3 hours of tape paint damning picture

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 12:00am

Election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was allegedly the object of wiretapping in dozens of conversations covering three hours of tape.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo allegedly talked nearly a dozen times by mobile phone to Mr Garcillano between May 17 to June 18 last year, when the wiretapping took place. It is not known who would have a motive for carrying out such a wiretap.

The period of these conversations is significant since this was when votes were being tediously counted by hand in provinces all over the country.

Election day was May 10. On May 26, Mrs Arroyo allegedly phoned Mr Garcillano at 11.04am, telling him that her own Senate candidate, Rodolfo Biazon, 'is threatening that if he's cheated he will have [the ballot boxes] opened in Tawi-Tawi [province]. If that happens, I might lose there'.

The voice purported to be Mr Garcillano agreed: 'That's possible.'

On May 29, Mrs 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.

He assured her 'that's how it would turn out'.

'It cannot be less than one M?' she persisted.

'We will force that outcome. But as of the other day, 982', he replied, meaning 982,000 votes. 'That's why,' the woman alleged to be Mrs Arroyo replied.

On June 2 at 10.29pm she pointed out to him that in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Basilan in the southern Philippines, the Statement of Votes coming from each town 'didn't match' the provincial Certificate of Canvass that summed up the votes.

The voice said to be Mr Garcillano's 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 favour or not.'

He continued that 'in Basilan and Lanao Sur, they raised [your votes] and they did it well'. She said: 'So it matches?'

'Yes, ma'am,' 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 defeated the late actor Fernando Poe Jnr by 1.12 million votes.

The counting of votes, particularly in the southern Philippines, was one of the slowest and most controversy-ridden in history.