Manila: Former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano has finally emerged from hiding and admitted speaking to President Gloria Arroyo during last year's election, but he denied fudging votes in favour of the leader.
"The President was asking why her advantage over FPJ [Fernando Poe Jr] had been reduced to 892,000. That was on May 24. We are talking of the votes already counted, so how can we rig the elections?" Garcillano said in an exclusive interview aired by television station ABS-CBN network yesterday.
Garcillano said he was forced to steer clear of the public eye because he fears for his safety.
He said he has been receiving intimidating phone calls and text messages since allegedly wiretapped conversations of him and Arroyo were made public.
In that wire-tapped conversation, commonly referred to in the Philippines as the "Garci" recordings, the former member of the elections body received instructions from the President to rig the results of the 2004 presidential elections where she ran against Poe, a film star hugely popular with the masses.
Garcillano was quoted in the ABS-CBN interview as saying he is willing to appear before the House of Representatives Committee conducting an inquiry into the Garci recordings.
"Yes, in fact just to erase that thinking that we talked about rigging, I swear that there was no such thing as rigging the last elections," Garcillano said.
Garcillano had gone into hiding after the House panel conducting an inquiry into the Garci tapes threatened him with arrest and had put up a 1 million peso ($18,181) prize for his capture.
Meanwhile, Garcillano's lawyer Eddie Tamondong said they need formal notification that the arrest warrant issued against him is lifted before the official says what he knows about the controversial recordings.
Last Thursday, Garcillano filed a petition before the Supreme Court, seeking to stop the implementation of the warrant of arrest against him.
A guide for whistle-blowers
Fed up with exposés that fall short of pinning down wrongdoers, the government graft prosecutor, the Office of the Ombudsman, said it is preparing a manual that will serve as a guide for "whistle-blowers" or those willing to testify against persons involved in corruption.
Maria Victoria Roberto, of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, told participants in a recent seminar in Camarines Norte province that the manual will contain whistle-blowing strategies and cultural perceptions of exposing graft and corruption.
"We are just starting the task of providing the guidelines on whistle- blowing and tipping information regarding graft and corruption because we have no formative rules on it even though there are already initiatives in the Congress to pass a legislation on whistle-blowing," Roberto said.
With inputs from Roy Pellovello