By Raïssa Robles
Today, Ignacio Bunye is sitting ever so quietly in the Central Bank Monetary Board, perhaps hoping no one will recall or notice his participation in the “Hello Garci” tapes.
It was Bunye, as the spokesman of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who officially brought the ‘Hello Garci’ tapes to public attention.
But he made the following claims during his press conference on the matter:
First, he presented “two tapes” and said one was authentic and the other doctored. He added that he had copies of both tapes.
Second, Bunye said Mrs Arroyo was illegally bugged while she was speaking with a man named “Gary” who, he insisted, was a trusted political campaign aide.
Bunye said the authentic tape would show that Arroyo was speaking to Gary and not to “Garcy” – which he said was the nickname of Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.
Bunye told reporters:
This latest plot, by far the most devious and desperate, involves the illegal bugging of a conversation, and the subsequent electronic doctoring, alteration and revision of that conversation so as to introduce elements that were not really there.
After pronouncing the Garci tapes as the fruit of illegal wiretapping, Bunye warned the media that anyone caught playing it on the air could be sanctioned.
Several days later, Bunye modified his statement about his having recognized Arroyo’s voice on the tapes. Bunye said:
I am 98 percent sure but I may be two percent wrong.
However, former Commission on Elections chairman Chairman Christian Monsod, who once personally worked with Garcillano, contradicted Bunye by saying:
The voice on the tape I am convinced is Garcillano.
Even Garcillano’s colleague, then Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos gave a startling admission to reporters that there was an undeniable similarity between the voice of the so-called “Gary” on the tape and the voice of his incumbent fellow Comelec Commissioner Garcillano:
There is a big similarity (between Garcillano’s voice and the voice on the tape) although I can’t admit or deny.
Bunye even came to Garcillano’s defense
Monsod revealed that he tried to block Garcillano’s appointment as Comelec Commissioner in 2004. He gave several reasons why:
Garcillano’s reputation, especially in the 1986 snap elections, is not pretty….He’s naughty.
Monsod blamed himself for reviving Garcillano’s career:
In 1993, he promised to turn over a new leaf so I assigned him to southern Philippines. My mistake.
But Monsod said Garcillano went back to his old ways. He manipulated votes in Mindanao in 1995 which shaved votes from Senator Aquilino Pimentel.
Because of this, shortly before the 2004 presidential elections:
I called up then Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, please don’t appoint this person [Garcillano], it’s not going to give credibility to the Commission or the elections.
But President Arroyo appointed him anyway as Comelec Commissioner on February 10, 2004 – just months before the presidential polls.
At that time, Bunye even issued a statement defending Garcillano’s appointment. Bunye said:
It (the appointment) was obviously being exploited as…an avenue for settling a personal grudge. We will not dignify this allegation unless it is substantiated by strong and concrete pieces of evidence.
Why can’t we leave Central Bank Monetary Baord member Ignacio Bunye alone on this one?
To this day, I personally believe that Bunye’s press conference was the start of a massive Malacañang Palace cover-up of the Garci tapes.
Bunye’s position at the Central Bank was the golden parachute provided him by Mrs Arroyo following that historic press conference.
Bunye’s good fortune remains a bright signal to all future poll cheaters: Go on, you too can get away with it. Don’t worry. Be happy. Be Bunye.