MANILA, June 24, 2005
(MALAYA) Environment Secretary Michael Defensor said only President Arroyo can decide when is the proper time for her to speak on the "Hello Garci" tapes. Defensor, in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel, said: Let us leave that to the President…I don’t think she should be baited." He said "there are legal personalities looking at it right now," referring to the legal implications of the President speaking on the controversy. Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Defensor has been tapped to speak on the wiretapped conversations because the issue is related to the elections. Defensor was spokesman of the administration coalition during the 2004 elections. He said Arroyo, in the meantime, should continue with her job of governing the country while the studies were being made. He reiterated that Arroyo won the 2004 elections fair and square and that although there may have been attempts to cheat, "there was no large-scale or massive cheating."

He said the minority is not being denied of its right to file an impeachment complaint against Arroyo, although "everybody knows the CDs are inadmissible as evidence." Defensor said Sen. Panfilo Lacson did not say anything new during yesterday’s launch of the Be Not Afraid movement because he had been showing documents of alleged fraud during the canvassing of votes. He said government will not arrest those who are giving away or selling CD-versions of the wiretapped conversations allegedly between Arroyo and Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano but they should respect the Office of the President. "I also would like to admonish our people and to appeal to them huwag naman nating babuyin yung OP. Huwag na yung si GMA as a person but as a President. Let’s not malign and ridicule the OP by doing that," he said.

Defensor also took exception to Lacson’s statement that Malacañang was keeping Garcillano under custody. "Ano pang delikado e lumabas na nga ang gusto nilang lumabas? And it is not in our interest to have him silenced. Wala sa amin iyan. Definitely, we are not keeping him and he is free to come out. I think the only reason he is not coming out is also he would like at the proper time to react on the case," he said.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Lacson and his allies should take their electoral protests in the proper forum. Asked whether Malacañang is afraid of the Be Not Afraid movement, he said: "Sabi nga sa iyo ‘Be not afraid,’ e di huwag kang matakot."

Presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio questioned Lacson’s timing and choice of forum and said the opposition has "no excuse" for their omission. "They have all the copies of election returns and they were supposed to have the certificates of canvass,’ he said

Break silence now, Ping tells Gloria, Rallies opposition behind ‘Be Not Afraid’ movement (MALAYA) BY JOAN DAIRO

SEN. Panfilo Lacson, joined by other opposition leaders, yesterday called on President Arroyo to break her silence now as he launched a people’s campaign to establish the truth behind the alleged wiretapped conversations between Arroyo and Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

"To Mrs. Arroyo, speaking for the Filipino people, whom you and I have sworn to serve, whose interest you and I have sworn to uphold at all times, over and above self and family, a final advice: Break your silence. Not at a self-appointed time.

But now," Lacson said during the launching of the "Be Not Afraid" movement at the Manila Hotel. Lacson said he has no doubt that the voices in the tapes are that of Arroyo and Garcillano. Lacson said Be Not Afraid will put up centers in key cities nationwide where the public could get hold of CD copies of the recorded conversations. He dared law enforcers to stop distribution of the CDs. "Subukan nila," he said. Lacson said the "Hello Garci" conversations proved that a plot involving the use of 30,000 fraudulent election returns to pad Arroyo’s votes was carried out. He showed samples of the fake elections returns, adding that four boxes containing similar documents are now in the possession of a "man of cloth" and which would be presented to the public soon.

Lacson was joined in the launching of Be Not Afraid by House minority leader Francis Escuder, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay who was the 2004 campaign manager of the late Fernando Poe Jr., Makati Rep. Butz Aquino, San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora and Angelito Banayo, among other opposition leaders. This was the first time that Lacson was joined by leaders identified with Poe.

