WHAT WENT BEFORE: ‘Hello Garci scandal’ investigation
On June 6, 2005, in an attempt to preempt the opposition, then Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye played to reporters two CDs of purported bugged conversations between then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In the conversations, the voice of a woman, said to be Arroyo, could be heard asking a person on the other line to protect her purported lead of 1 million votes against her closest rival, popular movie actor Fernando Poe Jr.
Bunye claimed that the tape was “doctored.”
The next day, opposition lawyer Alan Paguia released his own two tapes of the supposed conversations. He later said he got them from former Sen. Francisco Tatad, who said these were mailed to him.
On June 10, 2005, former National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Samuel Ong claimed he had the “mother of all tapes” that would implicate Arroyo. He said he got the material from T/Sgt Vidal Doble, a friend at the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp), which later denied it was engaged in wiretapping.
Doble denied that Ong’s tapes came from him but said that he appeared in a scripted videotaped “authentication” of the wiretaps after he and his family were threatened and later received P2 million for the effort. Doble said the money came from Laarni Enriquez, mistress of former President Joseph Estrada. Enriquez denied this.
The justice department slapped Ong with illegal detention charges in connection with the videotaping, which were later dismissed. Ong died of lung cancer in May 2009.
On June 21, 2005, the House of Representatives opened inquiries into the wiretapping and played the tapes.
On June 27, 2005, Arroyo in a televised address admitted hers was the voice caught in the wiretaps and said, “I am sorry.” She did not identify the person on the other end of the line and said she was just anxious to protect her votes. “I recognize that making any such call was a lapse in judgment,” she said.
In August of that year, then Environment Secretary Mike Defensor said that US forensic audio expert Barry Dickey had found anomalies in the portions of the Paguia tapes. Dickey later clarified that not just one device was used to record the two tracks, but that he never said the Garci tape was spliced.
In December, Garcillano testified in the House hearing that he talked with Arroyo during the canvassing but claimed there was no mention of protecting votes. He declined to authenticate the tape.
In January 2006, the House inquiry was concluded without resolving the issue—a failure blamed on Arroyo’s order in September 2005 barring officials from testifying in congressional hearings without her permission.
In its report in February 2006, the House said: “The question of authenticity can only be answered when the person or entity responsible for the alleged wiretaps admits to the act … or when the persons who engaged in the conversations admit to them, as the President may have done in her public apology on 27 June 2005.” Lawrence de Guzman, Inquirer Research
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