Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed yesterday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) have already designated the members of the five-man panel that will investigate alleged cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, chief of the National Prosecution Service, was appointed chairman of the committee, with Comelec law department head Ferdinand Rafanan, poll body lawyer Michael Villaret, Laguna Provincial Prosecutor George Dy and Pasig City Prosecutor Jacinto Ang as members.
De Lima said the joint panel, whose members were chosen for their wide experience in election-related cases and as former boards of canvassers during elections, will start performing their duties that would be spelled out in a joint order of the DOJ and Comelec.
“The committee is tasked to conduct preliminary investigation and determine whether charges may be filed and against who in connection to the poll fraud anomalies,” she explained.
She stressed that those found liable for election fraud and other offenses will be charged in court.
“It could go up to GMA (former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo),” said Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes when asked how high the investigation would target.
Brillantes was the lawyer of actor and presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004, while De Lima was the counsel of losing senatorial bet Aquilino Pimentel III in the election protests related to the 2007 polls.
De Lima said their links to their former clients are irrelevant, assuring the public of a fair investigation.
“We are not doing this to declare who the real winners were. We’re here to confirm existence of fraud, its extent and who should be held liable. This has nothing to do with Koko Pimentel or FPJ (Poe),” she stressed.
Meanwhile, Senior Superintendent Rafael Santiago Jr. submitted to the DOJ an affidavit detailing the alleged switching of 2004 election returns inside the Batasan Pambansa building in Quezon City in early 2005, but fell short of linking former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo to the purported break-in.
Santiago affirmed under oath his allegations that he and his team stole original ERs that were stored at the Batasan Pambansa building and replaced them with fake ones in raids held on four weekends in January and February 2005 upon orders of former Philippine National Police chief and now Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane.
The operations were allegedly aimed to ensure that former President Arroyo would be declared winner in case of a recount of votes that was then being sought by Poe.