MANILA, Philippines — Two opposition senators believe there is more than meets the eye in former Election Commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano’s decision to quickly concede defeat in his congressional bid in the first district of Bukidnon province.
“Either he wants to project that he’s not capable of cheating, which nobody will believe, or some Malacañang wise guys are up to something fishy that needs his full-time attention and hands-on expertise,” reelectionist Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a phone interview.
“In both cases, he had to concede early to be effective.”
In a statement, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said: “Garcillano’s concession of defeat this early is not a sign of sportsmanship but an offer of his availability to work for Team Unity (TU) candidates by means fair or foul, of which he has expertise.”
The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried to get Garcillano’s reaction to Lacson’s and Pimentel’s claims but text messages to him drew no replies.
Garcillano became an indelible part of Philippine election history after the release in 2005 of the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes dealing with his supposed wiretapped phone conversations with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on rigging the results of the 2004 presidential election.
In defense of Garci
Both Ms Arroyo and Garcillano denied they were involved in cheating.
Garcillano’s friend, Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr., who is running for the Senate, Wednesday took the cudgels for the former election official.
“If he cannot cheat for himself, how can he cheat for others? Tama na (Enough already),” Pichay said on the phone.
He called on the opposition to “stop prosecuting” his friend.
“He’s been persecuted too much. Let’s give him a rest. If he really cheated in 2004, he could have won this election by cheating,” Pichay said.
With Garcillano’s defeat in the congressional race in Bukidnon, “the issue of Garci tapes should be laid to rest,” Pichay said. “Let us move forward.”
He added: “Natalo na nga aapakan pa nyo (Don’t kick a man when he’s down). Where is your heart?”
Lacson said the opposition’s poll watchers were training their sights on vulnerable areas during the canvassing, where he claimed switching of election returns, or vote tallies, was likely to take place.
These include the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and areas in Visayas and Mindanao where administration candidates ran unopposed, he said.
“ARMM itself has 2 million votes and it can make a difference between winning and losing for candidates hovering between the 10th and 15th spots,” Lacson said.
“Based on past experiences, the elections there will only start after the counting has taken place. The elections are bid out there per vote for as much as you need to overcome the lead because people there normally leave the national posts blank and fill up only the governor and other local posts.”
Pimentel claimed the “cheating machinery” of the Arroyo administration was now at work in Mindanao.
“I have received information that operators identified with the Comelec (Commission on Elections) arrived in Davao Tuesday. They are farming out to Davao and other Mindanao provinces to cause delay in the canvass of the votes to save TU bets from a massacre,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel has lambasted Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. for his refusal to penalize election supervisors allegedly involved in “dagdag-bawas” (vote-padding and -shaving) operations in the 2004 elections.
Worse, Pimentel said, these poll officials were even promoted.