Organizers of Be Not Afraid said the movement is intended as a rallying point for all groups and sectors that have had enough of Arroyo’s cheating, inept governance and corruption. Also seen at the launching were business analyst Peter Wallace as observer and Betsy Quisumbing of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce, former Deputy Ombudsman Abelardo Aportadera, Edsa 1 mover Ramon Pedrosa, retired Generals Renato Paredes, Raul Urgello, Jose Dalumpines, Manuel Sinambayon, Rodolfo Diaz and Victor Batac, and Col. Luis Cruz.

Lacson said the time for Arroyo to speak out is "not when your spin masters and propagandists say the worst has blown over, but now."

"Now, before every man, woman and child in this long-suffering country conclude that their worst fears are the terrible truth. Not when they begin charging into the citadels of your power and sweep away all the institutions of our fragile democracy along with their fury," he said.

"Let’s not play deaf to the truth. I have heard enough press conferences, enough speeches, enough SONAs from Mrs. Arroyo to make a conclusion: The voice caught on tape giving instructions to ‘Garci’ to doctor the election is, unquestionably, indisputably, undeniably, obviously, clearly and definitely is Gloria Macapagal Arroyo," he said.

"Tiyak yun!" Lacson said.

Lacson said Be Not Afraid seeks to "educate or inform our people about the confusion brought about by deliberate attempt of this administration to deceive and shy away from the truth, about the true story of the massive cheating in the last May 2004 elections."

"Not so many among our countrymen have heard the conversation between the President and Virgilio Garcillano, between Jose Miguel Arroyo and Virgilio Garcillano, between Sen. (Robert) Barbers and Virgilio Garcillano, among others, who participated in the tape as recorded in the taped conversations," he added.

"The time for passivity and indifference is over. Truth cannot be hid forever by the silence of one person, even if that person is the highest official of the land. And every citizen of this benighted republic has the right, nay the duty, to ferret out the truth, to demand the truth, to uphold the truth."

Lacson said the movement does not aim to inflame the people’s outrage. "No, we are not trying to add to the anger of the people. We are not trying to anger the people. We just want them to know the truth. And one way of knowing the truth is by listening to the CDs and finding out how the results of the elections were rigged," he said.

Lacson said the Comelec requested the printing of extra copies of election returns. More of the extra copies landed in Arroyo bailiwicks Cebu, Iloilo, Pampanga and Las Piñas in Manila. "Imagine having access to 30,000 forms of election returns. That can easily translate to as many as six million votes!" Lacson said.

"The election returns hide a thousand secrets. Thousands and thousands of election secrets! Candidates usually focus their attention on the certificates of canvass or COC. But somebody figured out that if we tamper with the COCs, it might be easy to detect such changes. So why not begin with the ‘manufacturing’ of the ERs?" he said.

COCs are totals at the provincial level; ERs at the town level. Lacson said the fraudulent ERs were mixed with genuine forms, "of course with a little help from election officers who were part of the grand conspiracy to cheat the elections."

This was the reason, he said, former Rep. Raul Gonzalez who is now Arroyo’s justice secretary, and Senate majority leader Francis Pangilinan persistently blocked moves for the canvassers to open the ballot boxes containing the ERs. He said the fraudulent ERs were characterized by a) printed page numbers but stamped serial numbers, b) the box for the thumb marks had the microscopic name of the printer, c) the thumb marks seemed to be those of babies or kittens and d) the tallies of votes were too neat and orderly and many were prepared by the same hand.

Renato de Villa, a key Edsa 2 player and former executive secretary of Arroyo, also joined calls for Arroyo to end her silence on the tapes. "This is an issue that cannot be just forgotten or just set aside. Worse, this is an issue that cannot be swept under the rug because what is involved here is a moral issue. This has something to do with the mandate of the President to become the President of the Philippines."

De Villa, who recently returned from a six-week stay abroad, also denied participation in attempts to destabilize the government as alleged by military intelligence agent T/Sgt. Vidal Doble who claimed he was coerced by former NBI deputy director Samuel Ong into saying he was the source of the "mother" of all wiretapped tapes. – With Victor Reyes

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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