BAGUIO CITY – Former Rep. Bernardo M. Vergara, City Treasurer Alicia L. Onoza and publicist Ferdie Balang belied allegations of a certain Worthy Acosta, a self-styled aide of former Tarlac Gov. Margarita Tingting Cojuangco, of their alleged involvement in the stealing and tampering of the election ballots of a precinct in the Summer Capital after the May 13, 2013 mid-term elections, saying that such charges are baseless, unfair and unworthy of facts.
In his sworn counter-affidavit recently submitted to the law department of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Vergara pointed out the truth of the matter is that no arrangements were ever made by Tingting Cojuangco and former Biliran Cong. Glenn Chong with Vergara for any ballot retrieval or ballot-stealing plan.
Vergara recalled receiving a phone call on August 2, 2013 from Cojuangco on a proposal to hold an Educational Forum in Baguio on Election Irregularities and for herein respondent to assist a certain Worthy Acosta, asserting that putting up an Educational forum is a millennium away and vastly different from stealing ballots.
Vergara thereafter called up Balanag, his hired press relations officer then, and instructed him to contact Acosta and assist him in organizing the said forum.
In his complaint affidavit, Acosta said, “sometime before June 30, 2013, I was instructed to go to Baguio.” Acosta then stated, “about a day or two after” he travelled to Baguio where he allegedly met Vergara and that “the following day” he went to the warehouse where the ballots were kept and that he then opened the ballot boxes and stole the ballots with Balanag. All in all, Acosta said that he stayed in Baguio for “three or four days.” For his part, Balanag, in his own counter-affidavit, argued even assuming that he got the instruction to go to Baguio on June 30, 2013 and he did travel a day or two later on July 2, 2013 and that he stayed in Baguio for four days or until July 6, 2013 – it would have been impossible for him to have accompanied Acosta in stealing the ballots since he was out of the country from June 17, 2013 to July 7, 2013.
Balanag included in his counter affidavit a copy of his passport and travel documents attesting to the fact that he was out of the country during the time of the commission of the alleged crime. The Bureau of Immigration stamp on Balanag’s passport showed that he left the country on June 17, 2013 and that he came back on July 7, 2013. Balanag travelled to the United States of America with his 80 year old father and returned to Manila on July 7, 2013. He rested in Manila for a day and retuned to Baguio on July 8, 2014.
“Obviously, it was impossible for me to have accompanied Worthy Acosta in allegedly stealing election ballots in Baguio,” he stressed.
The flight and booking records of Balanag attached to his counter affidavit showed the fact that he indeed left the country for San Diego on June 17, 2013 aboard Japan Airlines and that he left San Diego California for Manila on July 6, 2013 using the same Airline. It was therefore ridiculous for respondent Balanag to have participated in the ballot stealing story of Acosta.
Balanag’s affidavit stated that he only got to know of Acosta on August 2, 2013, 2013 when Vergara asked him to get in touch with him to arrange the forum being requested by Cojuangco.
Acosta narrated in his sworn affidavit “While in Baguio City, we met with Vergara at a coffee shop along Session Road. He was accompanied by a man he introduced as Ferdie Balanag his Press Relations Officer … the three of us discussed, Vergara laid down the details of the retrieval plan…”
Bernardo M. Vergara had honorably served the people of Baguio for five terms as Congressman and one term as Mayor untainted by any charges of wrongdoing. At the height of the Napoles Scandal, Vergara is one of a very few upright congressmen who did not abuse and misuse their PDAF allocation. In fact, Vergara never had any dealing with the infamous Janet Napoles. In more than 50 years of honest and dedicated public service, starting as a humble District Engineer, Vergara had never committed any crime, offense, and or felony. All these years, Vergara had zealously guarded the sterling reputation of his name.
Vergara stated that he is totally innocent of the charges of participating in any crime to steal ballots in Baguio.
“Respondent has been very careful to protect the honor of his name and now at the twilight of his career, he will make sure that his name remains untainted,’ Vergara stressed.
According to City Treasurer Onoza, she had complied with her mandate to safeguard the ballots before and after the May 13, 2013 mid-term elections, especially during the 3-month period provided under the provisions of the Omnibus Election code, by ensuring that a security guard watches over the warehouse during the entire 24 hours everyday.
As narrated by the security guard, Onoza disclosed the ballot boxes were not in a complete disarray when city election officer John Paul Martin visited the warehouse sometime in February.
She claimed the incident where a ballot box fell and landed on top of ballot box for clustered precinct No. 32 happened earlier and that the same are occurrences beyond her control.
“It must be remembered that the underlying reason of the abovementioned provision is to secure a fair and honest elections and to safeguard the people’s sacred right of suffrage. The preservation of the ballots is of a paramount importance in the voting process of the elections because if the ballots were lost during the election day, the people will be dis-enfranchised,” Onoza underscore.
By Dexter A. See