August 12, 2005 · Posted in: In the News

The ‘master’ tape

AN audio expert presented by Environment Secretary Michael Defensor at a press conference this morning belittled the three-hour “Hello, Garci” tapes that former National Bureau of Investigation deputy director Samuel Ong had bought from T/Sgt Vidal Doble of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Jim Sarthou said the tapes could not be authentic or the master copy because, he pointed out, these contained annotations.

“He (Sarthou) doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” an ISAFP operative told PCIJ today.

In the world of local intelligence, the “master tape” is the version that has been purged of “basura (garbage)” or irrelevant information and annotated by the agent who did the wiretapping.

Conversations that remain in the “master tape” are continuous. “Hindi inii-splice (No splicing is done),” the source said.

The ISAFP operative said this is the common procedure followed in most agencies engaged in intelligence work, identifying some of these as the Presidential Security Group, National Bureau of Intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Security Group and the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group.

According the intelligence operative, Doble’s unit — the Military Intelligence Group 21 or MIG21 — wiretapped then elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano on orders of the ISAFP top brass who, in turn, had received their orders from the Palace. “No agent moves on his or her own in matters like this without an official order,” he said.

At the MIG21, the wiretapped conversations are recorded on audio cassette tapes by two to three agents working round the clock. The practice is to record everything, include inane conversations, even those about trips to the market.

The agent on duty is required to make notes, particularly the exact time the calls are received or made and, if possible, the parties who are on the phone. “This information is material when you later match the conversations to events that are happening on the ground,” the ISAFP operative said.

“ASAP” assignments include the one on Garcillano. “Tinapay na mainit yan (That’s hot bread),” he said.

This means that once the conversations fill one tape, the agent on duty removes it from the recording device and immediately starts preparing what would later become the “master tape.”

“We call that ‘minamaster,'” the operative sad.

The raw conversations on the first tape are then poised to be transferred to another. “That’s how crude and low-tech the ISAFP still is in doing electronic surveillance,” the source said ruefully.

At this stage, the agent cleans up the tape by removing irrelevant or nonessential items such as the conversation on the trip to the market. While several conversations do get purged, those that remain in what would be the master tape are “buo (whole).”

The agent also retains the ringing tone for incoming phones and the dialing sound for outgoing calls. The latter is important because it helps the intelligence body decode the telephone numbers, the ISAFP operative said.

The agent then annotates the tape, taking great care to time-stamp the conversations.

The source also stressed that conversations in the master tape follow the original chronological sequence.

Conversations recorded in one day could be annotated by several agents because these could take up several tapes, he added.

The ISAFP operative said that access to the room where the wiretapping is being done is restricted only to agents on duty. “We call that the exclusion area. If you’re not on duty, you can’t go in,” he says.

But for those permitted to enter, security is not as tight as most people think it is. Tapes are stored either in boxes or cabinets, with agents on duty having easy access to these. “We’re not a department store; nobody checks bags,” he said. “Everybody trusts each other. Parang pamilya (We’re like a family).”

That explains how easy it was for Doble to retrieve the tapes.

Things, of course, have changed since the “Hello, Garci” tapes were leaked.

33 Responses to The ‘master’ tape



August 12th, 2005 at 5:25 pm

Yvonne, did your source offer any clues about the circumstances surrounding how Doble was able to get the tapes out of ISAFP, apart from the lax security, and why he did so in the first place? Is he/she also in a postition to say whether Doble acted alone or not?

Then, granting the strong likelihood that the wiretaps were done under the Palace’s orders, why were the tapes still preserved months after the 2004 polls? Understandably, the info obtained from these activities were of no use to the Palace anymore at that particular point. Did anyone else have a hand in this? Were the tapped conversations kept intact to be used a bargaining chip of some sort at a later time?


soledad t. tubay

August 12th, 2005 at 6:09 pm

It is intereesting to note that the ISAF operative clearly explained the rudiments of wiretapping and the technical meaning of “master tape.” If Mike D. presented for analysis a copy of a copy or even the original anotated copy, naturally it would be declared not original because it is anotated. I just wonder why he was quick to announce the findings of his expert without evaluating the situation and the circumstances attendant to the production of the tape in his possession. Is his mind crowded by cobwebs that it is so difficult for him to think and see clearly the consequences of their actions? And who is this Jim Sarthou?



August 12th, 2005 at 6:09 pm

o, akala ko ba ipapa-verify yan sa FBI? pwede namang gawin yan ng admin kung gusto nila eh. 😉

US charges d’affaires Joseph Mussommeli said in an ambush interview at the vin d’honneur in Malacañang Saturday that the US is willing to help in examining the tape if the Philippine government asks for assistance. Otherwise, he said, “it is not our business.”



August 12th, 2005 at 6:14 pm

btw, here’s some info on pinoy rocker jim sarthou…



August 12th, 2005 at 6:58 pm

I agree. Just send the complete and I mean the complete 3 hour tape which pcij has, to the FBI. That should settle it. Today’s attempt is quite pathetic.


soledad t. tubay

August 12th, 2005 at 7:00 pm

Ngek! Yun pala si Jim Sarthou. Galit kay Cory and even cursed her. And he is a sound engineer active in recordings of rock bands.



