ONE Comelec lawyer confirmed today talking with Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano about the votes in Talitay town, Maguindanao. (Read previous post, Arroyo and ARMM.)
Wynne Asdala of the law department told PCIJ that he has read the transcript of the three-hour tape but has not heard it.
Asdala, who served as the provincial election supervisor of Maguindanao in the May 10, 2004 elections and who was heard in the controversial recordings twice discussing with Garcillano former Sen. Robert Barbers’ alleged request to raise his votes in Maguidanao and Sultan Kudarat, denied he and Garcillano ever talked about Barbers and the attempt to pad the former senator’s votes.
He said the commissioner had called to ask who was leading in Talitay, but could not remember which candidate the latter was interested in. He also said he could not have intervened in Columbio, a town in Sultan Kudarat. (The provincial election supervisor of Sultan Kudarat was Lintang Bedol.)
Asdala also denied he knows Sultan Kudarat Gov. Pax Mangudadatu, who, together with his son, Rep. Suharto “Teng” Mangudadatu, was mentioned in the tape as supposedly asking him to help Barbers in Talitay. The Mangudadatus have yet to give their side.
Meanwhile, two Comelec personnel from Mindanao informed PCIJ today that the voice of “Boy” resembled that of Renato “Boy” Magbutay, Comelec director for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
Two other Comelec sources based in Manila earlier told PCIJ that they were sure Boy’s voice was that of Renault “Boy” Macarambon, a lawyer detailed at the office of Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and supposedly tasked by the commissioner to closely monitor the ARMM.
In their conversations, Boy and Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano discussed the political opposition’s plan to present election officer Rashma Hali as a witness on the alleged cheating in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, as well as President Arroyo’s concern that a teacher from Languyan, Tawi-Tawi was in the opposition’s “Witness Protection Program.”
Magbutay told PCIJ in a phone interview that said he has not listened to the tape. But he said, “Hindi ako yung nandoon sa (I’m not there in the) alleged tape. It’s not me.”
He also suggested, “Why don’t we wait for the proper agency to determine if it’s the original or altered tape? Malay mo pinagdugtong-dugtong lang yan to make it appear na original (It may have been spliced to make it appear that it’s the original).”
Macarambon did not report for work today, and has not returned our calls despite a request we left with his colleagues.