Ex-lawmaker, treasurer refute election offense

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BAGUIO CITY  – Former Rep. Bernardo M. Vergara and City Treasurer vehemently denied their involvement in the alleged tampering of election returns and ballots inside the warehouse of the city government right after the May 2013 mid-term elections in order to cast doubts on the results of the computerized elections with the disparity in the manual count and the output of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Vergara, who served as a lawmaker from 1992-2001 and city mayor from 2001-2004 before being again elected as the city’s representative to Congress in 2010-2013, denied having personal acquaintances with whistle-blower Worthy Acosta through former Tarlac Gov. Margarita “tingting” Cojuangco, saying that his affidavit linking him to the tampering of election returns and ballots of several precincts in the city is purely a product of his imagination.

“We are wondering why are we being implicated in the election offense when we never dipped our fingers to such election returns and ballots as we openly conceded in the May 2013 elections,” Vergara stressed.

He said he never met Acosta in person and that he never knew about his motive in implicating him to an election offense that he never thought of being involved being a veteran in politics.

For her part, City Treasurer Alicia L. Onoza said the reported tampering of election returns and ballots inside the warehouse of the city government is a remote possibility because of the stringent security measures that were put in place to preserve and sanctity of the election documents that are stocked in the warehouse.

Onoza rebutted Acosta’s claim that he was accompanied by a number of employees wearing shirts with marking city treasury office on their backs, saying that her office and even the city government never prescribed such type of uniforms to their employees.

She claimed Acosta’s allegation that he was accompanied by a group of personnel of the city treasurer’s office wearing their marked shirts to the warehouse is again false and has no factual basis.

Further, she explained the trustee of the warehouse keys was not able to document any release of the keys or accompanied individuals to open the warehouse in the period stated by Acosta in his affidavit filed before the Commission on Elections.

According to her, she never received orders from the poll body and concerned authorities to open the warehouse during the dates stated by the supposed whistle-blower.

The city treasurer also argued even the logbook of the security guard assigned in the warehouse does not indicate that our personnel who allegedly accompanied Acosta in tampering the ballots did not show that they went to the place during the month of June right after the May 2013 elections.

Onoza expressed disappointment over the fact that she and her employees are being dragged in the brewing conflict between several contending politicians who want to maintain their political influence at the expense of ordinary government workers relying on the salaries and benefits to sustain the living condition of their families.

The Comelec required Vergara, Onoza and the respondents in the case, including Ms. Cojuangco, to appear before the poll body on 17 April 2014.

In a related development, the city council passed a resolution requesting the City Mayor’s Office to conduct an investigation on the alleged tampering of election returns and ballots inside the warehouse of the city treasury office which casts doubt on the credibility of the office in handling such sensitive documents.

Onoza pointed out her office is open to any investigation relative to the issues raised by Acosta, saying that feuding politicians should spare their office from their ‘dirty tactics’ that tend to ruin the credibility of career officers who merely work for the passion of public service because they do not intend to join them in being involved in controversies.

Onoza casted doubts on the credibility of Acosta’s affidavit since it came later than the report of city election officer John Paul Martin who went to conduct an inspection in the city treasury warehouse where the ballot boxes which were used in the May 2013 elections were stored up to the present.

Onoza appealed to the people of the city not to immediately prejudge her on the issue, saying that it is still best for them to await the filing of their counter-affidavits and the outcome of the investigation relative thereto so that they will be able to come out with reasonable conclusions on the case.

By Dexter A. See

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