Colonel Pedro Sumayo was “saving someone” and was not telling the whole truth when he testified on Tuesday at the Senate inquiry into alleged electoral fraud during the Arroyo administration, his former subordinate in the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp) said Wednesday.
Former Army Sergeant Vidal Doble said Sumayo was in a position to identify who “from Malacañang” ordered his intelligence unit to wiretap the phone conversations of then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano in 2004.
Doble said Sumayo was the group commander of “Project Lighthouse,” which consisted of a team of covert intelligence agents who eavesdropped on the conversations of Garcillano and other key personalities. It had a total of 18 members, including the commander.
“Our knowledge as agents was limited, but being our commander, he could provide the link between our operation and Malacañang. There’s a very big possibility that he knew all the connections all the way to the top, who from Malacañang ordered the wiretapping,” Doble said in Filipino in a phone interview with the Inquirer.
He said that he was present when Sumayo testified at the joint investigation of the Senate blue ribbon and electoral reforms committees, and that he left soon after his former boss started talking.
Sumayo’s testimony reopened the 2005 “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal, in which then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was implicated.
But Doble said: “He was not telling the whole truth. He was hiding something. He was playing safe. He was trying to save someone.”
“Since everybody now is searching for the truth, he should tell all.”
Doble said he and other Isafp agents at his level were told that Garcillano’s phone conversations had been ordered tapped for fear that the latter might “double-cross” his benefactors. Doble said he only knew that retired Vice Admiral Tirso Danga, then deputy chief for intelligence, had approved the operation.
But at the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal, Danga denied that the Isafp had wiretapping capability.
Doble said he wanted to correct Sumayo’s account that the colonel simply received a number of audiocassette tapes from him. Some of the tapes contained conversations supposedly between Garcillano and Arroyo.
“The truth was he asked for a copy because I think someone else wanted to listen to the Arroyo conversations,” Doble recalled.
Sumayo testified that he had burned the tapes on the directive of his superior, Lieutenant Colonel Allen Capuyan, the then chief of the Isafp operations and intelligence division.
Doble said that if Sumayo’s account were true, the burned tapes were mere reproductions of the “master tape” his group was keeping at that time.
“What we gave [Sumayo] were just copies of the master tape,” he said.
Doble said his team decided to keep the master tape as “a reference for our very big operation, our very big accomplishment, of having learned about big personalities, how they bought votes and other things.”
The master tape was later given to then Deputy Director Samuel Ong of the National Bureau of Investigation, Doble said. Ong died two years ago.
The master tape is now with the Senate committee on national defense, which investigated the “Hello Garci” scandal, according to Doble.
He said the tape contained the signature “H13,” the code for Garcillano.
Doble also said that apart from the master tape, an “original and unadulterated tape recording” had yet to be retrieved.
He said he gave the recording to Army Colonel Dioscoro Reyes shortly before the congressional canvassing of votes in the 2004 presidential election.
Reyes, a 1981 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, has yet to surface.
Isafp ‘cleaning up’
The current Isafp chief, Brigadier General Ceasar Ronnie Ordoyo, distanced himself from Sumayo’s testimony, saying the military intelligence community had cleansed its ranks of personnel who were involved in the “Hello Garci” scandal.
“Actually, Colonel Sumayo is not with me. He’s with J-2,” Ordoyo, who assumed office only on Aug. 15, said in reference to the Office of the AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for intelligence (J-2), which has supervision over the Isafp.
“Everyone has been relieved, even Colonel Sumayo, Colonel Capuyan. They have been relieved, so basically, Isafp has new officers. Because our goal was for us to clean up,” he said.
Ordoyo said he could not comment on the matter because he was not at the Isafp at that time. He was vague on whether the Isafp had the capability to wiretap, saying that one had to go through the operator of a telecommunications company.
“But if you talk about capability itself, we don’t have what we could call—” he said, trailing off, before adding: “As of now, we have no such equipment.”
Ordoyo also said the Isafp had no copy of the tapes that Sumayo claimed to have received from Doble. “What I know is that all the records are with the Senate,” he said. With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan