The Mayuga whitewash
“I think that if you look deep down inside yourself and ask whether you believe officers can be capable of cheating, or if it [cheating] does happen, the answer is yes. There are people among us who allowed themselves to be used. I think everybody knows that. That is a fact.”
That was not an opposition politician accusing the Arroyo administration of fraud. That was Lt. Gen. Rodolfo C. Garcia, presidential adviser on the peace process of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, testifying in 2005 before the five-member investigating panel headed by Vice Adm. Mateo Mayuga, inspector general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Garcia was commander of Task Force Hope which was tasked with helping the Commission on Elections in conducting honest, orderly and peaceful elections in 2004.
Just as blunt was Lt. Col. Victoriano Pimentel who was assigned in Sulu during the 2004 polls. He said no real elections took place in Jolo. He confirmed allegations that the AFP was used to keep some politicians in power and concluded that what came out in the election results “was not really the will of the people.”
Brig. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer also testified that he had been asked by a provincial governor to “loosen” the security in the canvassing of election returns so that the governor’s men could “operate.” He said he received a similar order from his division commander when the election returns from “all precincts” showed actor Fernando Poe Jr. winning over Arroyo.
Garcia, Pimentel and Ferrer were three among the 82 military officers summoned by the Mayuga panel that looked into allegations that some military officers participated in committing fraud during the elections. The investigation was prompted by mention of several military officers in wiretapped conversations in which Arroyo pressed Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to preserve her lead of one million votes over Poe.
But if the testimonies of Garcia and Pimentel appeared to be the most candid and explosive—or precisely because they were so—they were glossed over and consigned to a footnote in the final report of Mayuga and company. Thus while the report recommended further investigation of two colonels accused of campaigning for a gubernatorial candidate and a party-list group as well as a captain accused of offering a P100-million bribe to the chairman of the provincial board of canvassers, it cleared all the top military officers mentioned in the “Hello, Garci” tapes, including Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. The most serious offense the panel found was the “unprofessional conduct” of military men as well as their lack of knowledge of election rules.
After nine months of probing, this was all that Mayuga and company could come up with: a whitewash of a report that the panel as well as the AFP should be ashamed of. No wonder they hurriedly stamped it secret, not only to hide their shameful work but for fear that it might provoke greater public outrage against a president who was under threat of being impeached.
The truth may yet come out as the Department of Justice and the Comelec are set to open a joint inquiry into allegations of fraud during the 2004 and 2007 elections. It is just too bad that by operation of law, no one can be held accountable for any election relation offenses committed in 2004. But at least the people will know how election laws were violated by the very same officials who had the duty to enforce them, and they can demand that reforms be made, beginning with the military organization. Garcia, for one, has identified one big reason why military officers conspire and cooperate with politicians in breaking election laws, and that is a corrupted value system that puts personal ambition before duty, honor and integrity. Military officers, he said, have become so “obsessed” with advancing their careers and achieving their personal goals that they would do anything and everything to get there.
That is true of the military operators who tampered with the votes, and it is also true of Mayuga and the members of his panel who blew their chance to help clean up the military organization and reaffirm old military virtues. But the cheats have a chance at redemption by cooperating in the DOJ-Comelec investigation. Mayuga et al. will have to live with their shame.
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