How and What If?
On the taped conversations, the legitimacy of the
GMA presidency, and the validity of the laws signed by GMA
generated by the surfacing of CDs containing taped conversations allegedly
between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Election Commissioner
Virgilio Garcillano has provoked a debate on whether the presidency of
Malacañang’s current occupant is legitimate or not. If it is found to be
indeed illegitimate, are the laws and executive orders Macapagal-Arroyo
signed since assuming office in 2004 then void?
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN
generated by the surfacing of CDs containing taped conversations allegedly
between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Commission on Elections (Comelec)
official Virgilio Garcillano has provoked a debate on whether the
presidency of Malacañang’s current occupant is indeed legitimate.
Ignacio Bunye had released June 6 two CDs containing audio files of what
he said was a taped conversation between the President and a political
leader of the administration Lakas-CMD in Mindanao, southern Philippines.
One of them, Bunye said, was a version purportedly altered by the
opposition to make it appear that Macapagal-Arroyo had cheated in the 2004
Both “original” and
“tampered” have portions in which a woman – said to be Macapagal-Arroyo –
was asking a man (“Gary” in the “original” version, “Garci” in what Bunye
called the tampered version) if she would still win by a million votes.
Macapagal-Arroyo won by a million votes over her closest rival, Fernando
Days later, lawyer
Alan Paguia, counsel for deposed President Joseph Estrada, came out with a
longer tape, and after a few days he would be followed by National Bureau
of Investigation (NBI) agent Samuel Ong who claimed to possess the “mother
of all tapes.” Ong said his source was military intelligence agent T/Sgt.
Vidal Doble, who denied this.
Raul Gonzales had dismissed the content of the tapes as obtained from
Law declares it unlawful for any person, “not being authorized by all the
parties to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire or
cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear,
intercept, or record such communication or spoken word by using a device
commonly known as a dictaphone or dictagraph or dectaphone or
walkie-talkie or tape recorder, or however otherwise described.”
The Department of
Justice (DoJ) has been assailed for not investigating the conversation
itself. Gonzales has also been criticized for claiming that the tapes were
obtained by wiretapping without showing sufficient proof.
Is there need for an
investigation to find out whether the contents of the tape were obtained
in violation of the Anti-Wiretapping Law?
Which leads to
another question. If it is eventually found that Macapagal-Arroyo assumed
the presidency by fraudulent means, are all the laws and executive orders
she signed rendered void?
Since her assumption
of office following a hotly-contested election last year, Maqcapagal-Arroyo
has signed a number of controversial laws and executive orders. Among
these are the law increasing the coverage of the value-added tax, as well
as an executive order pushing for a national identification system.
The new VAT law has
been criticized as an added burden to ordinary people who are already
weighed down by high prices of commodities and low wages, while the
national ID system has been assailed as a violation of the right to
privacy and a prelude to a surveilled society.
interviewed lawyer Neri Javier
Colmenares for this article. A convenor of the Pro-People Lawyers’ Network
(PLN) and the Committee for the Defense of Lawyers (Codal), Colmenares
wrote a paper on the country’s party-list law for the book Subverting
the People’s Will: The May 10, 2004 Elections published late last year
by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG). He has done
post-graduate work in law at the University of
Below are excerpts
from the interview:
Secretary Raul Gonzales says the contents of the taped conversation cannot
be used as evidence in court because they were obtained by wiretapping.
However, lawyer Marvic Leonen said in a previous interview that it was
only Secretary Gonzales who said they were obtained through wiretapping
and it still has to be found whether or not they were indeed obtained
In fact, NBI chief
Reynaldo Wycoco, in yesterday’s (June 23) hearing at the House of
Representatives, himself admitted he did not know whether the conversation
was wiretapped. Actually, they have no proof that it was wiretapped except
whistleblower Samuel Ong, who said the tape came from the ISAFP
(Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the
says of Secretary Gonzales that by declaring the tapes to have been
obtained by wiretapping, he admits that there was such a conversation.
What are the elements
of RA 4200? There are three: first, there was a private conversation;
second, it was tapped; and three, there was no consent from all parties.
So when Gonzales said
that the conversation was wiretapped, under RA 4200 he’s admitting to the
Gonzales is rather
stupid. You can quote me on that, Gonzales is rather stupid.
also said that by admitting to the existence of such a conversation,
Secretary Gonzales places upon himself – as justice secretary – the burden
of having to investigate the conversation itself.
You know, that is
what shows the bias of the justice department and the NBI which falls
Look, the tape is
presented to you as a destabilization attempt. It is said to be a
conversation involving President Macapagal-Arroyo. The first thing you’re
going to do is to try to research whether or not it’s true or not.
What did the NBI do?
Did it investigate? It did not.
The moment you prove
that it’s not Macapagal-Arroyo and Garcillano who were caught on tape,
that’s one question answered.
But they did not do
that. What did the NBI do? Nothing. They just declared that the tapes were
In fact the
Department of Justice can be sued for dereliction of duty. There was an
open call from government to investigate a crime of such magnitude, and
you fail to investigate? That is tantamount to dereliction of duty.
Is the current
investigation in Congress a possible venue for determining whether the
contents of the tapes were obtained through wiretapping or not?
There are many
investigation right now is – it’s really all Bunye’s fault – because he
said there are two tapes, one is real and the other is fake, and the fake
one is part of a destabilization plot by the opposition, so Congress
reacted. The opposition in Congress argued that Bunye’s accusation had to
House Minority Leader
Francis Escudero delivered a privilege speech and the matter was referred
to a number of committees and a hearing is now being conducted to find out
whether the accusation is true or not.
Does Congress have
the right to do it? Of course, yes.
the opposition of destabilization, so they called for a congressional
hearing. They have a right to do that.
What is being heard
here is not whether the tapes are authentic, but whether it is true that
the opposition has a destabilization effort against the government.
The problem is,
instead of presenting the tape as evidence, the accusers say the tapes are
inadmissible as they were obtained through wiretapping. What is that? You
accuse and you should show all the evidence you have, but you’re the one
saying the evidence is inadmissible. In the first place your accusation
turns out to be baseless.
There can be other
venues for determining whether the tapes were obtained through
If it is found
out that the contents of the tapes were not at all obtained through
wiretapping, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidency turns out to be
really illegitimate as militant groups and other opposition forces say, do
the laws and executive orders she signed retain their validity?
Yes, they’re valid.
Under the Constitution they are, unless repealed. All laws are valid
unless repealed. We have presidential decrees from Ferdinand Marcos that
remain valid because they were not repealed specifically.
Is it because
they were signed under the presumption that her presidency was legitimate?
Yes. So they remain
valid and Congress has to repeal these.
That’s what sad about
that. She has signed so many bad laws and executive orders and it turns
out she may not have the right to sign these after all.
We just hope that
Congress will repeal the VAT law and others. Bulatlat
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© 2004 Bulatlat
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