Q and A with Virgilio Garcillano (2): “I was trying to espouse reforms”


On this late Monday afternoon, someone, not a voter, came to pay a visit but left apparently after learning there were journalists around. The visitor’s departure derailed him a bit. “Oy umalis na man (referring to the visitor, ‘Oh, the visitor left’).  Pero aalis pa rin ako. Pero tatakbo pa rin ako (But I will still leave. But I will still run”), he told MindaNews after saying he was turning 70.

Garcillano says he was so hurt by what happened in 2005 that “if I did not control myself, I could have gone to the mountains and not come back anymore.”

He said he would have joined the New People’s Army or the Moro National Liberation Front or Moro Islamic Liberation Front. “Don’t you know I was there? (I stayed with) both the MILF and MNLF. But I stayed longer with the MNLF.” (MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal denies the MILF provided refuge for Garcillano).

The former elections commissioner has two mobile phones on the table. One phone rings. He picks it up, says “Hello, General” and talks about harassment of his provincial board candidates.

In this second part, Garcillano talks to MindaNews’ Carolyn O. Arguillas, Froilan Gallardo and Walter Balane about electoral fraud and reforms, what he misses and how he wants history to judge him.

Q. Do you miss your being Comelec commissioner?
A. Well, I miss it in the sense that I was trying to espouse some reforms but they seem to have forgotten (voice trails off) ..kalaban natin kasama din natin (our enemy is within us)

Q: Shouldn’t Chairman Abalos have
A: … I am loved by the people daw, sabi ni Chairman Abalos… At that time when I was beleaguered, he should have come out. You know it’s a sad thing that when I left my office, records had not been properly set to show that I was doing the right thing.

Q: Did you get to see him after
A. No, I did not.

Q. What about the President? Have you talked to the President after
A.  Not anymore.

Q: How do you feel now that you’re a candidate instead of poll supervisor?
A: You know I do not like politics. And all the more my dislike (when I ran for Congress). …. the way they prostituted elections here in the province. Lalo akong naging…. I do not like vote-buying.

Q. But it has been going on even before, right?
A: Not as rampant as here

Q: You mean it’s worse now?
A:  It is worse here. Not now but it has been going on like these before, here.

Q: But at that time you were in Comelec
A: I did not know it was like this before because I was in Comelec and they would not show me what was going on. But I discovered it to be like this. You know, I want to change the political landscape here if ever I win. Because the way people running aspiring for position are compelled to spend to buy votes because they want to win. Alam mo if I had my way, ayaw ko, I don’t like this

Q: Are you forced to spend? If you had a choice you wouldn’t what?
A: I will not even run anymore if I had a choice but am already here and it’s almost the end of the fight.

Q: What expense are we talking about?
A: They are buying votes.

Q: Like how much per vote?
A: That’s why I’m trying to size up because I should know. I want to find out.

Q: You were in Comelec before
A:  At that time, I was trying to implement the law but then they do it not within the hearing distance or the sight of  Comelec employees. And probably people in the field, the Comelec employees in the field may have known this but they never told us about this. I know it but the thing is, without any evidence to show that they have been doing this before, what can we do?

Q. Wasn’t it hurting for you that
A: Even among media, ako halimbawa as friend, pwede akong magbigay ng contribution sa inyong activities. But I do not give anything to media because I want something to be…. If money changes hands, I do not like that. In my long service in the Comelec, I never received money. Sabihin nila ibili mo ng inumin. (They tell me buy drinks from this). Sabi ko sa kanila, kayo ang bumili (I tell them you buy) because if you give me money and may sobra, anong gagawin ko sa sobra. Itatapon ko? (if there’s change, what will I do with the change? Throw it?) I’ll be forced to pocket it. I don’t like that. If I had been doing some monkey business when I was in Sulu, Lanao and Cotabato, the Muslims would not like me.

Q. But they like you?
A. Yes.

Q. Were they the first to protect you?
A. Not exactly. But I had friends who were concerned about my safety.

Q. How would you like history to remember Virgilio Garcillano?
A. Well I like history to remember me without the accusations that they have been throwing against me. Because if it’s true, they could have presented evidence against me. There was never any piece of evidence that was given. Even in the case they filed before the Department of Justice. I’m ready for that. But they cannot even present anything to pin me down.

Q. Is there anyone you would have wanted to talk to but you cannot  because of what happened.
A. No not because of what happened. I am afraid it will not come out at all, the right way I want it to come out.

Q. Are you writing a book then about what happened to you?  What’s the title?
A. (Mentions the title but asks that it be withheld)

Q:  I want to go back to your wanting to clear your name. Why not the Senate when as you said you could have turned your liability into an asset?
Q. I could not meet that. It’s expensive. Besides, that’s a nationwide campaign. I do not have that much money.

Q: Do you have fears you would be cheated?
A: If they will cheat me, that only goes to show that I am not a cheater. Because if I cheat, I know how to cheat, then I would be the one first to cheat. That’s why I am running as independent because I do not want them to accuse me of using the resources and influence of the party that I am going to use. Second, I want to win this election in a fair and square way.

Q. Are you finding this election very expensive?
A. Not only this election. I think it was tainted since the beginning but I could not find a way of trying to stop it at that time.

Q. What about this one?
A. I’m trying to. There are times I am constrained to tell people that if you are going to ask something from me, then you might as well say something against me if I do not give you money (relates waking up in the morning with a potential voter asking money from him)… And then they are saying that I have money. I did not receive any support from the party of the administration because (Governor Jose Ma.) Zubiri does not like me to be under their party nor even the President. She keeps on telling that they are going to support me. Support? Anong (what) support?

Q. But what about your friends? You have so many friends as commissioner?
A. Outside of the administration?

Q. Are they helping you in your campaign?
A. Yeah there are some who are helping me but I have to separate the sheep from the goat. Those who will contribute and then they ask me to help

Q. They contribute in exchange for?
A. Party list. Because that’s the only way you can help. Ayoko. (I don’t like). That’s why I am running as independent.  And when I was offered to run under Kampi, I declined the offer because I want to run independently of any support from others except my friends. Ako wala akong kwarta. (I have no money) But this Zubiri keeps on saying I have money. Isa pa yang nakakainit sa ulo. (That’s another headache). They are harassing my people, my candidates. (Last part tomorrow:  Starting speeches with “Hello Garci”)