August 12th, 2005 at 7:07 pm

Administration including the die hard fans of Manang Glo which includes Michael Defensor are really working overtime to cover up their Big Boss…who according to Sen Pimentel was indeed morally bancrupt…

As long as they will find new magics,gimmicks and excuses regarding this matter…they would allow our countrymen to be confused about all these circus…

My advice to DENR Sec. Defensor:

With the rotting situation of the Philippine Environment:

You should:

1.Double or triple your time in your department.
2.Assess the degrading environment of the entire Archipelago(Luzon,Visayas and Mindanao). log ban to some areas that are critical.
4.Use your knowledge in protecting the flora and fauna of Mother Nature: not the mother of all scandal…
5.Create a long term plan that is really your platform where people or the youth can remember you in the future just like any landmark, in terms of programs beneficial to the Philippine ecosystem.
6.Look around the polluted sea water,rivers and endangered lakes…
7.Address the eco-tourism and regulate it accordingly.
8.There are a lot of endangered species in the red list…
9.I believed that you can do best and you can be effective more by serving one office at a time…not serving to gods and lesser gods…
10.If you want to concentrate to a different thing…Y not resign?Dont use one of the most important Department as a leverage…


soledad t. tubay

August 12th, 2005 at 7:14 pm

Mike, you are DENR secretary. Spend time in your office. Do your job. Even if there is a new president, if you are great in your job, you will still have it. Look at Ka Noli, take time lang siya. Bakit nga ba?
The animals and the flowers and the birds and the bees need your expertise.


Yvonne Chua

August 12th, 2005 at 7:59 pm


Our source believes Doble did it “para sa bayan at para sa pera (for country and for money).” He has known Doble for more than a decade and feels the bloke hasn’t lost his idealism and patriotism. That, of course, is his take on the whole thing.

How Doble got the tapes out? The source says you’d really be surprised at how lax security is at MIG21. Even when this unit was wiretapping the rightists, the leftists and bandits, he says there were no leaks. So there was no reason to suspect anyone would do a Doble.

Did Doble act alone, meaning his colleagues didn’t know what he was up to? The source thinks so.



August 12th, 2005 at 8:07 pm

Thanks for the info, Yvonne!

Does your source also know if ISAFP is responsible for bugging the phones of Opposition figures and publications like the Tribune and Malaya? Or is that more the lookout of the NBI?



August 12th, 2005 at 8:11 pm

Follow-up: Yvonne, when exactly were the tapes taken out of the ISAFP’s premises?


Yvonne Chua

August 12th, 2005 at 8:40 pm


I didn’t ask the source about the agency(ies) that wiretapped the opposition and the media.

When the tapes were taken out? The source didn’t answer when asked. :(


Duck Vader

August 12th, 2005 at 10:42 pm

Mike Defensor was never qualified to be DENR Secretary. He is there just because of his canine loyalty to GMA. Previously, he was Housing Secretary. This shows he does not have any expertise (and is not willing to accept his own limitations) and just goes where he can earn enough (both illegally and legally) while serving his master.

I have seen and worked with his kind. Public criticism does not matter to him. He serves only one boss and it is not the Filipino. Save your typing. Kung makita nyo na lang, sigawan nyo ng tuta — para at least may konting catharsis. Pero huwag nyo asahan na pwede syang i criticize to do his job as DENR sec. It never really was his goal in going into govt.



August 12th, 2005 at 10:46 pm

Nakarehistro ba si Mike sa PCCI? he he



August 12th, 2005 at 10:52 pm

So lets not forget Doble for being so patriotic and pratical at the same time. 😉

Who says Zuce is the hero of the day? Huh? :)



August 13th, 2005 at 12:21 am

LOL @ juanbagwis



August 13th, 2005 at 12:37 am

from pinoyexchange:

I heard from DZBB, Ping Lacson will have his copy authenticated w/ Dickey too

that would be great. 😀



August 13th, 2005 at 12:51 am

Yeah, I agree.

But Sen. Lacson also has to learn to keep his trap shut. Sobrang madaldal ang hitad!

He shouldn’t telegraph his punches all the time and should be more circumspect with his statements, especially about his allies; lest he be accused of mindlessly discrediting efforts of very decent people like Alan Paguia.



August 13th, 2005 at 4:22 am

mike d and ronnie puno are not doing the jobs the filipino people are paying them for. guinoo.


soledad t. tubay

August 13th, 2005 at 9:28 am

According to Malaya Mike D. has been tapped by Malacañang to be the spokesperson on the tapes. WHy doesn’t Re. Pichay know that? Are these people not in touch with one another? They should put their acts together to be credible.


soledad t. tubay

August 13th, 2005 at 9:34 am

Somewhere in one PCIJ article an ISAFP operative admits the limitations of the equipment and expertise of the organization. What the agents do is just record the converstaions and then the splicing only happens when they anotate to indicate the time and the personas involved. The tapes here at PCIJ are very clear and the analysis here presented also shows there is nothing altered in the 3-hour version. All Paguia did was to select what he considered very telling portions but there was nothing altered as far as the utterances and the voices are concerened. So, what’s the fuss?



