‘2004 election fraud covered up’
(Editor’s Note: As a service to our readers, the INQUIRER.net is posting the full Mayuga Report below this article for reference.)
The Mayuga Report might have cleared the “Hello Garci” generals of poll fraud in the 2004 presidential election, but Bayan Muna Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Neri Javier Colmenares cried “cover-up” after obtaining a copy of the 10-inch-thick document a day after it was declassified by the military on Tuesday.
Casiño said the report did not reflect what was actually discovered in the testimonies of military officers and enlisted personnel and civilians directly or indirectly involved in the 2004 polls.
“The report was watered down to a collection of general statements and inconclusive findings. This is nothing less than a cover-up. A more detailed review of the annexes will reveal more sordid details of the [Armed Forces’] role in the 2004 election fraud,” Casiño said.
Colmenares said the release of the Mayuga Report finally showed why then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had kept it under wraps since it was submitted on Jan. 26, 2006, despite the fact that the five-member panel led by then Vice Adm. Mateo Mayuga found no case of fraud in the 2004 polls.
“I browsed through the summary of the testimonies in the Mayuga Report and it dawned on me that certain military officers like [Brig. Gen. Raymundo] Ferrer, [Lt. Gen. Rodolfo C.] Garcia, and [Lt. Col. Victoriano] Pimentel practically admitted to irregularities and fraud in the 2004 elections,” Colmenares said.
“The [panel members] did not even mention these in the report, or followed their leads,” he said.
Colmenares cited the testimony of one officer who had received orders to loosen security where Arroyo’s rival candidate, Fernando Poe Jr., was winning.
“This is major evidence that should have merited Mayuga’s attention but did not, which practically leads one to suspect that this was a cover-up,” the lawmaker said.
He said the House of Representatives would look deeper into the 2004 election based on the testimonies of top military officers that were ignored by the Mayuga panel.
Congress proclaimed Arroyo the winner over Poe by 1.1 million votes in the 2004 presidential election.
‘No direct links’
In its summary, the Mayuga panel said that “despite undocumented reports dragging the names” of retired Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, retired Lt. Gen. Roy Kyamko, retired Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, and Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon into “alleged election anomalies, there is no statement from the resource persons directly linking them or signifying their involvement to any election fraud or anomaly.”
It also said it had “failed to elicit from the resource persons specific imputations against these AFP generals that will support the allegations in the [Hello Garci] tapes which may amount to their unprofessional conduct.”
In the summary of the testimonies, it was stated that only Habacon and Kyamko spoke to the panel under oath.
The report said that according to the “Hello Garci” tapes, Gudani favored a political group, Esperon and Kyamko worked to replace Gudani and Habacon was clueless about something not identified in the tape.
But in his testimony, Garcia, the commander of Task Force Hope, was blunt in saying that AFP personnel were involved in cheating.
“I think that is true and you better accept it at this point in time. I think if you look deep down inside yourself and ask yourself whether you believe officers can be capable of cheating, or if it does happen, the answer is yes. There are people among us who allowed themselves to be used. I think everybody knows that. It is a fact,” said Garcia, who was the presidential adviser on the peace process when he gave his testimony.
He claimed that top officers were motivated to facilitate cheating in the elections by “personal interest, personal ambition, and … what is called careerism.”
“You do everything because you are so obsessed where your career will go. You will do anything to make sure that you reach what you have set for yourself, by hook or by crook. It is sad that officers supposed to be brought up with honor conveniently opted to go by crook,” he said.
Pimentel claimed that there was no true election in Jolo, Sulu. When asked whether the AFP was used to keep some politicians in power, he said: “Yes, it is not really the will of the people.”
He also said soldiers should only be focused on security matters rather than act as boards of election inspectors in the clustered precincts.
Lt. Col. Elmer Estopin added that in the clustering, “security is more important than the conduct of the election.”
Ferrer also told the Mayuga panel about a governor who had ordered him to “loosen” the security in the canvassing of election returns because his men could not “operate.”
“With Fernando Poe Jr. winning in all precincts,” Ferrer said, his division commander and a commander told him to slacken his security.
Fraud as art
In his testimony, Garcia spoke broadly of widespread cheating in Mindanao which, he claimed, had been elevated into an “art.”
