DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 April) — “I am telling you now. There will be attempts to cheating… In fact, the cheating has begun. Some money is being distributed already… There will be attempts to bribe our armed forces and (these have) already begun” Acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said in his closing remarks at the Bishops-Ulama Conference-AFP-PNP Forum for Peace at the Waterfront Insular Hotel here Wednesday evening.
Gonzales’ closing remarks came following the optimistic closing remarks of AFP chief of staff Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit and PNP national director Jesus Versoza. Both stressed on the need for credible elections, on professionalism and defending the Constitution and the people.
Gonzales asked the Bishops and the Ulama early Wednesday evening, a favor, given “how crucial the 2010 election is.”
“I’d like you to devote a special prayer for two gentlemen and the institutions they represent,” he said.
He said both Bangit and Versoza “I think have done fantastic jobs” but “I do not share (their) optimism” as he cited how critical he has been of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
He cited former Comelec commissioner Christian Monsod, “one of the guys I really respect,” as having said that “cheating is possible”
“Suddenly the business community wants a parallel manual count,” he said, adding even IT experts have expressed doubts.
“Therefore, I cannot blame our people from speculating that the elections may fail. That’s the speculation,” he said.
“Maybe the automation will fail but not the elections. We cannot afford not to have an election. We cannot afford,” he said.
He said he is worried over what “respectable citizens” are raising. He cited a Presidential aspirant who said that if he loses that means he has been cheated. “And they’re planning people power.“
“I’m worried about this people power thing. People power is okay if it succeeds. But I do not believe people power will succeed,” he said adding that if the other Presidential aspirants are also thinking of launching people power, “for their own interests, then there will be no unity, no success.”
“This is not good to our country anymore. That is why today, while I know I am exceeding my privilege today…. I even brought the entire organization of the National Intelligence Security Agency (NISA) to validate things that will be happening here.”
He said he has often heard Bangit mention the Constitution and defending the Constitution “and I admire him for that.”
“He always mentions the pledge of the soldier, so many times I have heard it I am already dreaming about it… “ but Gonzales asked “what we mean by this commitment to uphold and protect the Constitution.
“Protection from what? Protecting our people from what?” Gonzales asked.
“Given the situation of today, counting the days today near election, what do we protect the people from today?” he asked.
He recalled that Bangit said “protecting the people means that we want our people to be heard; we are protecting our people from not being heard. Meaning we should prevent cheating this coming elections but we have experts here who say there can be cheating,” he said.
“Cheating has begun”
“And I am telling you now that there will be attempts to cheating in the national elections. I am telling you that cheating has begun,” he said.
“I am telling you some money has been distributed to some Comelec officials already,” he added.
“There will be attempts to bribe our armed forces and our police officers and (these have) begun, he said.
Gonzales also appealed that “whatever happens in this election, let us avoid violence.”
Bangit told reporters “it is not in the culture of the military to be bribed. Whoever is going to attempt will fail.”
Gonzales later told reporters “I have revealed it so that it can be stopped”
He said he learned about this alleged cheating and bribing “two to three days ago” (Monday or Sunday).
“We will stop it,” he vowed.
Gonzales claimed he has documents to prove. “We are beginning to do the documentation,” he replied, adding they hope to file charges before the elections.
Who are involved?
But Gonzales declined to name the persons involved and the forms in which cheating will be employed.
“I do not want to preempt this. I have just mentioned it here for the bishops to be aware that as in other elections, cheating can always happen,” he said.
He said they learned about the bribery two to three days ago (Monday or Sunday).
In which part of the country? “Southern Tagalog is one,” Gonzales replied.
He said they have reports worth looking into seriously. “So you wait,” he told reporters.
“What I know (is) it may benefit two Presidentiables.” But he named no Presidential aspirant.
Gonzales said he does not know how much amount is involved. He was also evasive when MindaNews asked: “who is doing the bribing?”
“Meron na akong pinagdududahan. But it’s too early to tell,” Gonzales replied.
He said that in announcing what he said, “something good will come out of this.”
“Nothing without President”
Gonzales had started his closing remarks by saying “everytime I speak I am misunderstood. I am being accused of supporting Manny Villar for president. I’m supposed to have done that in a conference of battalion commanders in Camp Aguindaldo. What they’re trying to show is that the secretary of national defense is not serious after all in making the Armed Forces of the Philippines non-partisan”.
Gonzales also said he had just received a text message that he was about to launch a coup, this time against President Arroyo. “That cannot be true,” Gonzales said, adding “I am nothing without the President… May utang na loob ako (I owe her a debt of gratitude).
Later he said he would adapt the stand of the Armed Forces, that he would be “non-partisan.”
Gonzales has served in the Arroyo Cabinet in all the nine years of the President’s administration.
He ended his remarks by bidding the bishops and ulama goodbye. “I would like to say goodbye to the bishops and ulama… we are really going to do our exit June 30. Huwag nyo isiping we will overstay. We will not. We will not allow that to happen.”
He repeated his request for prayers for Bangit and Versoza and a general appeal to the people “not to use violence.” (COA/MindaNews)