Comelec entraps two PCOS machine ‘manipulators’

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) together with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Counter Terrorism Unit entrapped two people who claimed to have expertise in manipulating the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

The suspects, Hadji Omar Masiding and Sultan Pundatoon Bagul, were arrested in a hotel in Manila City after the NBI conducted an entrapment operation. The marked money came from Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes himself.

NBI Special Investigator Nelson Moreno said the complainant, Simunil, Tawi-Tawi mayoralty candidate Abdulsalam Hadji Harun, approached the NBI for help after the suspects allegedly introduced themselves as engineers of Smartmatic and offered their services to ensure his win in May in exchange for P5 million.

“May initial payment daw na P2.5 million and the remaining balance after proclamation na as Mayor,” Moreno said. The NBI nor the Comelec, however, have no information yet on how the suspects can actually manipulate the counting machines.

Brillantes said this is a clear swindling attempt for a service which is impossible to do. “PCOS machines cannot be manipulated,” he claimed.

“Anybody representing that they can manipulate it, talagang swindler ito,” he added.

He said he has been receiving reports that a syndicate have started to lure candidates, especially those in the suburbs. “Pumupunta sila sa maliliit na municipalities sa Mindanao o kaya sa Visayas.”

The amount being asked by the syndicate can reach as high as P50 million each for a district representative or gubernatorial candidate, Brillantes said.

The NBI has filed charges of estafa against the two suspects, as well as another case of usurpation of authority. The suspects are now in the custody of the NBI pending their arraignment and formal trial.

By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

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