“I think it is only in Mindanao where cheating occurs,” he said. “Cheating cannot be done in Luzon and Visayas without being detected. It can still be done in Luzon and Visayas but it is more prevalent in Mindanao because in Christian areas, they can easily be found because they are accessible to the media. That is why I think there are more of those that are being approached or used among us in our organization once they are assigned there, both from the opposition and the administration.”
Garcia said he presumed that Esperon was in Mindanao in the 2004 election “as J-3 (intelligence), so he can be anywhere to supervise maybe nonelection or even election matters.”
He said J-3 had full control of the funds—the AFP received P90 million during the election on top of snack and gasoline money from his task force, according to him—but he was clueless as to how it was broken down.
Garcia also told the panel that AFP commanders on the ground had complained of “pressure or some approaches from senior officers.”
“They complained why high-ranking officers were playing politics,” he said, but added that he had no evidence to prove this.
“It was a big amount of money and I don’t think what was spent really came close to the amount that was given us,” Garcia said. He described his task force as being toothless in fulfilling its goals.
The Mayuga panel had as members Major Generals Raul Relano and Romeo Alamillo, Commodore Emilio Marayag and Col. Caridad Aguilar.
In its 15-page summary, the panel commended the AFP for relatively few violent incidents, especially in Mindanao.
It merely called the attention of the military for its personnel’s “unprofessional conduct” and lack of knowledge on election rules and regulations, and its lack of clear-cut guidelines to its front liners.
“In spite of its multifarious tasks, the AFP, coupled with its already overstretched manpower for election duties, the conduct of the 2004 elections was generally peaceful. The AFP cannot be entirely faulted for some lapses in the conduct of deputation duties,” the panel said.
The panel recommended that the AFP coordinate with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to enhance the soldiers’ knowledge in areas such as their duties as members of the board of election inspectors, deputation by names, clustering of precincts, and utilization of military camps for canvassing. It also recommended further investigation to “determine the specific culpability” of some military personnel.
These were Col. Jose Gamos (for campaigning for a gubernatorial candidate in Sulu); Col. Rey Ardo (an adviser of Esperon who was accused of campaigning for the party-list group Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy or Anad); and Capt. Valentino Lopez (who was endorsed by Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and was accused of offering a bribe of between P50 million and P100 million to the head of Zamboanga City’s board of canvassers, Helen Flores, who expressed no interest in pursuing the case).
In his own testimony, Esperon denied the allegations in the “Hello Garci” tape and that he had presided over any meeting of Garcia’s Task Force Hope.
He said he was present in all of the Comelec meetings.
Esperon agreed that the military should not be counting votes in the camps or pushing for the clustering of barangays for security reasons. But he said this was the judgment call of the Comelec.
To save their necks
He also said he believed that while the AFP should not be deputized during the elections, they were needed by the Comelec in far-flung areas.
The Mayuga panel’s inquiry was an attempt to “save the necks” of military officials involved in rigging the 2004 election to favor then President Arroyo, retired Col. Ariel Querubin said yesterday.
“It was not intended to get to the bottom of things. They just went through the motions of conducting the investigation because there was a public clamor [for it],” Querubin said in a phone interview.
He said even Mayuga told him and other rebellious officers as much.
“The AFP is on a survival mode. We are trying to save necks here,” Querubin quoted Mayuga as saying.
He said Mayuga was apparently referring to the officers mentioned in the “Hello Garci” tapes.
It was precisely this “clearing” of the supposedly guilty officers that prevented the Arroyo administration then from releasing the Mayuga Report, Querubin said.
He added: “We were told that the release of the Mayuga Report [at that time] will just cause more unrest in the military, especially among officers and soldiers who knew what really happened.”
Querubin also said the best thing to do now was reopen an inquiry into the “Hello Garci” scandal and use the Mayuga Report as a “guide.”
“There are half-truths there. We can get the full truth now,” he said.
Querubin spent four years in jail for questioning the legitimacy of Arroyo’s presidency in a “stand-off” at the Marines headquarters in Taguig City in February 2006.
He was released on amnesty last year. With a report from Fe Zamora
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