EDITORIAL - Garci is home free
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - May 14, 2014 - 12:00am

The scandal led to the resignation in 2005 of 10 key executive officials who, together with former President Corazon Aquino, urged Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step down from the presidency for allegedly rigging the 2004 vote in her favor.

Arroyo ignored the call and finished her six-year term, while the man at the heart of the poll fraud scandal, former Commission on Elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, even made an unsuccessful run for public office several years later.

Today the man who campaigned under the nickname “Garci” is free of accusations that he rigged the vote in Mindanao in compliance with an order relayed to him in a phone conversation by a woman who sounded like Arroyo. A recording of the tapped conversation, presented by former National Bureau of Investigation deputy director Samuel Ong, was never officially authenticated, and the case was muddled by another tape presented by Arroyo’s spokesman Ignacio Bunye.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the other day that the electoral sabotage case against Garcillano prescribed in 2009, or five years after the supposed fraud was committed. Comelec rules, however, are vague on the prescription period for the case against a former president, which some quarters believe should be five years after Arroyo’s term ended in 2010. That means 2015, although if the case against Garcillano could not stick, it’s doubtful that Arroyo will be found guilty.

The best that the nation can hope for is that the Comelec has implemented sufficient reforms since the “Hello, Garci” scandal to prevent poll officials and personnel from allowing themselves to be used for partisan purposes. The general elections are just two years away. Even if justice may no longer be possible in the “Hello, Garci” scandal, measures must be in place to ensure that there will be no manipulation of the vote in 2016.

ARROYO COMELEC COMELEC CHAIRMAN SIXTO BRILLANTES GARCI GARCILLANO IGNACIO BUNYE MINDANAO NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION SAMUEL ONG VIRGILIO GARCILLANO
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