Lover flees, says troops hold Arroyo case spy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 12:00am

The military has been accused of holding hostage an intelligence officer, his family and one of his two mistresses to hush up its involvement in the wiretapping scandal engulfing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Sergeant Vidal Doble's other lover, Marietta Santos, went public yesterday - and claimed that she, too, had been held by the military but had managed to escape. Ms Santos said that Sergeant Doble, his wife, two children and another lover were still being held under duress at a military compound.

Sergeant Doble, an intelligence officer, at first claimed to have made the incriminating recording while working for the military spy agency ISAFP. He later withdrew the claim in testimony before Congress, and instead told lawmakers he had uttered it under duress from the man who eventually made the recordings public.

However, Ms Santos said her lover had lied to Congress.

She said that she had sent a text message yesterday to Sergeant Doble - who she said was allowed by his guards to keep his mobile phone - to ask why he had reversed his testimony to avoid implicating the ISAFP, which stands for Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

'He told me it was because ISAFP held his family,' she said.Ms Santos also claimed she had overheard a soldier guarding Sergeant Doble say: 'Doble should be killed for fencing the tape.' She said the military believed Sergeant Doble had stolen the tape and sold it to Samuel Ong, the government agent who then made it public.

The tape contained an incriminating conversation between Mrs Arroyo and elections official Virgilio Garcillano, in which they appear to be discussing the rigging of last year's presidential election.

Ms Santos expressed fears for the safety of those she had left in captivity.

Her claims add weight to suggestions that the Arroyo camp had ordered Mr Garcillano's phones tapped, and that the current scandal was the unintended consequence of that order.

Retired commodore Rex Robles, who Mrs Arroyo appointed to help investigate the failed 2003 coup attempt against her, said last week: 'It is quite clear ISAFP is involved in wiretapping. That cannot be done without clearance from the highest levels - and I mean the highest levels.

'If, for the sake of argument, Commissioner Garcillano was wiretapped, that needs the clearance of Malacanang [Palace, the presidential residence].'

Sheila Coronel, executive director of the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism, recently suggested that Mr Garcillano was wiretapped by the Arroyo camp because they feared he might also assist rival presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jnr.

Ms Santos said the soldiers guarding Sergeant Doble had threatened him.

'Master Sergeant Billedo spoke up and said Doble should not have been kept alive. He should be killed because he sold the tape,' she said. 'Sgt Billedo said [Doble] is really crazy.'

'I told them, 'please have mercy on my honey. He's just human and can make mistakes'.'