The following is a chronology of events on the allegedly wiretapped conversations between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. The author presented this at the forum titled “Gloriagate Tapes: What the Public Should Know” last June 24 at the University of the Philippines Faculty Center.
By DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
June 6: In a press conference last June 6, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye tells reporters about two compact disc (CD) copies of allegedly taped conversations between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano about an attempt to cheat in the 2004 elections. He claims that the opposition plans to release it and then say that the U.S. is involved in a plot to oust Arroyo.
June 7: In a news briefing, Bunye plays to Palace reporters the two CDs. Meanwhile, opposition lawyer Alan Paguia releases two tapes which he claims to have received on May 15. The tapes are said to be authentic and included conversations involving the President, her husband Mike Arroyo, Garcillano and former Sen. Robert Barbers. He does a voice-over annotation on the tape. Garcillano denies that his was the voice on the tape. For his part, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Reynaldo Wycoco says that based on an analysis of the bureau’s sound engineers, the two CDs released by Bunye are not authentic and that the male voices belonged to different persons.
June 8: Bunye says that it was the President’s voice on the tapes. At the same time, Edgar Ruado, chief of staff of Rep. Iggy Arroyo, says that the male voice in the allegedly wiretapped conversation sounded like his. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales warns that those who have copies of the CDs, and those airing or publishing the contents are liable under the Anti-Wiretapping Act. On the same day, Brig. Gen. Marlou Quevedo is relieved as chief of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) but Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita says that this had nothing to do with the wiretapping controversy.
June 9: Bunye says that he committed a mistake when he identified the female voice on the tapes as belonging to the President. Justice Secretary Gonzales then orders the NBI to go after media organizations that violated the Anti-Wiretapping Act. He singles out inq7.net which uploaded the allegedly wiretapped conversations. The military is put on red alert status amid reports about plots to oust the President.
June 10: Former NBI Deputy Director Samuel Ong presents to the media the “mother of all tapes,” saying that there are three other master tapes which are “equally explosive.” Accompanied by opposition leaders, he calls on the President to resign and seeks protection from the Catholic Church. Ong says that if the ISAFP were to conduct an inventory of its files, the said office will find out that the four tapes are missing. Rear Adm. Tirso Danga, ISAFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence, denies this stressing that wiretapping is not the ISAFP’s job.
Ong is given refuge at the San Carlos Seminary in Mandaluyong though church leaders clarified that they are not taking his side. US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Joseph Mussomeli says that Washington still supports the President.
June 11: The National Telecommunications Commission issues a press release reminding radio and television stations, “especially all broadcasters, to be careful and circumspect in the handling of news reportage, coverages (sic) of current affairs and discussion of public issues.” The NTC also warns that if the tapes are found to be “false and/or fraudulent…the broadcast/airing of such false information and/or willful misrepresentation shall be just cause for the suspension, revocation and/or cancellation of the licenses or authorizations issued to (the concerned radio and television companies).”
On the same day, Sen. Panfilo Lacson says that the Alan Paguia tapes are genuine, based on a commissioned research conducted by Dr. Brian Lovell of Uniquest Pty Limited, a private forensic voice analysis and identification company based in Queensland, Australia.
June 13: Former Sen. Francisco Tatad says that according to findings of the New Jersey-based Voice Identification Inc., the voices in the allegedly wiretapped conversation belonged to President Arroyo and Garcillano.
At the same time, T/Sgt. Vidal Doble of the ISAFP disputes claims by Ong that he was the source of the allegedly wiretapped conversation. He says that he does not know the contents of the audio recording. According to a news report, Doble – who was allegedly held against his will at the San Carlos Seminary – says that he was simply asked to read a statement about government irregularities. He claims that he was offered P2 million ($35,855.14, based on an exchange rate of P55.78 per US dollar) just to admit being the source of the controversial tapes.