AFP: Garci to help bring closure to fraud issue
- Alexis Romero () - July 22, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The military yesterday supported calls for former Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to surface and tell what he knows to bring closure to alleged cheating in the 2004 presidential election.

“We look favorably on that appeal (for Garcillano to come out). It will answer a lot of questions on alleged military involvement in the 2004 elections,” Armed Forces spokesman Commodore Miguel Rodriguez told The STAR.

Rodriguez said the military is ready to prosecute soldiers held liable for election fraud.

“The alleged military involvement might be put to rest. If proven, then we will help prosecute them (erring soldiers). If there is none (military involvement), then the issue would be put to rest,” he said.

Rodriguez said a closure on the controversy would allow the military to move on and focus on its core functions.

Several military generals were implicated in poll fraud after their names were mentioned in taped conversations supposedly to manipulate the results of the 2004 elections to favor then president and also presidential bet Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The taped conversations, called the “Hello, Garci” tapes, featured the voice of a woman asking a poll official if she could win by more than one million votes.

The woman’s voice was apparently Mrs. Arroyo who was talking to commissioner Garcillano.

Arroyo eventually made a public apology for talking to a poll official but did not confirm whether the voice in the recordings was hers. In 2006, a fact-finding group led by then Vice Admiral Mateo Mayuga cleared the generals of involvement in the alleged cheating.

Cleared were then Army chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, then Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon, retired Lt. Gen. Roy Kyamko and retired Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani.

The generals who were implicated in the controversy were not punished and were even promoted or named to key state posts.

Proposed fact-finding body

Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, vowed yesterday to provide subpoena powers to the proposed fact-finding commission that will look into the poll fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

Escudero said the fact-finding committee, which he hopes to create through a joint resolution of Congress, would be empowered to issue subpoena ad testificandum and duces tecum to enable it to get testimonies from witnesses and gather enough documentary evidence.

“This commission will also have a contempt power but this will have a lifespan,” the senator said at the weekly news forum Kapihan sa Senado.

If the provisions giving the fact-finding body subpoena powers were approved, this would likely go around the rule of inter-parliamentary courtesy, which would be the case in congressional investigations.

Escudero did not discount the possibility that former President and now Pampanga Rep. Arroyo could be invited to attend the probe by the proposed fact-finding body. 

He added that the body would also be the proper one to look into the renewed allegation of poll fraud by former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and election officers Lintang Bedol and Garcillano.

Noting that election offense only has a five-year prescription period, Escudero said there is a need to present new evidence and statement of witnesses which should prompt a reinvestigation.

More than knowing who really won in the 2004 elections, Escudero said he also wanted to correct history if the late Fernando Poe Jr. turned out to be the winner over Mrs. Arroyo. Escudero was former spokesman for Poe, aka FPJ.

Escudero presented yesterday to the media a video documentary showing how the 2004 presidential election was rigged to favor Arroyo.

The 50-minute presentation contains documentary evidence like election returns from Mindanao, a thorough revisit of the “Hello, Garci” conversations, which directly affected the poll results, and antecedents to cheat then presidential candidate Poe.

Escudero said the video was produced by fellow FPJ supporter, Marichu Maceda, along with other friends some four years ago in their bid to prove there was massive election cheating and gather support for the actor whom they believe was the rightful winner in the 2004 presidential race.

“We are showing this video again in different fora for people to be refreshed and reminded about the real circumstances of the 2004 polls,” the senator said.

“We want people to remember what should be remembered on how fraud was committed to rob FPJ of his rightful place in history and on how people who voted for him were robbed of their political rights to install the president of their choice,” Escudero said.

Former President Joseph Estrada dared the Aquino government to pinpoint the “Hello Garci” scandal mastermind and prosecute all of those who participated in the act.

In a statement, Estrada called on the public to rally behind efforts to prove that the 2004 presidential elections were rigged allegedly by the administration of then president Arroyo.

“Pinpoint the mastermind behind the Hello Garci scandal and prosecute all those who participated in this shameless act,” Estrada in a statement.

Estrada yesterday broke his silence on political matters in order to urge the people to demand efforts to prove that the 2004 presidential election was a fraud.

“We have to support all efforts to prosecute those who participated in the 2004 electoral fraud,” Estrada stressed.

“Lahat na ninakaw nila sa bayan hindi lang kaban ng bayan pati na rin boto ng masang Pilipino. (They stole everything from the country not only money from the government coffers but even the votes of the Filipino masses),” said Estrada.

Estrada said he believes that the investigation should also include the officials of the military and police that were implicated in the poll fraud and cover-up of the 2004 scandal.

Meanwhile, Presidential Political Adviser Ronald Llamas clarified yesterday that the government was not holding former Comelec commissioner Garcillano although they got information that he is in Mindanao.

Llamas said Garcillano had sent feelers through people close to him, signifying his interest to come out. But Llamas said he could not determine yet whether Garcillano would disclose what really happened in the 2004 elections because he had not spoken to him and there were no affidavits signed at the moment.

Llamas said he did not want to preempt what Garcillano would say because people might think that the Palace had already struck an agreement with him to testify.

He said they would also have to be careful given the current developments wherein the Palace was being accused of entering into a deal with suspended ARMM Gov. Ampatuan and former Maguindanao election supervisor Bedol. With Christina Mendez, Sandy Araneta, Aurea Calica

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