, acting EO from Datu Unsay
3. Nena Alid, retired EO from Talayan
4. Susan Cabanban from Gen. S.K. Pendatuan
5. Alice Lim from Pagagawan
6. Magsaysay Maohmad from Sultan sa Barongis
7. Araw Cao from Mangudadatu
8. Estelita Orbase from Shariff Aguak
9. Jeehan Nur from Ampatuan
10. Salonga Edzela from CVL Tech, Maguindanao
11. Ragah Ayunan from Rajah Buayan
12. Russam Mabang from Maguindanao
13. Asuncion Reniedo from Paglat
14. Rohaida Khalid from Datu Saudi
15. Norijean Hangkal from Guindulungan
The 15 election officers said in their affidavits that the election returns (ERs) for the 2007 senatorial elections were taken from their board of election inspectors. The election officers said they were instead given “prepared” ERs for the senatorial positions. They added that they were also ordered by Bedol to leave the other “election documents” with him. Days after, news came out that Bedol’s office was ransacked and that election documents were supposedly stolen from it.
Ampatuan was a longtime ally of the Arroyos. He and his son, among others, are in jail over allegations they were behind the massacre of 58 civilians in Maguindanao in 2009. — Rappler.com