Poe: Punish high-tech fraud or repeat 'Hello Garci'
MANILA, Philippines – “It’s often said that Filipinos are too forgiving – that we have short-term memories. How many of us still remember ‘Hello Garci?’”
Senator Grace Poe marked the 10th year after the so-called “Hello Garci” controversy by vowing to push for measures that will prevent a repeat of the 2004 scandal that allegedly cheated her late father, action star Fernando Poe Jr (FPJ), of the presidency.
In an emotional privilege speech complemented by a film presentation she voiced and an FPJ music video, Poe recounted the “dark time in our nation’s history, the 2004 presidential elections.”
Beyond her personal sentiments, Poe devoted a lengthy part of her speech to outline measures that will stop what she called a “manufactured mandate.” She said she will file bills creating new penalties for computer-aided, technology-driven election offenses.
“We need to prevent ‘high-tech’ election fraud from once again making a mockery of our electoral system,” said Poe on Wednesday, May 28.
The neophyte senator’s speech was about the 2004 wiretap scandal where disgraced poll commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was caught taking orders from a woman who sounded like then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the height of the canvassing of election results also in 2004.
Poe said she filed a resolution urging the Senate to look into amending the Anti-Wiretapping Law to include election fraud as one of the crimes for which a court can legally authorize a wiretap.
Another measure she is eyeing is having the prescriptive period for election offenses increased from 5 to 10 years.
“As we have seen, almost none of the ‘Garci Boys’ or those mentioned in the 'Hello Garci' tapes have spent a day in jail simply because they enjoyed protection from the powers-that-be. The President is also immune from suit for the duration of his or her 6-year term, thus no charges can be filed against Mrs Arroyo for her complicity in the 2004 election fraud until her term ended in 2010.” (READ: Hello, Garci? Perjury charges set)
The senator is also pushing for the passage of the whistleblowers protection bill and a review of election laws to factor in the “implications of information technology, innovations and hardware on such election offenses.”
The surprise frontrunner in the 2013 polls, Poe said she owed her victory to her father. “I know that I won in the 2013 elections precisely because people remember FPJ and the great injustice Mrs Arroyo committed against the voters.”
‘What happened to Garci Boys, whistleblowers?’
Poe pointed out that 10 years since the controversy, those who took part in the cheating eluded punishment, while those who helped expose it did not seem to be rewarded.
“Almost all those who were involved in the 'Hello Garci' tapes have not been charged to date, much less spent a single night in jail, except perhaps Lintang Bidol. Worse, some of those involved are still in government today. Whatever happened to these individuals who figured in the 'Hello Garci' Scandal:
- Benjamin Abalos, Sr
- Virgilio Garcillano
- Lintang Bedol
- Rey Sumalipao
- Ignacio 'Toting' Bunye"
Poe also asked, “On the other hand, whatever happened to these courageous individuals who risked life, family, comfort and career to speak the truth:
- General Francisco Gudani (ret.) Head of Task Force Lanao unceremoniously replaced
- Sergeant Vidal Doble (ISAFP agent who leaked the Garci tapes)
- Michaelangelo Zuce (Garci’s nephew who testified about the pay-offs he made)
- Abdullah Daligdig (NAMFREL official who exposed COC discrepancies in ARMM)
- Sammy Ong (NBI deputy director who exposed the ‘Garci Tapes’ to media; charged with sedition by GMA; died 24 May 2009).”
Poe said justice remains elusive even if there was “real, clear, hard evidence” to prove that there was cheating in 2004.
“Allow me to pay tribute not just to my father but to the millions of Filipinos who waited long hours under the heat and rain, who made the long journey just to cast their votes, sometimes under dangerous conditions, and those who came out to defend the truth even in the most trying times,” Poe said.
Jinggoy: Some senators did not support FPJ
Following Poe’s speech, Senators Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Jinggoy Estrada took to the podium to support her and pay tribute to her father.
Legarda was FPJ’s running mate under the opposition banner in 2004 but both of them lost.
Estrada though injected politics into the discussion. He said Cayetano supported Arroyo.
Poe responded, “What is important to me is see the mistake. Not everyone is perfect, right? There are many here who supported the previous administration. But what’s important is to change heart to what is right from what is wrong.”
Estrada was not contented. He asked, “Are there senators here, who after the Garci issue came out, did not support FPJ and still believed and continued supporting GMA?”
When Poe said she could not remember any one, Estrada said, “Mayroon!” (There is.)
Poe told him to just whisper the names to her later but Estrada backed down. "Kayo na po ang bahala kung sino iyon." (It's up to you who those are.)
Estrada and his partymates in the opposition have criticized administration allies who were initially aligned with Arroyo only to become her staunch critics. The senator’s father, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, was the best friend of FPJ. (READ: Erap blasts Drilon, LP for Arroyo ties)
In 2013, Poe chose to join the administration coalition of President Benigno Aquino III instead of running under the opposition slate. – Rappler.com