'Altered’ compact flash cards were up for sale, bets claim

More stories of election irregularities cropped up during the resumption of the House investigation on alleged poll fraud, including selling of compact flash cards and even "ballot cutting."

Defeated Surigao del Norte gubernatorial candidate and incumbent Gov. Ace Barbers said that while playing golf in his province in November 2009, a man approached him, offering him a sure victory in the polls through pre-programmed CF cards and for the price of P50 million.

According to the man, whose identity Barbers withheld, part of the operation would be to "replace CF cards with pre-programmed cards after testing. It means that he had predicted there will be a problem," Barbers said.

The "problem" being referred to was the widespread technical glitch that hounded testing of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines a week before the May 10 elections or on May 3.

Replacing cards found defective during testing with new, supposedly "reconfigured" cards was part of what he called "card switching."

The reconfigured cards could have actually been the ones that were pre-programmed to favor certain candidates, he added.

While Barbers was narrating, Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor butted in supposedly to "corrobate" Barbers' statements.

"I too, Mr. Chairman, was offered by a man. It happened last January [2010]," said Defensor addressing comittee chaiman Rep. Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, who chairs the House Committee on Electoral Reforms and Suffrage.

Outgoing Laguna Gov. Teresita Lazaro, who attended the hearing, also claimed she was offered with pre-programmed CF cards. Her son Dennis Lazaro was defeated in the gubernatorial race.

Barbers, Defensor, and Lazaro were not the first individuals to claim that people had been "roaming" around the country offering to rig the automated polls through pre-programmed cards.

Two weeks ago, the camp of former President Joseph Estrada — who is in currently second place based on partial, unofficial results — claimed candidates running under Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino were given the same offer.

During the same hearing, Barbers also said that the different time stamps printed on election returns was meant "to confuse those who will question election results in the future."

During last week's hearing, Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong, who likewise lost his reelection bid, reported that some ERs from his province had time stamps saying May 10, 7:45 a.m., which he said, indicated that results were already transmitted only minutes after polls opened on May 10.

On Monday's hearing, Barbers also showed a video footage of a Board of Election Inspector in a precinct in Surigao del Norte cutting the right side edge of a ballot.

Barbers said BEI was doing so apparently because the ballot could not fit in the PCOS machine.

"It's either the PCOS machine was fake or the ballot being inserted was fake," Barbers said.

However, Smartmatic president Cesar Flores assured that even if the ballots are cut on any of its four sides, the counting machine could still read it so long as the security markings are still readable and are not tampered.

Barbers quoted a local Comelec official as later telling him that the ballot was being cut probably because the paper had already expanded due to certain weather conditions in the province.

But Barbers did not buy the explanation saying it was not "believable." - RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV

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