Well, the tension may have went down a notch, but we probably haven't seen the last of the Gloriagate scandal. In fact, this could simply be the calm before the storm. This Independence Day weekend has proven somewhat tumultuous, starting out with former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Deputy Director Samuel Ong claiming to have "the mother-of-all-tapes," allegedly indisputable evidence that Pres. Arroyo stole victory in last year's elections from actor and political rival Fernando Poe Jr. It didn't seem to have the desired effect though, as Pres. Arroyo is still determined to ride out this controversy and continue performing her duties. The opposition on the other hand, has had mixed reactions, with some openly seeking Pres. Arroyo's resignation, while some, like Ms. Susan Roces, Fernando Poe Jr.'s widow, giving a somewhat lukewarm reaction to this alleged revelation.
Then there's the recent development about T/Sgt. Vidal Doble, who according to Atty. Ong, is the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) agent who is actually the source of the recordings. This was belied was Sgt. Doble's wife, who claims that her husband was merely an unwilling participant and also a victim in this issue, and even appealled to authorities to secure his freedom from the San Carlos Seminary. But was he really a hostage to begin with?
Who's right in all of these? While I may have my own personal beliefs and political inclinations, legally speaking, we seem to be at an impasse. Apparently Filipinos are already tired to death of popular uprisings, and we may soon bear witness to a legal war in the offing. However which way these issues are addressed, there are still a plethora of questions which may, or may not be answered with absolute finality in the days to come. Among them:
Is the taped conversation between Pres. Arroyo and Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano the real thing?
The jury's still out on this one, though popular opinion seems to be inclined to believe in the authenticity of the wiretapped conversations. Presidential Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye at the start impliedly admitted its authenticity, only claiming it to be "spliced." Since then, he has corrected himself, claiming to be uncertain whether it is really Pres. Arroyo's voice or not. The recordings have been supposedly authenticated by third parties from Australia and the United States, but these authentications were done at the behest of opposition figures, particularly Sen. Panfilo Lacson and former Sen. Francisco Tatad. Pres. Arroyo herself has remained mum on the issue, but inexplicably, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has prohibited the airing by media of these tapes, and orders were even issued to file charges against anyone in possession of a copy. All of these efforts for a supposedly fake recording? And shouldn't Press Secretary Bunye be charged as well?
Does it matter if the recording is spliced or not?
It shouldn't, shouldn't it? Isn't it already illegal for a Presidential candidate to communicate with any COMELEC official before the conclusion of any election?
What motivated Atty. Samuel Ong to come out with his "expose'?"
Some say he is just bitter and trying to get back at the Arroyo administration for being bypassed for the NBI's top post in favor of an outsider, current NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco. Some on the other hand, say he's a hero for coming out with the truth. Or perhaps a little bit of both?
What is the role of T/Sgt. Vidal Doble?
No one knows for sure. Atty. Ong claims he is the ISAFP agent who is the source of the tapes. Bishop Teodoro Bacani claims Sgt. Doble wasn't held against his will in the San Carlos Seminary. Atty. Liwayway Vinzons-Chato, Atty. Ong's lawyer, in a radio interview said that Sgt. Doble arrived at the San Carlos Seminary three hours before Atty. Ong. Then why was the wife claiming that her husband was being held against his will? Is it because it was actually Doble's family which was being held hostage? Now, Sgt. Doble is under "military control" (whatever that means) but he hasn't said a word yet on his level of participation in all of this, now that he is supposedly "free," and even before when he was with Atty. Ong. It seems no one really wants him to speak. Except the public.
One things for sure. Sgt. Doble is a very key figure in this issue, and being the alleged source of the recordings, he is in a position to actually confirm their authenticity. Is he a patriot? A willing accomplice? A destabilizer? A hostage victim, or a patsy, a pawn in this drama? Hopefully the truth will come out.
Why did Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo go on leave?
Depending on whom you ask, the reasons would would range from "delicadeza," as a sincere attempt to avoid influencing the investigation of his alleged involvement in the receipt of jueteng payoffs, to "a sure sign of guilt." So which is it?
In the long run, wouldn't it be a better idea just to play the controversial recordings for everyone to hear and judge for themeselves? Unfortunately, its not that simple. The recordings are (arguably) inadmissible as evidence in a court of law. And besides, as a government of laws and not of men, due process must be observed. We should avoid being embroiled in a trial by publicity, a trial of public opinion, though we seem to be inexorably inching towards it.
Ang gulo hindi ba? Antabayan na lang natin ang susunod na kabanata...
For a primer on the Anti-Wire Tapping Act, Inciting to Sedition, Presidential Succession, and other relevant legal topics, check out the ongoing blog lectures of my erudite blogger-lawyer friend Punzi on Punzi's Corner Blog.
Arroyo dared: Break your silence on tapes
Play it, verify it