Former Garcillano protégé reveals P100-M bribe offer in ’04 polls
A “protégé” of then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano on Tuesday testified at the Senate that she was offered between P50 and P100 million to cheat for a local candidate allegedly “helping” then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 elections.
Helen Flores, then regional director of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), said she promptly rejected the purported bribe offered by a certain Captain Val Lopez, whom she described as a “close-in security” of Garcillano.
“Sorry, but I cannot do that. I will not do that,” Flores recalled telling Lopez in their brief conversation in a room at the Zamboanga City coliseum where the canvassing of votes was being held.
Flores admitted that she had trained under Garcillano, an election commissioner who is the alleged architect of the purported fraud in the 2004 presidential election. But she pointed out that the training covered legitimate election operations.
“If we are to define being a protégé as someone who also was trained [by Garcillano], virtually all of us in Mindanao were under him [then]. He was our mentor in election operations, especially in Sulu,” she told senators looking into alleged electoral fraud under the Arroyo administration.
Lee Peng Wee
Flores did not say if she was specifically asked to manipulate the election results in her jurisdiction to favor Arroyo.
She said Lopez particularly asked her to assist businessman Lee Peng Wee, who was then losing in his run for the mayor’s seat in Zamboanga City.
“Pasensya na po kasi talagang tagilid sila dito and Lee Peng Wee is helping GMA (Arroyo),” she quoted Lopez as saying. “Ma’am, Lee Peng Wee is willing to spend from P50 million to P100 million.”
She said she replied: “And you think I would do that?”
To which Lopez supposedly said: “Ma’am, we can get the cooperation of your tabulators of your board of canvassers.”
Flores said she was removed from her post “four days before” the 2004 presidential election for “unknown reasons” and assigned to head the board of canvassers in Zamboanga City.
“What came to my mind was I was an unwanted participant in whatever they wanted to do,” she recalled.
She said then Election Commissioner Manuel Barcelona told her that her life was “in danger,” based on a supposed letter transmitted to his office.
Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano noted that from previous investigations, Garcillano had “promised the former President or whoever was in the plot allegedly, that he would be able to place people who would be able to cooperate with him in the operations that would be done.”
Said Flores: “One thing I know for sure, because I know myself more than anybody else, is they would not have succeeded in ordering me to do something that was against the law.”
“The only way to help a losing candidate is to reverse the results,” she said.
Flores said that seven years later, on August 15, she was promoted as the Comelec’s deputy executive director for administration.