Sep 222014
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-12-08 07:32
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 005734



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2015


¶B. MANILA 5364
¶C. MANILA 4140
¶D. MANILA 2970
¶E. MANILA 2777

Classified By: Acting Pol/C Joseph L. Novak for Reasons
1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary: Former Commission on Elections (COMELEC)
official Virgilio Garcillano’s House testimony on December 7
did not bring closure to the “Hello Garci” audiotape
controversy involving President Arroyo. Garcillano refused
to comment directly on the audiotapes, but firmly denied
rigging votes in favor of Arroyo during last year’s election.
Garcillano lashed out at the Opposition, saying that
whatever he did in talking to Arroyo during last year’s
election timeframe was similar to what he did with other
politicians. Garcillano is due to attend more hearings
shortly. The continued controversy highlights the need for
serious electoral reform in the Philippines. End Summary.

“Garci” Testifies

¶2. (U) During a nine-hour hearing (with some intermissions)
before a five-committee panel at the House of Representatives
on December 7, former COMELEC Commissioner Garcillano
admitted talking to President Arroyo once during the 2004
presidential election but denied that their conversation had
anything to do with the rigging of votes in Mindanao. (Note:
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. Arroyo
admitted the conversation was “improper.” See refs A, B, D
and E for background. End Note.) He challenged the
authenticity of the tapes and demanded that the originals be
produced for examination. Garcillano, however, refused to
answer specific questions about the wiretapped conversations
and confirm whether it was his voice on the tapes.
Garcillano argued that he could not comment in detail because
he has filed two petitions with the Supreme Court (one
seeking to lift the warrant of arrest issued by Congress
earlier this year for his failure to testify, and another
questioning the admissibility of illegally-obtained audio
recordings in Congressional hearings).

And Stirs the Pot by Naming Names

¶3. (U) Pursuant to recent comments he has made to the press
since emerging from hiding last month, Garcillano claimed
that he also spoke in private meetings or by telephone with
at least 37 legislators and others during the May 2004
election timeframe, including many Opposition notables. The
names included senators (Juan Enrile, Jamby Madrigal, Panfilo
Lacson, Alfredo Lim, Manuel Roxas, and Richard Gordon), as
well as many incumbent congressmen, including Minority Leader
Francis Escudero and his assistant Allan Cayetano. He also
claimed to have spoken with Opposition vice-presidential
candidate Loren Legarda. Some lawmakers quickly denied
having met or talked with Garcillano, while others admitted
having had “chance encounters” with him or discussing
non-poll related issues. For example, Legarda vehemently
denied having discussed electoral matters with Garcillano
during the election.


¶4. (U) The Garcillano hearing received heavy media coverage
and was carried live on broadcast television. Most press
opinion, however, expressed disappointment that the hearing
uncovered little solid new information and failed to bring
closure to the controversy. Malacanang Executive Secretary
Eduardo Ermita declined to comment and said that Arroyo will
remain focused on “pressing national concerns.” The
Opposition, for its part, was on the defensive after
Garcillano’s refusal to implicate Arroyo in alleged electoral
fraud and by his naming of names, including some of their
own. Opposition figures harshly criticized his testimony and
accused him of delivering “a Malacanang-scripted exoneration”
of Arroyo, just as some in the Opposition had claimed he
would do prior to his appearance before the House (see ref A).

More Hearings

¶5. (U) Garcillano’s hearing before the House will continue
on December 13. He is also scheduled to testify on December
14 before the Senate Committee on National Defense.
According to the latter Committee’s Chairman, Senator Rodolfo
Biazon, the Committee is investigating the alleged breach of
national security involved in the wiretapping of the
President’s phone conversations.

¶6. (C) Garcillano’s comments yesterday did not bring closure
to the “Hello Garci” controversy but left it open-ended.
Nonetheless, Malacanang clearly hopes that Garcillano’s
affirmation that Arroyo did not discuss rigging votes with
him will ease attacks on her. Now that Garcillano has also
accused other politicians of speaking with him during last
year’s election, the Opposition may find it harder to single
out Arroyo on this point. That said, the Opposition will
likely continue to accuse Malacanang of a cover-up, though
most Filipinos seem tired of the political bickering. The
controversy, however, highlights the urgent need for
electoral reform in the Philippines in order to strengthen
rule of law and good governance, and thus build up trust in
the political system.

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