One ranking officer said the Garci tapes were real. Another said he was told to slacken security so that a governor can maneuver against the lead of FPJ. Stil another believes that the temporary transfer of a brigade commander was intended to help partisan officials to maipulate the poll results in a province.
The summary of interviews conducted by the AFP fact-finding panel regarding the conduct of the military in relation to the fraud-tainted 2004 polls will show that several ranking officers believed that there was indeed election fraud in Mindanao. These were some of the crucial angles that were not pursued and instead covered up by the AFP probers in the Mayuga report.
The interviews reveal a divided and corrupted AFP. Several ranking officers testified about bribery, electioneering and other actions that undermined the 2004 polls. These should have been the basis for a thorough investigation into the conduct and criminal liability of some officials. However, the AFP leadership during GMA’s term chose to look the other way and cover up these incidents.
In a way, it is not surprising that the Arroyo government hid this report from the public. The summary of interviews provides a glimpse into how the AFP operated during the fraud-tainted 2004 polls. It shows how traditional partisan politics corrupted the officers at different levels.
The information on fraud is contained in the 65-page summary of interviews attached to the main Mayuga report. Among the interesting observations by ranking officials are the ones made by Lt. Gen Rodolfo Garcia who headed the AFP Task Force on Honest Orderly and Peaceful Elections (HOPE).
Garcia said that feedback from ground commanders indicated pressure from senior officers and that some officers were involved in partisan politics. Regarding the involvement of AFP officials as heard from the “Garci” tapes, he told investigators “that is true and you better accept it at this point in time. We all know it. Whether you deny it to yourself or not, we have to accept it that our officers have been involved in this.”
Garcia asked his investigators to “look deep inside and ask yourself… whether these things happen” and told them that “the answer is yes”. “There are people among us who have allowed themselves to be used. I think everybody knows that.” Garcia added.
As to what motivates officers to engage in fraud, Garcia cited personal interest, personal ambition and careerism. “You will do everything because you are obsessed where your career will go,” Garcia explained.
Garcia challenged the fact-finding panel to do its job and make the right recommendations, saying that “if we do not do anything now, this organization will go to the dogs and politics will not be stopped”. He asked the AFP Inspector General to “be brave” even if some members of the military were beneficiaries of the 2004 election fraud.
Garcia believed that the funding for TF HOPE should be looked into because “it was a big amount of money and I don’t think what was spent really came close to the amount given us.” Some P197 million was reportedly earmarked for TF HOPE in 2004.
It bears empahsis that no less than the officer who headed Task Force HOPE was saying that fraud may have happened and that the contents of the Garci wiretaps were real. The Mayuga panel should have pursued this lead yet there is no mention of this in the recommendations.
Other officers interviewed gave their own observations about fraud.
Lt. Col. Roland Villanueva who was commander of the 26th IB said that there was money offered by local candidates and that the “COMELEC can count votes even (if) ballot boxes are not yet opened.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan said he received verbal instructions for Col. Giomendo Pirino to “support the administration and slacken security in canvassing areas”. He said he did not follow the instructions. He told the panel that he would rather “go to the mountains” than allow his Marine Battalion to be used in fraud.
Then B/Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, commander of the 103rd Brigade assigned in Mindanao said that he received a phone call from a governor complaining that security was too tight, that they could not maneuver (“hindi makagalaw”) and that “FPJ was winning in practically in all precincts”. Ferrer said that he received instructions from his Division Commander to loosen security as requested by the governor.
This crucial testimony shows that there were maneuvers being done because FPJ was winning and that the AFP was in some way complicit in these maneuvers. Again the Mayuga report apparently ignored this and looked the other way instead of deepening its probe.
Ferrer would later on be appointed Martial Law admnistrator for Maguindanao after the Amapatuan massacre in 2009. Was this just coincidence? Or was Ferrer also tasked to clean up whatever damning evidence Amapatuan may have left behind that would implicate GMA in the 2004 poll fraud?
Lt. Col. Elmer Logronio of the Marines had a “strong feeling that the elections were manipulated at the higher levels and that the removal of his Brigade Cmdr B/Gen. Francisco Gudani, is an indication,” according to the summary.
There is reason to believe that Gen. Gudani was relieved because he was not a known supporter of GMA and that the operators could not do their magic in his area. This is confirmed in the Garci tapes and by actual events when Gudani was called to Manila during the canvassing of votes.
Logronio also said that that his battalion conducted a conference to hear a presentation apparently in support of partylist ANAD. One officer, Army Col. Rey Ardo was going around different units in Mindanao campaigning for ANAD not just among soldiers but also among civilian officials. This confirms our long-held view that the ANAD partylist is a government supported group.
Captain Valentino Lopez, the aide of Virgilio Garcillano at the time of the 2004 elections, said that his assignment to the Comelec commissioner was an “internal arrangement” not covered by any actual orders. Lopez was accused by Comelec lawyer Helen Flore of attempting to bribe her with P50 million then P100 million. However, the summary of the interviews did not show the Mayuga panel pursuing this lead.
Based on Flores interview, she accused Capt. Lopez of offering a bribe to help a mayoralty candidate and to “remedy the big lead of FPJ in favor of GMA”.
This should have already triggered a full investigation because Lopez is the aide and nephew of Garcillano and the latter was the central figure along with GMA in the Hello Garci tapes. Yet the Mayuga panel didn’t seem to raise these questions in their interview with Lopez.
Lopez should definitely be summoned by the DOJ-Comelec investigating panel. NEWSBREAK earlier tagged him a the possible “missing link” who could bolster the testimony of another witness, Michaelangelo Zuce.
Airforce Col. Rene Pilapil of the TOG in Tawi-Tawi said that there was a request made for the landing of two helicopters by an alleged lawyer of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. Unfortunately, the circumstances and purpose of this visit was not elaborated on by the Mayuga panel.
The most incredulous interview may have been given by then M/Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. According to the summary of interviews, Esperon “boasted that the elections in 2004 was very clean” and that “credit should go to the AFP and PNP for doing their best to have more honest, orderly and peaceful elections.” Two years later, Esperon would be appointed by GMA as AFP Chief of Staff. ###