August 15th, 2005 at 8:11 am

ISAF says “tomayto”, I say toMAHto.

To a sound engineer, a MASTER tape is either 1. one that has been mixed and mastered, and ready to be replicated, or 2. one that is untouched, sometimes called the “Mother” tape.

So what shall we call the “original” tape of the INTELLIGENCE peoplr – “Grandmother” tape?



August 15th, 2005 at 1:07 pm

i find that funny — jimsband!

i’m not an audio expert — just an audiophile. and i do understand the terms used. and you’re right, jim.

rock on!



August 16th, 2005 at 12:29 pm

I love music.

I collect mp3’s.

I make cd compilations of my favotite artists.

How does one know his favorite artist is really the one singing?

If I edit my own compilation and ANNOTATE each song, does that change the content?

Is Elvis alive or dead?

All funny questions, huh?



August 18th, 2005 at 5:24 pm

Duck Vader,
what’s your basis for saying Mike isn’t qualified to be a DENR sec? He seems to be doing a good job.



August 18th, 2005 at 5:30 pm

Duck Vader, what’s your basis for saying Mike isn’t qualified to be DENR sec? he seems to be doing a good job.



August 18th, 2005 at 5:31 pm

whatever happened to sammy ong? drawing lang ba yun?



August 18th, 2005 at 5:34 pm


Lacson is discrediting himself. hindi makapaghintay ng 2010. baka daw laos na siya noon.



August 18th, 2005 at 5:35 pm

Kung drawing lang si Sammy Ong, eh di napakalaking drawing pala ng mga pulis na gustong “sumundo” sa kanya.



August 18th, 2005 at 5:38 pm

Ok lang naman kung malaos na siya by 2010 – weder weder lang yan. That means sikat pa rin siya ngayon.

Di tulad ng iba diyan kagaya ni Gloria, ni minsan, kahit sa kabilang buhay sa impiyerno, di siya sisikat – parating second rate, trying hard, copycat.



August 19th, 2005 at 2:29 pm

si mike defensor? asus…lalu lang lalala ang kondisyon ng environment natin. Ano maaasahan natin ke mike–wala, nothing, nonche, nada, ang gapo, etc..

alam mo mike kung me malasakit ka sa bayan, sana wala ng illegal logging sa Bicol, Nueva Ecija, at marami pang lugar sa Visayas, Mindanao.

ang mga scientists nagbigay na ng warning kamakailan na ang underground water is depleting while the ground is shrinking. ilang lang ito sa mga problema sa kalikasan, hindi pa kasama dito ang air, noise and iba pg klaseng polusyon sa Pilipinas.

sa tabi lang ng malakanyang polluted pa rin ang pasig river. sana mike, asikasuhin mo na lang ang problema sa kalikasan–sana lang.

sabagay kaya wala kang malasakit sa prolema ng kalikasan kasi “politcal accomodation” ka lang, di ba? kahit masakit man sabihin, pero yuon ang totoo. pero kung environmentalist ang iniluklok ni gloring sa DENR baka sakaling maisaayos ang mga problema.

ang daming problema mike, pero mukhang wala ka ng inatupag kundi ang pagsasalinis ng pangalan ng amo mo. sira na ang pangalan ng mga arroyo at pati pangalan ng macapagal nasira na rin dahil ke gloring.

biruin mo ang linis ng pangalan ng ama, minsan lang sinira ni gloring dahil sa ambisyon at kasakiman ng mga arroyo. kawawa naman talaga ang bayan kong ginigiliw. dahil linapastangan ng walang awa ng mga arroyo at patuloy na nilalapastangan.

O, bayan kong Pilipinas bakit ka hinalay?

O Bayan kong Giliw kailan kita makikitang magniningning?

Datapwa’t ako pa rin ay umaasa…


INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » Garci’s fashion (and other) statements

November 29th, 2005 at 8:52 pm

[…] A plausible explanation for these anomalies is that the three-hour "Hello, Garci" CDs released to the media by former National Bureau of Investigation official Samuel Ong in June was made from what intelligence officers call the "master tape," which was in turn put together from a series of recordings. As explained in this blog in August, the normal procedure followed by MIG-21, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) unit that supposedly tapped Garcillano, is to record wiretapped phone conversations on audio casettes. The time, date and other information on each conversation are noted down by the intelligence operative on duty. […]


INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » Wiretap central

December 13th, 2005 at 6:39 pm

[…] MIG 21, these intelligence sources say, has a log book where the agent on duty records the time, date, the name of the caller if it can be identified, the number calling and the number called. As previously reported in this blog, whenever a tape is filled, the agent then removes it from the recording device and immediately starts preparing what would later become the "master tape." […]

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