Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 20      June 26 - July 2, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Tracking `Gloriagate’ Scandal: The First Two Weeks

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. 


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.  

Garcillano’s appointment as Comelec Commissioner is bypassed by the Commission on Appointments and the President decides not to reappoint him. Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos promises to investigate Garcillano’s alleged involvement in attempts to tamper the 2004 presidential election results. 

June 15: The NBI charges Ong with inciting to sedition. Justice Secretary Gonzales says that this is just the first of several cases to be filed against him. 

June 16: News reports show that the allegedly wiretapped conversation on CD was being sold for P5 ($0.09) each. At the same time, a ring tone saved on MP3 is also made available for downloading. A “Hello, Garci (i.e., Garcillano’s nickname)” car horn is later developed and used by militant transport groups. Various text jokes related to the issue also spread and these were even quoted by the media. 

Still remaining mum on the issue of the allegedly wiretapped conversation, President Arroyo says that her political opponents are going too far. She says, “No one shall block the path of the presidency, not even my irresponsible detractors who wish to set back our gains and reverse our engine of growth and development.” At the same time, the military and police order the lowering of the red alert level raised on June 9. According to the Philippine National Police (PNP), the peace and order situation in the country is back to normal. For its part, the NBI warns that those who own bootleg CDs of the allegedly wiretapped conversation could be imprisoned for violating the Anti-Wiretapping Act. The same day ousted President Joseph Estrada offers himself as head of a civilian junta which is proposed to replace the current government. 

June 17: Laarni Enriquez is dragged into the allegedly wiretapped conversation with the PNP, quoting Doble’s affidavit, saying that she provided the P2 million ($35,855.14) paid to Doble by Ong two months before the latter announced possession of the mother of all tapes. Enriquez denies the accusation, claiming that she is a victim of politicking. 

June 19: National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales says that the administration has already identified the people behind the destabilization plot and that charges are being readied against them. Justice Secretary Gonzales, for his part, tags some opposition personalities from the left, right and the moderate as the ones funding moves for the ouster of President Arroyo. He adds that these people have been spending millions of pesos to finance all efforts to discredit the President. 

June 20: President Arroyo flies to Hong Kong for a one-day working visit. While there, she says that she will give her comment on the allegedly wiretapped conversation at the proper time, amid mounting calls from various sectors for her to either confirm or deny if the female voice on the tapes is indeed hers. She insists that she won the 2004 elections without fraud. At this point, Garcillano makes himself scarce and there are claims from Tatad that he, accompanied by wife Grace and escorted by Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, left Cagayan de Oro in the afternoon of June 18 on a private plane bound for Kota Kinabalu, where he was expected to take a connecting flight to the United States. Ebdane denied Tatad’s allegation. Grace Garcillano also said that her husband is in the country. Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez also says that there is no official record that Garcillano has left the country, not even through the southern backdoor. However, an anonymous airport security officer at Lumbia airport in Cagayan de Oro City is quoted by the media on June 22 as saying that he saw Garcillano leave aboard a private Learjet at around 4 p.m. on June 18.  

Also on June 20, NBI agents raid Always Graphic and Printing Service, a printing press in Quezon City, that was allegedly producing posters depicting the President as a fictional villain resembling the Greek mythological creature Medusa.  

June 21: Five committees of the House of Representatives begin their inquiry into the allegedly wiretapped conversation with Bunye and Wycoco as resource persons. Under oath, Bunye repeats his earlier statement that he is not sure if the female voice really belongs to the President. The House sends letters of invitation to the President, the First Gentleman, Garcillano, Ruado and former senator Robert Barbers. 

June 22: Hadji Abdullah Dalidig, head of the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) chapter in Lanao del Sur sreveals that he discovered dagdag-bawas (vote-shaving and vote-padding) operations in at least five towns in the province which gave the President around 20,000 votes in the May 2004 election. He adds that the allegedly wiretapped conversation proved that there was indeed cheating. On the same day, two lawyers – Romeo Igot (president, Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Manila chapter) and Ariel Joseph Arias (president, University of the East Law Alumni Association) – charges retired Maj. Gen. Fortunato Abat, former Budget Secretary Salvador Enriquez and several others of inciting to sedition for their alleged call to overthrow the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. The two lawyers stress that Malacañang had nothing to do with their action. 

June 23: President Macapagal-Arroyo brands those who want her ousted as “economic saboteurs.” She repeats her claim of having the people’s mandate. 

June 24: A national day of protest is held. Organized by various opposition groups, media reports show that more than 30,000 people participated in this mass action in Metro Manila alone. Bulatlat




© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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