Palace looking into Garcillano properties
The Aquino administration has begun digging into the assets—including houses and farms—purportedly acquired by former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano since 2005, when the “Hello, Garci” election cheating scandal broke, a Malacañang official said on Sunday.
Simultaneously, a party-list lawmaker called on the administration to file criminal charges against the embattled Garcillano, saying the former poll official “should be made to suffer long years in prison for his sins.”
In other moves, at least two senators called for a separate Senate investigation into the allegations that Garcillano conspired with then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to manipulate the results of the 2004 presidential election and ensure Arroyo’s victory.
Secretary Ronald Llamas, President Aquino’s adviser on political affairs, said the government had been discretely looking into the assets amassed by Garcillano since the cheating scandal burst into the open six years ago with the release of the “Hello, Garci” tape on supposed conversations between Arroyo and Garcillano.
Llamas said in a text message that based on what the government had found out, Garcillano had acquired houses and lots in Subic in Zambales, Cagayan de Oro City, Quezon City and “Cotabato.”
Garcillano also supposedly acquired several farms in Bukidnon, where he held a press conference the other day.
Llamas did not say who were the specific sources of his information on Garcillano’s supposed acquisitions.
He asked how Garcillano could have built up his wealth despite his having no job in recent years.
“He saved GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), that is not petty cash. Mukhang nadagdagan pa (It appears he made more),” Llamas said.
Garcillano and his lawyers could not be reached for comment as of press time on the latest allegations. The former election official has denied being involved in any election cheating and said that Arroyo had not asked him to cheat for her.
In his press conference on Saturday, Garcillano adamantly denied Llamas’ claim that he had sent “feelers” to Malacañang to tell what he knew of the 2004 alleged election fraud.
Perjury, passport tampering
In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares said the government could still arrest Garcillano if the Department of Justice filed criminal charges against him for perjury, falsification of documents and violations of the passport law.
Colmenares claimed Garcillano lied to Congress in 2005 when he said he did not leave the country at the height of the “Hello, Garci” scandal, showing lawmakers a blank passport to indicate no departure or arrival records.
He said the Singapore government had told Philippine authorities that Garcillano actually arrived in Singapore on July 14, 2005, on a Lear jet and left the day after for London.
“Now that no one will cover up for him, he will surely go to prison for a maximum of 15 years if convicted under the Philippine Passport Act for passport tampering. For lying during a congressional hearing he can also be convicted under the Revised Penal Code for perjury,” Colmenares said.
“Because of his recalcitrance to come out with the truth, it is best that he remains an accused and should be made to suffer long years in prison for his sins,” the lawmaker said.
Colmenares said the government should not stop with Garcillano.
“We should also punish the support structure of impunity—those who helped cover up the crime and helped the perpetrators escape accountability. They also must be sent to prison,” he said.
Senators plan to conduct their own investigation of the “Hello Garci” controversy, specifically the purported switching of election returns (ERs) inside the Batasang Pambansa building in Quezon City in 2005.
The Senate blue ribbon chair, Teofisto Guingona III, said Sen. Panfilo Lacson had filed a resolution urging the chamber to look into the issue.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano plans to file a separate resolution, Guingona said.
Garcillano will be called to the Senate probe “as one of the central figures,” Guingona said in an interview.
“Given that other witnesses … are coming out now, we hope that during our probe in the Senate, more witnesses will volunteer. Especially now since Gloria (Arroyo) no longer has that kind of power whereas before, the witnesses were scared to expose a President,” he said.
Cayetano, in a separate interview, said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Commission on Elections Chair Sixto Brillantes faced conflict-of-interest issues if they insisted on heading a separate probe by the Department of Justice and the Comelec into the ballot-switching incident.
Cayetano objected to Brillantes’ links to Roque Bello, a former election official implicated by police officers in the purported ballot-switching operation.
“Bello is the former law partner of Chairman Brillantes and is even his nephew,” he said.
“To ensure there will be no conflict of interest, I will insist Senate does its own investigation,” he said.
In a statement, Llamas said Garcillano could have helped shed light on what happened in 2004.
“Clearly, there are still very strong forces out there that are preventing Garci from telling the truth. I just feel sorry for Garci because this would have been an opportunity for him to finally put these matters to rest,” he said.
The Palace shrugged off Garcillano’s refusal to talk to investigators about the 2004 elections.
“Effectively, he has shut the door himself, we can’t do anything about it,” the President’s deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said on state-run dzRB radio. “You cannot force someone who does not want to tell the truth or someone who does not want to talk.”
But she said other witnesses and other testimonies on who had participated in the massive election cheating were surfacing.
The Inquirer went to Garcillano’s residence in Baungon on Sunday but was told had left for Manila.
His lawyer, Ed Tamondong, said it was his client’s words against Llamas’. With reports from Christine Avendaño in Manila; JB Deveza and Bobby Lagsa, Inquirer Mindanao
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