Saturday, May 05, 2007


The following are excerpts from a Wikipedia article about the ‘Hello GARCI Controversy’ that rocked our country recently. The controversy has not yet been resolved.

From the Wikipedia:


The scandal involves incumbent president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who allegedly rigged the 2004 national election in her favor. The official results of that election gave Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Noli de Castro the presidency and vice-presidency, respectively. Hundreds of national and local positions were also contested during this election. The scandal and crisis began in June 2005 when audio recordings of a phone call conversation between President Arroyo and then COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano allegedly talking about the rigging of the 2004 national election results, were released to the public. This escalated, when the minority of the lower house of Congress attempted to impeach Arroyo. This was blocked by Arroyo's coalition in September 2005. No trial has taken place thus far.
Samuel Ong, a former deputy director of the country's National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), declared in a June 10 press conference that he possessed original recordings of a
wiretapped conversation between Arroyo and an official of the Commission on Elections, who was alleged to be Virgilio Garcillano. In the following weeks, the media analyzed contents of the tapes. The Ong recordings allegedly proved that Arroyo rigged the 2004 national election to maintain her presidency and the political success of her allies. Arroyo denied the accusations of election rigging in a television broadcast on June 27, but acknowledged that it was her voice on the tape. [3]Protests occurred frequently during the crisis either in favor or against Arroyo and her administration. Attempts to impeach Arroyo failed on September 6.
During the scandal, various polls and surveys conducted by
Social Weather Stations, CNN/Time, and Pulse Asia measured public opinion regarding the allegations and other related issues.
According to a CNN/Time poll, 57.5 percent of the people surveyed said that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should not finish her term.
[4]. A Pulse Asia survey released on Philippine news on July 12 showed that 57% of the people wanted incumbent president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign from office.
Social Weather Stations or SWS June 28-30, 2005 Metro Manila poll results yielded that 59% say GMA told the Comelec official to cheat and 84% support full airing of tapes. In the same survey, President Arroyo received a rather poor net trust rating of -31 while the COMELEC's net trust rating was -27. [5]
According to the SWS July 12-14, 2005 Metro Manila Poll: GMA should resign, say 62%; or else she should be impeached, say 85%. President Arroyo's net trust rating was still poor at -33. [6] Incidentally, President Arroyo's net trust rating has stayed low (negative) since then.

Ong recordings

Two recordings were presented to the public: the Ong recordings and the government endorsed version of the recordings. Uncut copies of the Ong recordings managed to become widespread. The first recordings to be released to the press were used in the Congressional inquiry on the crisis. The second set of recordings, described by the government as the original, was more easily accessible in the Philippines as the government did not restrict the media from airing it. However, the media aired both sets, focusing on the Ong recordings.
Shortly after the scandal broke,
Randy David, a nonpartisan columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, cited two excerpts from the Ong recording in an article. Sheila Coronel, of the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism, was able to decipher some of the garbled parts of the tape, which allegedly implicated Arroyo in the scandal. David analyzed the tapes using ethnomethodology and came to the same conclusions as did Coronel. His analysis described one of the speakers as a female coming across as a person speaking to her subordinate. Later, Arroyo acknowledged that it was her voice on the recording. However, no trial took place regarding Arroyo's intentions with her conversations in the recordings. According to Philippine law, both recordings are part of the public domain and are freely distributable.
In his editorial on June 12, 2005 for the
Philippine Daily Inquirer [8], Randy David said,
"On the surface it does look like an innocent exchange. The key word here is "nagco-correspond"-a gloss that refers to the practice of fixing canvass results at, say, the provincial level so that they are not at variance with precinct election returns or statement of votes for municipalities. The other gloss is the question "Kumpleto?" This is not a harmless inquiry. Given the kind of response it elicits, it is an urgent demand to make sure the doctoring is done with care".
David described Arroyo's subordinate as a "man...not in the business of counting votes; he produces them."
Sheila Coronel, described not only electoral fraud, but also the involvement of the independent watchdog group Namfrel. In her analysis, Coronel alleged that corruption was clearly evident.
[9] She also commented on the garbled portions of the tape, which were digitally enhanced for clarity. [10]. Allegedly, Arroyo whispered "Yung dagdag, yung dagdag" ("The addition, the addition"), implying fraud and mentioned Namfrel's sympathy for her. In her blog, she said,
"The conversations, after all, provide damning proof that Garcillano was, in the words of a Comelec official, “the plotter for electoral fraud, the overall supervisor and commander in chief” of the manipulation of the count in favor of the administration. The recording points to systemic and institutional fraud perpetrated by the Comelec. Does this mean that the President, by confirming her phone calls to the commissioner, also provided, albeit indirectly, a virtual confirmation of the fraud?"

