Q and A with Virgilio Garcillano (1): “No such thing as ‘Hello Garci;’ she called me ‘Hello Comm’

If he had a choice, he adds, he wouldn’t run for any post but he filed his certificate of candidacy “to clear my name.”

I was only prompted to do it because I want to clear my name,” he said, adding, “they have been alluding to me so many things which are not proven at all yet they continually or repeatedly to connect my name to any anomaly that government…”

Garcillano, who turns 70 on July 5,  maintains he was a victim in the controversial “Hello Garci” controversy in June 2005, where wire-tapped conversations allegedly between him and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on alleged rigging during the canvassing of the May 10, 2004 elections, were exposed.

He even claims there was “no such thing as Hello Garci.”

“There was no call to me by President as ‘Hello Garci.’  She always calls me ‘Hello Comm’ or ‘Hello Commissioner.’ These (Hello Garci tapes) were fabrications made by my critics,”  Garcillano said.

President Arroyo, he said, “used to call me ‘Hello Comm’ or Commissioner but not ‘Hello Garci.’ You should understand that the President is a fine woman and occupying the highest position of the country. She does not call you in a vulgar language like that.”

Garcillano says his nickname is “Gil.”

But Garcillano’s posters and huge tarpaulins identify him as “Virgilio ‘Garci’ Garcillano” and even his main campaign jingle, ‘Hello Garci,’ is sung to the tune of  “Hello Dolly.” He has three other campaign jingles, in Pilipino, one sung to the tune of “Sway with me.”

“But you’re using Garci now,”  MindaNews said, pointing to his campaign tarpaulins.

“I’m using that now already. That’s why I’m now converting the liability into an asset because of the name recall and that would be the easiest way for people to recall me,” Garcillano said.

The first district of Bukidnon has eight towns and 162,000 voters. On Monday night, Garcillano traveled to Barangay Damilag in Manolo Fortich town, hometown of his opponents Ma. Lourdes Acosta and Candido Pancrudo, to grace a rally of “Bando Garcillano, Bando Albarece,” a complete slate of “Independent” candidates for mayor, vice mayor, eight councilors and two provincial board members.

Wearing a plaid polo shirt, brown pants and sandals, he blended with residents of the village who came to the rally at the barangay covered court.

Only his campaign jingles were played while the crowd waited for the rally to start. He waited for three hours and 30 minutes before his turn.  Unlike the candidate for mayor, Garcillano, the last speaker, did not dance with sexy star Jenny Miller, an entertainer hired for his rallies by friends he would not name.

Garcillano, who is selling himself as “paglaum sa mga kabus” (hope for the poor) spoke with MindaNews before and after the rally. Excerpts from the interview:

Q. What are you offering the kabus (poor) that these politicians are not offering?
A: You know, (Rep. Nereus) Acosta is supposed to be an agriculturist. I did not see any improvement as far as agricultural production is concerned. And I was offering them (constituents) some projects on farm to market roads, post-harvest facilities and probably give affordable education to children of the farmers, especially on the technical side. Because we can harness TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) to help spread these teachings, spread to other communities. While there are offers of programs by TESDA, it’s limited to the regional offices. What I want to do if I get this position is to ask TESDA to move from one municipality to the other and offer the program, anyway that’s only short-term program — three months — so that the children will be able to undergo training without much expenses.

Q: So instead of the children going to TESDA, TESDA will go to the children?
A. Yes, especially (because) the poor children of the farmers will not be able to stand staying in the city with so little resources and they will not be able to probably finish the course. Baka mamaya seeing the life in the city, mabaguhan sila. Then they  have to spend for their transportiaton, food, board and lodging.

Q. So the alternative you’re offering is this technical/vocational education.
A. Yes, remember that in the technical education, we have electronics, computer maintenance, refrigeration, now I think they’re offering certified nursing assistants or CAN and this is very much in demand abroad. Ako, I am not a son of a rich man. That’s why even before I decided to run, I even opted not to enter into politics anymore. I was only prompted to do it because I want to clear my name.

Q. If you want to clear your name, which was what you intended to do, as you said, why did you choose to run for Congress. Why not for mayor or governor for that matter? Or Senate?
A. Well, Senate is very difficult to tackle. While when you become a congressman, at least I will be sitting there, shoulder to shoulder with those people who were trying to destroy me or who were trying to accuse me. But you know, as a lawyer, I know that legal skirmishes are over and a decision has been made, they should stop. Because there is such a thing as decision with finality. But until now they keep on doing, they keep on connecting my name (whenever there’s a case against the president, against the administration).

Q. How did that controversy affect your family life, your personal life, your
A. I was made a mockery of almost all kinds of people in this country and in the world.

Q. But you shunned away from the public eye for several months.
A. Because I was afraid for my life. You know what? There were people who did not want me to talk. There were people who wanted me to talk but only to talk in their favor. And there were those people who were affected because of that tape, that if I might say something, it might destroy their career. And these were the three groups of people I was worried about….. I did not come out early enough because at that time when this topic was very hot, I waited for this thing to simmer down and tell my story about it but nobody believed me anymore because everything I said is a lie. The people who were accusing me were the ones telling the truth. (Tomorrow: “I was trying to espouse reforms”)