September 28, 2005 · Posted in: In the News
TWO military officers today told the Senate defense committee that the Commission on Elections, aided by other top military officials, maneuvered to “slacken” security in Lanao del Sur, leaving the door open to massive cheating in the province in the May 10, 2004 elections.
Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani said he was relieved of his post as Marine brigade commander of Task Force Ranao without justification on May 12, 2004, two days after the elections, and just as the counting of ballots and canvassing of election returns was getting underway. His name was mentioned in a portion of the Hello,Garci tape.
The Senate hearing comes at a time when it seemed the Hello, Garci issue had died down and President Arroyo is going on the offensive, suppressing rallies and taking punitive action against government officials perceived to have turned against her.
Gudani and his subordinate, Lt. Col. Alex Balutan, defied an order from Malacañang preventing military officers from appearing at today’s hearing.
At 1 a.m. today, Gudani said he got word from the AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Generoso Senga, coursed through the superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy, not to appear at the Senate. Gudani is currently the assistant superintendent of the PMA.
Part of the order from the AFP hierarchy said: “Per instruction of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, no officer of the AFP shall appear before the Senate hearing without her approval.”
Balutan told the Senate that Gudani’s relief could not be explained to the soldiers in the field, especially since the officer sent to replace him was someone not from the same service and rank.
Gudani’s replacement was a certain Col. Pirino of the Philippine Army (believed to Col. Gominto Pirino of the 5th Infantry Brigade) who, according to Balutan, told the brigade “to support the administration” and “luwagan namin ang security sa canvassing area (loosen security in the canvassing area).”
Balutan said his commander was relieved “for no apparent reason, for being apolitical, for being impartial.”
In his opening statement at the Senate, Gudani said “for the past few months, my conscience has bothered me” and that he had decided to tell the truth, because it was what the PMA honor code compelled him to do.
“I am here as assistant superintendent of the PMA where we teach the cadets the honor code which says that a cadet does not cheat, does not steal, and does not lie, nor does he tolerate these…I would not have the honor to face the cadets if I didn’t’ tell the truth,” Gudani said.
Gudani also said he was appearing before the Senate in behalf of the Military Christian Fellowship, an organization of born-again Christian soldiers, of which Gudani is president.
In his testimony, Gudani also said that on May 12, he was summoned to Manila by his superior, Marine Commandant Gen. Emmanuel Teodocio, and Navy Flag Officer In Command (FOIC) Admiral Ernesto de Leon. Gudani said he was told to take a break — play golf, go to Boracay — which to him was an “incomprehensible and illogical order” since his presence in the field was needed at that crucial period in the election process.
Gudani returned to Lanao on May 20, much to the chagrin of Garcillano and a certain Gene, believed to be a political operator, as shown by this portion of the Hello, Garci conversation:
Conversation between Gary (V. Garcillano) and Gene on 08 13:25 hotel June ’04
Gene: Boss, nakatanggap ako ng certification ngayon dito galing sa mga bata natin sa Lanao, nag failure na naman pala dahil kay Gudani.
Garcillano: Oo nga eh.
Gene: Putang-ina, sino ba yang Gudani, bakit ganun yun?
Garcillano: Yun ang pinaalis ko.
Gene: Oo nga, ba’t andudoon na naman, papaano ‘to?
Garcillano: Oo nga, bumalik na naman. Kaya nga ayaw makialam si First Gentleman dyan. Sabi ko nga, pinasabihan ko nga kay Ruben Reyes na paalisin na nyo yan.
Gene: Putang-ina, tarantado talaga to.
Garcillano: Oo, pinaalis ko yan eh. Pero after three days after elections, bumalik man dyan. And nag (garbled) dyan si Col.
QuirinoPirino thru Gen. Esperon at tsaka si Gen. Kyamko.
Gene: Eh ano ba gagawin ko, gagawan ko pa ba ng memo ‘to o ipapareschedule, papaano, gagawa ako ng memo sa en banc?
Garcillano: Ipa-reschedule natin.
Gene: Gagawa ako ng ano ha.
Garcillano: Oo para sa commission en banc.
Gudani’s name was mentioned by Garcillano in a conversation he had with President Arroyo on May 28. In that call, Garcillano told the President Gudani was siding with the opposition:
Conversation between a male (believed to be V. Garcillano) and a female (believed to be Pres.Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) on 28 22:13 May 2004
Garcillano: Hello, good evening ma’am.
GMA: Hello, the FPJ camp raw will file a case against the Board of Canvassers of ano, dun sa Marawi, and the military?
Garcillano: Ano ma’am?
GMA: The FPJ camp raw will file a case raw against the Board of Canvassers and the military in Marawi?
Garcillano: Hindi naman ho siguro nila maa-ano yung ating Board of Canvassers, pero ang military,kasi si Gudani, sa kanila si Gudani. I do not know why they will file.
GMA: Oo, oo.
Garcillano: Sa kanila si Gudani ma’am. In fact that’s why we have, I have to work with Gen. Esperon and Gen. Kyamko na at that time, pinalitan namin si Gudani for a while. Kaya kwan, pero bakit nila file-filan yang mga military na sa kanila lahat. Halos ayaw na nga mag-give way sa aming mga tao.
GMA: Oo, meron silang pina … (line cut)
Gudani said the suspicions were unfounded. He surmised that they were associating him with the camp of former presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. because he happened to sit beside Poe, opposition leader Ernesto Maceda and Poe’s running mate Loren Legarda during a plane ride from Mindanao to Manila.
Gudani also testified:
- That it was Garcillano who was giving orders to Provincial Elections Supervisor Rey Sumalipao, although Garcillano was officially the commissioner in charge of Southern Tagalog and Bicol.
- That one or two weeks before the elections, Sumalipao revised plans made well in advance of the elections, changing policies, replacing board of election inspectors, and causing much confusion. Gudani said the moves were made on orders of Garcillano who signed the memos implementing the changes.
- That he had information that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo made two trips to Mindanao via a private helicopter to deliver cartons of cash. Gudani said an informant told him Arroyo carried around P250 million in each of those two trips. The helicopter landed “somewhere in Iligan.” Gudani said he and his informant knew the person who supposedly helped divide the cash and tie them up in bundles.
Asked whether they got orders, received bribes or were persuaded or influenced by any one to manipulate the elections, the two officers admitted receiving bribe offers from local candidates.
Gudani said he was offered P1.2 million by a mayoralty candidate “to protect his votes.” Gudani said, “I politely declined because the Marines don’t do that.”
Balutan was also offered P300,000 also by a mayoralty candidate. He said he reported the offer to his commandant, and said he did not need to protect anyone’s votes because he was already doing that as part of his job.
At the start of the hearing, committee chairman Rodolfo Biazon agreed to the suggestion of Sen. Panfilo Lacson to place both officers “under the legal custody” of the Senate, given the sensitive nature of their testimony, and to prevent reprisal from their superiors who might charge them for going on AWOL.