By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 03/06/2015 3:36 PM | Updated as of 03/07/2015 1:36 AM
Accuses her of heading operation to discredit 2013 polls
Brillantes says those involved can be charged with poll sabotage
MANILA (UPDATED) – A former executive assistant to President Aquino’s aunt, Margarita ‘Tingting’ Cojuangco, is accusing her of heading an operation to discredit the May 2013 automated elections, and a losing congressional candidate of instructing him to tamper with ballots to make it appear that fraud happened.
Cojuangco’s camp used the tampered ballots for anti-2013 elections propaganda, according to Worthy Acosta, who filed an affidavit before the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) Law Department on Friday.
Retired elections chief Sixto Brillantes Jr., who first met Acosta in January this year when he sought his help, said the people involved in the alleged operation can be charged with electoral sabotage.
“Based on the vetting that we have done for over a month, he is very credible as far as what he is talking about,” Brillantes said of Acosta.
In his affidavit, Acosta described how Cojuangco supposedly instructed him to travel to Baguio City upon the recommendation of former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong, who lost in the polls, to prove election fraud by retrieving stored ballots. He said Cojuangco had then been meeting with several politicians who lost in the polls, including Chong.
Acosta said Cojuangco chose Baguio because she had “strong connections” there like losing congressional candidate Bernie Vergara. Acosta went to Baguio sometime in July 2013 and met with Vergara, who laid out the details of the “retrieval plan.”
He said he, Vergara, Vergara’s press relations officer Ferdi Balanag, and Cojuangco’s security personnel Eliseo Rojo then went to the warehouse where the ballots were stored for an ocular inspection.
The day after, Acosta said he and Balanag entered the warehouse with the help of people from the Baguio Treasurer’s Office, under whose care the ballots were, and opened randomly selected sealed boxes containing the ballots that have been counted during the elections.
He said he took some ballots with him to his hotel room, studied them, and found that “Vergara really did lose by a huge margin.”
“It was then that Glenn instructed me to tamper the ballots in order to make it look like Vergara was defrauded and that his true number of votes were not reflected in the Election Return corresponding to the ballot box/precinct concerned,” Acosta wrote in his affidavit.
“He said we had to make Vergara believe that there was rigging, even though there was none, to make him join our cause.”
Asked how he did it, Acosta told reporters, “Minarkahan po namin ‘yong mga balota, in-overvote. Basta minali ‘yong bilang ng eleksyon (We placed marks on the ballots to make it appear there were overvotes. We made it look like the election count was wrong).”
An “overvote” happens when a voter shades more than the required number of ovals for a position on the ballot. The precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine will render it invalid and not count the vote.
In this case, Acosta said he shaded extra ovals for the position Vergara ran for, particularly on ballots where his rival was picked. This then created a discrepancy between data in the official election returns and the candidates’ actual votes.
Acosta said he presented the ballots to Vergara, who did not know they were tampered with. “Vergara looked devastated. He was readily convinced of my story.”
Upon returning to Manila, Acosta said he told Cojuangco about the “retrieval operation” but not that he tampered with the ballots as instructed by Chong.
According to the affidavit, Cojuangco’s group continued to gather evidence of election fraud in the following days and met with other “notorious candidates” of clean elections and Comelec critics like Corazon Akol, Evita Jimenez, Angel Averia, Gus Lagman, and Melchor Magdamo.
Acosta detailed in his affidavit how the evidence he illicitly obtained were supposedly used in several presentations attacking the credibility of the 2013 polls.
“Ito po ang mga ginagamit pong ebidensya, allegedly ebidensya nila, para ‘pag nag-iikot sa iba-ibang lugar para sabihing may fraud (They would use these as evidence to say there was fraud in the elections when they visited different places),” Acosta told reporters.
Brillantes said the Comelec’s Law Department will review Acosta’s affidavit to determine if there are enough grounds to conduct a preliminary investigation, during which the people he accused of wrongdoing would be made to answer the accusations.
The former poll chief also said he would help Acosta apply to the the Department of Justice’s witness protection program.
Acosta noted in his affidavit how Cojuangco “despised her nephew, President Noynoy Aquino.”
Among Cojuangco’s reasons, he said, was her belief that Aquino removed her as president of the Philippine Public Safety College and the postponement of the 2013 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections, where she was supposed to run for governor.
Because of this, discussions in Cojuangco’s house had gone from electoral fraud to “issues that may be used against the present administration,” Acosta said.
Since September 2013, Acosta said Cojuangco had been meeting with various critics of the administration, and that steps were taken “to get more prominent personalities who were known to be anti-PNoy administration to join the cause.”
Among these steps was a meeting with detained former President Gloria Arroyo, who, according to Acosta, promised to send representatives to the meetings.
Acosta, who left Cojuangco in 2014, would later find out she and the people she had been meeting with called their group the National Transformation Council.
The group recently called for President Aquino’s resignation and the establishment of a transitional government.
In an interview on dzMM Friday night, former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong denied Acosta’s accusations.
he claimed that the allegations are part of a “cheap demolition job of the Aquino administration.”
Chong said Acosta was arrested and brought Camp Karingal for swindling and scamming members of the media in 2013.
“God knows I never ordered him to tamper with the ballot. Eh kung ano hong ginawa niya sa balota, that is his own liability because he also ran in Bataan in 2013,” he said.
The former lawmaker believes that Brillantes has something against him because Chong has been working against the acquisition of PCOS machines since 2010.
“Si Chairman Brillantes, nakita ko kasi siya kanina eh. He has a rock (sic) to grind against me kasi sa lahat ng committee hearings, nandoon ako, binubuking ko ‘yung pandaraya niya, ‘yung mga anomaly niya sa PCOS and he has not been able to refute me,” Chong said.
He said that in January 2014, Brillantes asked him if he knows Acosta.
“It might be worth mentioning that on 12 January 2014, at the Office of the Chairman of the COMELEC and before then Chairman Brillantes himself, he dropped the name of W. Acosta in our discussion with other members of the AESWatch. I took it to mean as a subtle threat or warning,” Chong said in a Facebook post.
Cojuangco’s camp declined to to comment on the issue, as it has yet to receive a copy of Acosta’s affidavit. – with a report from Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBNNews.com