The Philippine Daily Inquirer has the first of a series looking into the question of questions: what was the origin of the Hello, Garci tapes. Compare its findings with the story as put together thus far by organizations such as the PCIJ and published in magazines such as Newsbreak.
PCIJ, back on June 10, 2005, wrote,
There have been questions as to why the recording is being released now rather than last year, at the height of the controversy over the elections. What we have found out is that the CDs containing the conversations found their way to various opposition members last month. The reason the recording was leaked now, according to Senator Rodolfo Biazon, appeared to be linked to internal feuds within the ISAFP. Some factions within that once-feared military intelligence unit apparently wanted to use the tape as a leverage against the plan of AFP Chief of Staff Efren Abu to clip ISAFPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wings by putting its Military Intelligence Groups under the control of the AFPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s five area commands. Under this setup, the ISAFP chief loses most of his powers, his functions becoming purely administrative rather than operational.
Newsbreak reported the following on July 4, 2005:
The Abu-ISAFP tiff came to a head on the eve of the December 23 burial of Fernando Poe Jr. last year. ISAFP went straight to the President and told her that a destabilization plot was in the works, presenting as evidence wiretapped conversations between dismissed Army Lt. Col. Oscarlito Mapalo and some retired generals. The AFP leadership, however, insisted that the information was groundless.
The President listened to ISAFP, anyway, instructing Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez to issue a statement, warning of a destabilization plot. GonzalezÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s basis was ISAFPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wiretapped telephone conversations among anti-Arroyo people. The government got burned, and thus began ISAFPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decline.
When Danga had to extend his medical leave, the President eventually agreed to replace him. Abu recommended Army Col. Fernando Mesa, with the approval of Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. But the President overruled them and named Quevedo instead (DangaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s personal choice) as the new ISAFP chief.
From what I gather, the above, combined, remain the most widely-accepted theory (actually more than a theory; it just hasn’t been elaborated upon because the journalists digging into the story need further verification without getting either themselves or their sources liquidated). In other words, as with any crime, we have known the motive since June: revenge. Someone within the ambit of the government was angry with the government, and so, hit at the government, perhaps even with the intention of bringing the government down. The mainstream opposition was too incompetent; the outraged middle forces dithered and debated too long; the Palace regrouped and went on a counteroffensive.
The Inquirer also has a story on the Palace reaction to the tapes. According to its account, Panic, confusion, started at the Palace on June 3, 2005. Compare its reportage with other findings according to the PCIJ, and other reports, such as Argee Guevarra’s.
The Inquirer article suggests there were two teams in play:
1. The “Before” Team, the so-called “Wednesday Group,” which did the original crisis management, composed of Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, Rep. Ronaldo Puno of Antipolo city, Tomas Alcantara, Willie Villarama, Pancho Villaraza and the President’s husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo.
2. The “After” Team, handling information, image, and logistics and the counter-offensive: Sec. Michael Defensor and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita (the public spokesmen), Sec. Gabriel Claudio (the coordinator with the House of Representatives), Sec. Rigoberto Tiglao (de facto overall communications director, replacing Silvestre Afable), Rep. Ronaldo Puno (supposedly the “dirty tricks” specialist), Sec. Leandro Mendoza and Sec. Hermogenes Ebdane (“presumably, the sources said, to handle Garcillano and the ‘Hello, Garci’ witnesses”).
Let me just remind my readers that what made me decide the government was up to no good was less the tape(s) themselves, but how the government, including the President, reacted to the tapes. The tapes may remain within the realm of the illegal and unverified, but it is impossible for me to believe there wasn’t a grand cover up, and on that basis alone, it is enough to conclude that the President is unfit for office. The circumstances are strikingly similar to Watergate in the United States, which was more than enough to result in Richard Nixon’s resignation. The behavior of government, since then, leaves no room for the imagination: there will be no limits to what the government will do to stay in power. Read this message from the editor-in-chief of Newsbreak (remember them? They got a funeral wreath for their troubles?).
As for “it’s the economy, stupid,” Ricky Carandang suggests that having pointed out how Finance Secretary Gary Teves was obviously played by the President (and her people), what he predicted has finally come to pass. The Department of Finance says its clearing the decks for a change in policy: from damn the torpedoes, full VAT speed ahead, it’s now, recalculate the budget because VAT just got its wings clipped (and no new taxes to cover the shortfalls).
Oh, and I have a Reviews Blog, for the inner (and outer) Consumer in me.