Comelec, DoJ agree to probe poll fraud
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) are to conduct a joint inquiry into the purported electoral fraud and sabotage during the 2004 and 2007 elections, the poll body’s spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. have agreed “in principle” to jointly conduct the inquiry, James Jimenez told reporters.
“They will thresh out in the next few days the rules and other details. Definitely, the Comelec will be involved because we will handle the criminal aspect that might come up in the investigation,” he said.
Jimenez said the joint inquiry would proceed even without the participation of Virgilio Garcillano, the then Comelec commissioner believed to have been in phone conversations with then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to rig the 2004 election results.
“You have to understand that he is not the only personality involved here. Can we start without Garcillano? I don’t see why not,” Jimenez said.
How deep is problem
According to Jimenez, the Comelec is bent on investigating the alleged fraud during the 2004 or 2007 elections even if critics say that the evidence it has collected so far is “thin.”
He said the effort to look into the matter was “important.”
“It is incumbent [on us] to find out how deep the problem really is,” Jimenez said.
“At this point, we have to be hopeful. We did not expect that [the witnesses] who have surfaced would come out. So, who knows what will happen in the next few days?” he said.
Jimenez said having both the Comelec and the DoJ look into the allegations of electoral fraud would help ensure that there would be no “whitewash.”
“I think it’s a good thing. Definitely, the fear that there would be a whitewash would be dispelled. Looking at it from the outside, definitely, the credibility of the investigation would go up,” he said.
But according to former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., the DoJ should lead the inquiry into the alleged fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections if the nation wants to know the truth.
Pimentel had a closed-door meeting on Wednesday with Justice Secretary De Lima to discuss the possibility of the DoJ taking the primary role in the investigation.
“I think the DoJ should be open [to the idea]. As what happened in the past, the Comelec tends to protect its own people,” Pimentel said.
But De Lima said any DoJ inquiry into the purported poll fraud should not be intended to determine who was the real winner between Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri and Pimentel’s son, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
“It’s not our mandate,” the justice secretary said.
“The target of our investigation is not to provide evidence for proceedings at the Senate Electoral Tribunal. It’s really to determine the truth and who should be held accountable for all these fraud and irregularities,” she said.
Garcillano has “nothing more to tell” about fraud in the 2004 election, his lawyer, Ed Tamondong, said Tuesday on 990AM Radyo Inquirer.
Tamondong’s remark ran counter to the earlier statement of Ronald Llamas, President Aquino’s political adviser, that Garcillano had sent feelers to “tell all” that he knew about Arroyo’s purported plan to rig the election results in her favor, as recorded in the controversial “Hello Garci” tapes.
“Garcillano would like to respond to Llamas’ statement that he sent feelers. What he told me was this: I did not send feelers to them, and I have nothing more to say about 2004. That’s finished. I’ve said everything,” Tamondong said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The lawyer, who was named to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority by ex-President Arroyo, said Garcillano had admitted seeing emissaries sent by Llamas. “But what they are saying now is different from what we talked about,” he quoted Garcillano as saying.
Garcillano also denied exchanging text messages with Llamas. “He does not even know Llamas’ number,” Tamondong said.
Living in a farm
According to Tamondong, Garcillano has been living in a farm with fruit trees and chickens in Mindanao and was last in Manila just before the May 2010 elections.
He added that Garcillano plans to hold a press conference in Cagayan de Oro on Saturday to deny reports that he was joining the roster of “whistle-blowers” gathered by Malacañang to pin down Arroyo.
Earlier, former Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao claimed to have carried out Arroyo’s purported instructions to pad and shave votes in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
Former Maguindanao Election Supervisor Lintang Bedol also claimed knowledge of how the 2004 and 2007 elections had been rigged.
But Tamondong said the 74-year-old Garcillano had no plans to disrupt his retirement.
“They are free to revive the ‘Hello Garci’ case. Nothing can prevent them [from doing that]. But I don’t think it will amount to anything. I think it’s a big waste of time. Wala na silang mapipiga dyan (There’s nothing more they can squeeze from him),” Tamondong said.
He also said his client had already hurdled 23 criminal charges that the DoJ had dismissed “for lack of probable cause to prosecute.” With a report from Marlon Ramos