Bombs Explode in Manila as Garci Clears Arroyo of Poll Fraud Raps
by Manuel L. Quezon III
Manila, 8 December 2005 — Gunmen yesterday strafed a building and three improvised bombs were exploded in separate places in the national capital as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s alleged accomplice in rigging the 2004 elections testified in Congress and cleared her of any wrongdoing.
Police said the first attack targeted the LTA Building in Manila’s financial district of Makati, which houses the offices of Arroyo’s scandal-tainted husband, lawyer Jose Miguel.
Bullets shattered glass windows and damaged the facade of the building when gunmen opened fire as they drove by before dawn, said Metro Manila’s police chief, Director Vidal Querol.
Hours later, an improvised bomb exploded outside the house of Rep. Ronaldo Puno — a staunch ally of the Arroyos — in suburban Quezon City.
Two other blasts were reported elsewhere in what police said was more of a political statement and not intended to maim or kill anyone.
A group of disgruntled soldiers calling itself “Enlightened Warriors” claimed responsibility for the strafing of the LTA building, according to a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“This attack symbolizes the widespread frustration and anger among AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) soldiery against the illegitimate and corrupt administration of Gloria Arroyo,” the Inquirer quoted an e-mailed statement by the group.
The group targeted the LTA building because it is the “corporate and corruption headquarters of the Arroyos.”
The group is reportedly composed of “officers and men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who vow to serve God, country and fellow Filipinos.”
“We have just begun,” the Inquirer quoted The Enlightened Warrior as saying. The group would openly declare their break from the military, which it called the “illegitimate chain of command” at the proper time.
At the House of Representatives, Virgilio Garcillano, the former election official accused of aiding and abetting alleged poll fraud by President Arroyo, cleared the president of wrongdoing, as the opposition had expected, even as he admitted that the president called him up once when the counting of votes was going on.
Garcillano said he saw nothing irregular about the call, adding that several other politicians, including opposition members, also called or met him during the election period in 2004.
He also emphasized that he was not the election official Arroyo referred to when she apologized to the nation for making the controversial call.
Garcillano was summoned by five House committees looking into the wiretapping controversy, in which the military’s intelligence service allegedly bugged Garcillano’s phone and caught him and the president discussing how to ensure her victory.
In June, President Arroyo apologized for a “lapse in judgment” when she called an election official, which she did not name, while the election results were being canvassed.
She denied cheating but admitted that her calling the official was improper.
Arroyo won by over a million votes ahead of her closest rival, Fernando Poe Jr., an immensely popular actor who died later last year from a severe stroke.
Asked yesterday if he was the election official the president had referred to in her “I’m sorry speech,” Garcillano said it was only the president who could answer that question.
“I’m not accepting that I was the one she (president) was referring to (in her speech),” Garcillano said.
“In fact, I am not agreeable to the statement that she (Arroyo) was sorry for calling anyone among officials of the Commission on Elections. There is nothing wrong for anyone of you or any government official to call up any official of the Comelec as long as he will not demand something, which is irregular,” he said.
He went on to name those who also supposedly called him during the election. His list included then vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda, opposition Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, then a presidential candidate; and senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ma. Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, Alfredo Lim, Richard Gordon, and Manuel Roxas III.
From the House of Representatives were Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Roilo Golez, Clavel Martinez, Benasing Macarambon, Danilo Suarez and Rafael Nantes, Anthony Miranda, Eduardo Zialcita, Silverio Lorna, Munir Arbison, Bobbit Carlos, Ernie Clarete, Representative Jurdin Jesus Romualdo, Arnulfo Fuentebella, Ma. Amelita Villarosa, and Suharto Mangudadatu.
Garcillano also named lawyer Liwayway Vinzons-Chato, counsel of anti-Arroyo whistle-blower Samuel Ong and Pasig Mayor Vicente “Enteng” Eusebio as among his callers.
Ong, a former deputy director of the National Bureau of Investigation, claimrf to have the “mother of all tapes” linking President Arroyo and Garcillano to poll fraud.
Garcillano said he did not want to talk about the “Hello Garci” tapes during the hearing because he did not want to preempt the Supreme Court, which he had earlier petitioned to question the legality of the audio recordings.
“To show my good faith in coming over here, I will talk on all matters outside the wiretapped conversation,” he said.
“I don’t have to convince the public about the accusations against me. I will leave and ask you to speak for yourself,” he added, referring to those whom he identified as having talked to him.
Not Accusing Anyone
After revealing his list, Garcillano clarified that he was not accusing these legislators of any irregularity by calling or meeting him. “I did not accuse anyone. I just want you to say what you told me during those days when you called me up or when you asked meetings with me,” he said.
The former official also said that he went into hiding because he was more “fearful” of the administration.
“Before at (the) initial stage, I was more fearful of the administration because they probably don’t know what I’d’ like to say and I don’t like to be (held) hostage and be forced to say something against my will,” he said. “Later on, I was more fearful of the arrest order issued (by the House) plus the one million (bounty) put over (my) head.”
Garcillano was testifying at the House for the first time since going into hiding five months ago after he and the president were implicated in cheating in the May 2004 election. The tapes have spawned a political crisis that is threatening to topple the Arroyo administration.
In a 5-page affidavit he submitted to the joint investigating committees, Garcillano insisted that he never had any personal discussions or phone conversations with candidates, “much less the president,” on the subject of manipulating or influencing the results of the 2004 polls.
“It was impossible to do so given the commission’s safeguards implemented to prevent the same,” he said.
Garcillano also denied a portion on the tapes of his alleged conversation with the president wherein the president was supposedly asking if she could get a one million lead against Poe.
“I cannot accept that conversation,” he said. “Ang sinabi pakitingin lang kung bakit ang abante e more than one million na bakit naging 892,000 lang (What she said was why her more than one million advantage was reduced to 892,000)? But that’s already after the election when almost all the results have already been sent to the Senate,” Garcillano said.
Aside from that lone call by Arroyo, Garcillano said he could not remember any other incident wherein he and the president had talked.
“There ‘s only one instance that she called me up,” he said. He did not elaborate.
Asked if he was the male voice on the wiretapped audio recordings that talked to a female voice that the president admitted was hers, Garcillano said he could not be certain until he got the original copy of the tapes. (Additional input from Inquirer News Service & agencies)