‘All lies, like Hello Garci’
Malacañang on Saturday said his “handlers” were the reason former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was turning back on his purported expressed intention to speak on the alleged cheating that marked the 2004 presidential election.
Ronald Llamas, President Benigno Aquino III’s adviser on political affairs, said Garcillano changed his tune after meeting “in Subic more than a week ago” with his handlers. Asked to name them, Llamas said: “[Zambales Governor Hermogenes] Ebdane and [alleged ‘jueteng’ lord] Bong Pineda, probably.”
He said Ebdane and Pineda had been identified as Garcillano’s protectors years ago.
Asked what Garcillano’s meeting with the two men was for, Llamas said: “To buy him off, probably.”
Llamas spoke with the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview just minutes after Garcillano ended his press conference in Baungon, Bukidnon, where he denied being involved in cheating in the 2004 presidential election where Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was proclaimed the winner.
Garcillano also denied having sent feelers to Malacañang and said it was the Aquino administration that sent emissaries to get him to talk.
But Llamas stood by his earlier statement that Garcillano had expressed willingness to disclose what he knew about the 2004 election.
“He sent feelers. I thought he was looking for redemption,” Llamas said, sounding unaffected by Garcillano’s denials. “It’s nothing new. It’s like ‘Hello Garci.’ It’s all lies.”
Llamas said Garcillano’s feelers were sent through Major Jason Aquino who, the former election commissioner said in his press conference, was pursuing him to testify on the supposed election fraud.
“He’s twisting the facts. It’s typical Garci,” Llamas said, adding that he was “half-expecting” Garcillano’s denial.
“I’m an expert on scoundrels,” Llamas said.
At the press conference held in the living room of his house in Baungon, Garcillano admitted that he and Arroyo had talked over the phone in connection with election results in Lanao del Sur.
He said that there was nothing wrong with the conversation that allegedly took place 10 days after the May 2004 polls, and that Arroyo was just trying to clarify something with him.
“All she asked was why her advantage two or three days before the start of the canvass in Lanao del Sur came up to only 892,000 when three days before that, it was more than one million,” he said in Filipino.
He said he replied to Arroyo: “Ganoon po ba (Is that so), ma’am?”
Garcillano, who was flanked by his two lawyers and family members, said that when Arroyo said yes, he pledged to look into the matter: “Titingnan ko po.”
He also said that in the “Hello Garci” tape, the conversation between him and Arroyo was made to appear that they were talking about cheating.
For example, he said, “titingnan ko po” became “pipilitin ko po (I will fix it).”
He said experts had opined at the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal that the conversation was “spliced.”
“What’s in the tape is not true,” he said.
Garcillano, dressed in a light yellow barong and occasionally smiling and laughing, said he and his lawyers had a copy of the experts’ findings that he was keeping “in my safe in Olongapo.”
He said the purported alteration of the tape made him reject it during the congressional inquiry into the alleged poll fraud.
“In this modern world, even a child can change the voices of people talking,” he said.
When a reporter asked if the voice in the tape was his, he said: “Your question is wrong. That’s not my voice.”
Garcillano denied committing poll fraud in Arroyo’s behalf.
“The taped conversation was taken 10 days after the election. How can we plan to cheat when the election is over?” he said.
He also said he had nothing more to say about the alleged poll fraud: “I spoke the truth during the congressional investigation in 2004 and 2005.
“I may sound ludicrous or ridiculous, but that is the truth.”
Reading from a prepared statement, Garcillano also denied having sent feelers to Malacañang about his supposed intention to tell all.
He said he was actually visited by government emissaries in his house. He identified them as Jason Aquino and Jasper Zuñiga, who were supposedly sent by Llamas.
Garcillano said the visit was followed by text messages, the latest sent two days ago.
He quoted one text message purportedly sent by Jason Aquino: “The defining moment is now. Else, we will be overtaken by events. The secretary is waiting for your call.”
To this Garcillano said: “Huwag na nila akong gamitin (They should stop using me).”
“If they have a case, they should build that,” he said, adding that he did not know what the government’s game plan was.
Garcillano also said he was never in hiding. But he admitted he was avoiding the media because he had nothing more to add to his previous statements.
He said he would not attend the planned inquiry into the alleged poll fraud unless subpoenaed.
Garcillano said that as far as he was concerned, “the results of the election speak” for itself.
He added: “As far as I am concerned, I am not a superman who can cheat by myself to change the result of the election. And if the people are only educated on the procedure on what happens in an election…
“Do you mean to say I can dictate on the superintendent of schools or the fiscal? I can’t do that. Those people on the ground are the ones conducting the canvass.”
On talk that money was offered in exchange for his tell-all, Garcillano said: “Bullsh-t. If we’re talking money, why should I ask for it now? I should have done so earlier. No offer.”
He said the question of who won in the 2004 election should now be buried so the country could move on.
“I am appealing to those who have responsibilities in the government to allow this country to move on,” he said.
‘Not anchored on him’
Garcillano may be reluctant to appear at the planned inquiry into the alleged electoral fraud in 2004, but the government may subpoena him or charge him in court to ferret out the truth, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said.
Brillantes also said the joint investigation of the Comelec and the Department of Justice did not hinge on Garcillano because there were other personalities who were allegedly involved.
“This is a formal investigation so we can make him a respondent and he cannot afford not to appear,” Brillantes told reporters. “If he is made a respondent and then he does not appear, then we can find probable cause and file the case in court. But that would be another matter.”
Brillantes also said Garcillano could be charged with perjury if it were proven that he was lying.
“Everything is not anchored on him. If he has nothing more to add [to what he has already said], then he shouldn’t add any,” Brillantes said. “If he makes false statements, he could be charged with perjury immediately.”
Brillantes said he was not surprised that Garcillano had denied any wrongdoing.
“He has to be consistent with the tapes because if he admitted to it, that would be a big evidence against [Arroyo]… But this will all come out during the formal investigation,” Brillantes said.
According to Brillantes, the Comelec will not send an emissary to Garcillano but will look into reports that other officials of the poll body were involved in the cheating.
“We will not have someone go to him. That would make him look like a very important person,” Brillantes said. “[But] if there are other Comelec officials involved, especially if they are named, we can charge them administratively as well as criminally if it is true [that they] are involved.”
Brillantes said that even his nephew, Roque Bello, who has been linked to the purported switching of election returns at the Batasang Pambansa in 2005, would be investigated, and that he would inhibit himself from the proceedings.
He said Bello used to work for him.
“That’s already old. He is no longer with us. He left in 1991 or 1992. That’s over 10 or 20 years ago,” Brillantes said. With a report from Philip C. Tubeza
First posted 12:08 am | Sunday, July 31st, 2011
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