Cases against Garci prepared

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/23 July) – One of the whistle blowers of the alleged election fraud in the 2004 Presidential elections said that they are now preparing to file criminal cases against former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Maranao civil society leader Hadji Abdullah “Lacs” Dalidig told MindaNews that they may also include former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the charges after President Benigno Simeon Aquino III delivers his second State of the Nation Address on Monday.

“Papanagutin natin si Garci and eventually GMA for election crimes” (Let us make Garci and eventually GMA answer for their election crimes), said Dalidig, who heads the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reforms and Good Governance (IMERGG).

It was IMERGG, in partnership with the National Movement for Free Election (NAMFREL), that exposed alleged massive cheating and vote buying in Lanao del Sur in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in favor of candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 presidential elections.

Dalidig’s expose was bolstered when a wiretapped phone conversation, which later became popular as the “Hello Garci” tapes, surfaced in 2005. The said conversation between then President Arroyo and Garcillano partly talked of vote rigging in Lanao del Sur to ensure that Arroyo will have more than one million votes lead over popular actor Fernando Poe Jr.

Meanwhile, well-placed sources said that the 74-year-old Garcillano, who now resides in his farm Baungon, Bukidnon, had left the province Friday. He had left his farm house cum retirement home in Brgy. Imbatug, Baungon town to a safehouse in nearby Libona town when former Maguindanao Election Director Lintang Bedol surfaced in the media last week.

Reliable sources said that Garcillano left his safehouse in Libona town Friday morning and had meetings in this city. Instead of going back to Bukidnon in the afternoon, Garcillano, who is now with trusted aides and reportedly with some members of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), decided to proceed to a resort somewhere in Misamis Oriental to evade some people who want to meet him in Libona.

The same source said that Garcillano and company left the resort to an undisclosed location shortly after lunch today.

It remains unclear if Garcillano is under duress or not. Requests for interviews sent via text messages to his aides to prove that he is not under duress have not been answered.

Garcillano went into hiding for five months after the Hello Garci controversy erupted. He gave his first media interview in Malaybalay City in December 2005 and later on surfaced somewhere in Maguindanao.

He denied that he is the male voice purportedly on the other end of the telephone conversation with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In his defense, he said that the wiretapped telephone conversation cannot be used as evidence as it was illegal.

Ms Arroyo, on the other hand, said “I’m sorry” in a televised address to the nation in June 2005 for the Hello Garci hullaballoo but stopped short of admitting she ordered Garcillano to rig votes in her favor.

Commission on Elections chair Sixto Brillantes had been quoted as saying that the election violation charges against Garcillano before the COMELEC had already expired as it was allegedly committed five years ago. The criminal aspects of the alleged violations can still be pursued in the regular courts, he added. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin / MindaNews)