By Raïssa Robles
Let’s refresh our memories on what allegedly happened in the 2004 presidential polls by reading the transcript of the wiretapped conversations of a man named “Gary” with various men and women.
These tapes – running all of three hours when all the conversations were put together – include alleged conversations between “PGMA” – who sounded very much like presidential candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – and a man named “Gary” – who sounded like then Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.
The object of the wiretapping was Garcillano, not Arroyo.
The alleged conversations between “Gary” and PGMA are all highlighted in red. “Gary” and Arroyo talked nearly a dozen times between May 17 and June 18, 2004.
The period of the wiretapped conversations is significant since this was when votes were being tediously canvassed by hand in various provinces all over the country. Election day was May 10.
In one conversation, “Gary” told GMA he wanted the family of a female witness to an election fraud kidnapped. GMA had no verbal reaction to what he just said.
“Gary” also talked to a certain “Mike” who sounded very much like Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel. “Mike” asked “Gary” to take care of “Barbers”.
On May 26, 2004, Mrs Arroyo allegedly phoned "Gary" at 11:04 in the morning. She told him that her own senatorial candidate, Rodolfo Biazon, “is threatening that if he’s cheated he would have (the ballot boxes) opened in Tawi-Tawi (province). If that happens, I might lose there.”
Mr Garcellano agreed – “That’s possible.”
On May 29, 2004, President Arroyo allegedly phoned “Garcy” to clarify: “So I will still lead by more than one ‘M’ overall?”
It became apparent that “M” referred to a million votes. Mr Garcillano assured her “that’s how it would turn out.”
“It cannot be less than one M?” – Mrs Arroyo persisted.
“We will force that outcome. But as of the other day, 982” – meaning 982,000 votes.
“That’s why,” she replied.
On June 2 at 10:29 p.m., Arroyo pointed out to him that in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Basilan in southern Philippines, the Statement of Votes (SoV) coming from each town “didn’t match” the provincial Certificate of Canvass (CoC) that summed up the Statement of Votes.
“Gary” or Garci replied, “There’s a possibility that these won’t match if they did not follow the individual SoVs of the towns. But I don’t really know if this is in our favor or not.”
He continued that “in Basilan and Lanao Sur, they raised (your votes) and they did it well.”
Arroyo said, “so it matches?”
“Yes, maam,” was his reply. “You know in Basilan, the military there is really not that good in doing this kind of thing, just like in Sulu (province),” he added.
He assured her, though, that “I have already talked to the Chairman (of the canvassing) Board in Sulu, (and) I will make the EO (election officer) of Pagundaran hide for now so they won’t be able to testify.”
Mrs Arroyo won over the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. by 1.12 million votes. Counting of votes, particularly in southern Philippines, was one of the slowest and controversy-ridden in the nation’s history.
Why an independent probe on the Garci tapes is important
If anything, an independent inquiry that would match the wiretapped conversations with actual fraud events in Mindanao could show the nation once and for all how election cheating is done by the highest leaders of the land.
Election cheating happens again and again and again.
Cheating in Mindanao has been happening since the Republic was born in 1946. It was first highlighted in the 1949 presidential elections which Elpidio Quirino won. By the way, Quirino like Arroyo replaced the elected president and then went on to run for president.
All politicians seem to accept electoral cheating as a FACT and have done little to curb it. Perhaps it’s because they all view Mindanao as the “wild card” which the lucky ones among them can manipulate to their gross advantage.
My dream is that all participants in the 2004 election cheating will be punished and future election cheating will be reduced drastically.