Other evidence

After the Ong allegations surfaced, many others also claimed to have evidence of cheating by the Arroyo administration; however some of those facing the additional allegations have not been given opportunity to provide solid evidence. Rashma Hali, an electoral official from Basilan, who can claims that Arroyo is related to a kidnapping operation. Michael Zuce claimed that he was present in an incident where Arroyo allegedly bribed officials from the Commission on Elections. Retired general Francisco Gudani claimed that he can prove military involvement in Arroyo's alleged acts of electoral fraud. Roberto Verzola, leader of the Philippine Greens and an IT expert, also claimed that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo cheated and the citizens' election watchdog, National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) was also involved. Jay Carizo, from the Institute for Popular Democracy, developed the election cheating indicators. Other sources claimed fraud in several other government positions, as well as the murder of political opponents by incumbents. There were also eyewitness claims as well. Loren Legarda-Leviste also claimed that she had evidence of being cheated by Noli de Castro also won the vice presidency, in 2004.

Accountability and legitimacy

The evidence carried with it great consequences. The Ong tape were neutrally authenticated by foreign companies Uniquest (Australia) and Voice Identification (United States). Also, Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, as well as the president herself, acknowledged that it was indeed Arroyo's voice. The protesting public insisted that the tapes and CDs proved electoral fraud, and that Arroyo cheated and rigged the 2004 elections. A sizable number of people wanted the results of the 2004 elections to be made invalid. The Supreme Court withheld judgment on the matter, refraining from actions toward invalidating the election. The administration said the Ong recordings were inadmissible in court, since the audio was taped without consent.
Initially, there were two possible outcomes for the government; Arroyo could have either resigned or be ousted through a constitutionally accepted process. These actions could only take place after addressing the current state of the faulty electoral system. The other outcome was for Arroyo to be cleared of any wrong doing. Neither outcome occurred, and hence no final course of action was taken to resolve Arroyo's legitimacy or to prevent electoral fraud. Those unrealized possible outcomes could have resolved definitely the legitimacy issue, and could have made Arroyo accountable for any wrongdoing. However, Philippine law and the country's flawed electoral rules complicate the
legitimacy and accountability problem. The law only mentions impeachment followed with a conviction as a possible way of removing certain serving legitimate government officials. The law however is unclear on how to prosecute and convict the sitting official if illegitimacy is the problem, due to allegations of vote rigging. Conrado de Quiros, a strong advocate of electoral reforms, argues that a special presidential election must be done in coinciding with midterm elections to resolve legitimacy. [2]
"It is not enough that the elections next year [2007 midterm elections] be turned into a referendum on Arroyo, it is imperative that the elections next year be turned into an occasion to vote for a real president."
"At the very least, a loud and universal call for special presidential elections next year will let it be known that we are serious about doing something about screwing the voters. No, more than that, about the deceitfulness and lying that are spreading everywhere in this country faster than karaoke. In the end, none of the safeguards against cheating will matter if there is no public vigilance against the threat and no outrage against the commission."
Whether the special presidential elections occurs or not, a significant number of incumbent politicians who are allied with administration and who were elected during the tainted
2004 elections may be deposed by voter backlash in the upcoming 2007 midterm elections, assuming the election to be free and fair. The electorate would use the upcoming election as a referendum on accountability and legitimacy for Arroyo and her political supporters. All of the seats of Arroyo's supporters in the House of Representatives, half of the Senate, and all local government positions are to be contested. De Quiros also describes this contest as a contest of "democracy vs. the cheaters". [3]

Electoral system

The Philippines, according to experts, has a reputation for having political issues based on patronage politics and personality politics. To some experts, what is unique about the crisis is that it addresses the greater issue of electoral fraud and an allegedly faulty election system that allows cheaters to win and get away with it. This is manifested in a humorous local saying that, "There are two types of people in elections. Those who win and those who get cheated out of office." Politically outspoken student groups mention that this is rather new for Philippine politics, and shows a gradual development of the voting public, the electorate.
According to pundits, the past 60 years of the Philippine history already has a reputation of electoral fraud, proven or otherwise. It is just that no one ever gets caught or punished. Analysts assert that the people have always been desensitized to their politicians cheating during elections. Accordingly, people generally doubt their leaders' mandates. The people are often suspicious of the winners, especially in close poll results, but do nothing. Constituents generally allow their leaders, assuming proven acts of cheating, to get away with it until the scandal erupted. Roberto Verzola supports punishing candidates guilty of fraud as the first step for electoral reforms. He said that, "the system can be slow or fast but there will still be cheating unless you punish the cheats."
[4] The reforms sought for the electoral system are still clouded with uncertainty._______________WIKIPEDIA

The Filipino people, through the various sectors of the Philippine society, must truly ensure that the coming political election will be the true expression of the general will of the Filipino nation. The Philippines should have electoral reforms in and upon its own political system. The democratic institutions in the Philippines have to be revitalized. And the Philippine Comelec should do something…………….

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