Sep 222014
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-11-24 07:48
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 005482



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2015

¶B. MANILA 4140
¶C. MANILA 2970
¶D. MANILA 2777
¶E. MANILA 2738

Classified By: A/Political Counselor Paul O’Friel for Reasons
1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary: Former Commission on Elections (COMELEC)
Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano’s reappearance in the
Philippines after almost four months overseas has sent
ripples through political circles and led to speculation and
rumors about the timing and purpose of his return. Both the
pro-Arroyo and Opposition camps are seeking to use
Garcillano’s return and his potential testimony to their own
advantage, i.e., to refute or confirm the allegations of
electoral fraud dogging Arroyo. Barring any explosive new
revelations from Garcillano, however, the Opposition is
unlikely to be able to recharge its efforts to impeach
Arroyo. Most Filipinos are tired of this year’s political
bickering and want to see politicians focus on domestic
issues important to their day-to-day lives. The most likely
outcome is that Garcillano’s testimony will bring closure to
the controversy, even if Arroyo’s image remains irreparably
tarnished in the public eye. End Summary.

The Return: Background

¶2. (U) Garcillano’s wife Grace and at least three members of
the House of Representatives confirmed in the media this week
reports that he had returned to the Philippines, on or around
November 18. Garcillano is the election official with whom
President Arroyo spoke in a taped — and subsequently leaked
— telephone conversation last year, leading to Opposition
accusations of electoral fraud and calls for her resignation.
After the wiretapped recording surfaced in June, Garcillano
allegedly ignores subpoenas served on him by the House of
Representatives. On July 14, Garcillano was reported to be
in Singapore, and he remained overseas for over four months
(first in London, and later in a Latin American country,
according to media reports). He was cited for contempt of
Congress and an arrest order was issued on August 3 by five
House committees jointly investigating the case.

¶3. (U) In a brief national address on June 27, President
Arroyo admitted that it was her voice on a taped conversation
with an election official — whom she did not name — last
year, but denied any intent to influence the outcome of the
May 2004 election (ref c).

Reactions: Rumor and Speculation

¶4. (U) Garcillano’s return (he is reported to be at his home
in the northern Mindanao province of Bukidnon) has created a
stir in political circles in the country and led to a flurry
of speculation and rumor. As soon as Garcillano’s return to
the country became known, members of the Opposition asked
that he be allowed to come forward to testify — in order to
prove allegations that the May 2004 presidential election was
rigged. Pro-Arroyo politicians, including Senator Miriam
Defensor-Santiago agree that Garcillano should be given the
chance to respond publicly to the allegations without fear of

¶5. (SBU) Other Opposition leaders claim that Garcillano is
back to deliver a Malacanang-scripted exoneration of Arroyo
and her administration of the accusations of electoral fraud,
and instead implicate Opposition figures in electoral fraud.
Leading Opposition figure Senator Panfilo Lacson has said
that Garcillano would testify to this effect when he makes
his first public re-appearance, and has called for
Garcillano’s immediate arrest in order to “protect” him from
pressure from Malacanang. Lacson has further alleged that
the House leadership’s reorganization two days ago of the
five committees jointly investigating the “Hello Garci” issue
(as it is popularly known) is part of this script. On the
night of Wednesday, November 23, the five chairmen of these
committees were replaced by congressmen who are viewed as
more “friendly” toward President Arroyo. The timing of this
move has been construed by some as a reaction to the reported
imminent reemergence of Garcillano. Sources close to
Garcillano say he might make his first public appearance
early next week.

Administration Shrugs Off the News

¶6. (SBU) Garcillano’s return may reflect Malacanang’s
confidence that the “Hello, Garci” audiotape scandal is
essentially behind Arroyo now and that his return will put
the final nail in the coffin of that controversy. (Note:
There have been reports that persons connected to the Arroyo
administration helped Garcillano return to the Philippines.
The Bureau of Immigration has no record of Garcillano
reentering the country, and there is speculation that he
reentered the country by boat from Sabah, Malaysia. End
Note.) However, it also offers the Opposition an opportunity
to reopen the issue, after its impeachment effort was
decisively quashed in the House of Representatives on
September 6 (ref b). The pro-Arroyo camp appears to believe
otherwise: President Arroyo is silent on the issue, Press
Secretary Ignacio Bunye has said that the public is tired of

the controversy, and Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources (and close presidential advisor) Michael Defensor
has called it a “dead issue.”


¶7. (C) Whatever might emerge from Garcillano’s potential
public testimony, Filipinos in general are tired of the
political bickering that has been going on since June and
want to see their politicians focusing on other, more
practical issues like the economy and unemployment (see ref
a). They are hoping that this will put an end to the
controversy, barring any damning testimony by Garcillano. If
the issue is finally laid to rest, it is possible that we
will see a renewed and clearer focus by Arroyo on domestic
reform issues, which should allow us to pursue our bilateral
agenda more effectively.



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