"The President cheated"

Mon, 08/08/2005 - 00:00
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photo by Raissa Espinosa Robles

A key Cabinet member and presidential adviser says she quit last July after realizing that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo cheated in the elections.

"The President should resign or be impeached," says Vicky Garchitorena, 61, who was a presidential consultant on poverty alleviation and governance and a Cabinet official since Mrs. Arroyo assumed office in 2001.

According to Garchitorena, "when the highest elected official of the land, the leader of the country is heard trying to ask a Comelec (Commission on Elections) official to manipulate election results -- that really strikes a blow at the very heart of democracy."

No other Cabinet member who resigned from Mrs. Arroyo's government has directly accused the President of fixing the elections. Garchitorena is a civil society activist: she was one of the leaders of Kompil II, a group which played a key role in forcing Joseph Estrada out of office. As head of the Ayala Foundation and Managing Director of Ayala Corporation's Stakeholder Relations, she has worked for years for the Zobel group of companies.

When she quit her all her government positions on July 8, Garchitorena did so quietly, without joining the so-called "Hyatt 10" group of resignees who asked Mrs. Arroyo to step down. At that time, recalls Cabinet secretary Ricardo Saludo, Garchitorena "did not say it was because of the tapes (she said) she would like to be able to speak freely on national issues, on public issues. And she felt she could not do that while she was an appointed consultant for the president."

She's speaking now. Garchitorena relates she was abroad when the Garci wiretap scandal first erupted, and only heard bits and pieces of the story through text messages.

"Of course I gave her (the President) the benefit of the doubt. Except, I kept asking friends in government, 'why isn't she saying anything about it?' "

But when she returned to the country and listened to the tapes and read the transcripts, she says she was "shaken."

She tells Hot Manila that "while I'm convinced she (Mrs. Arroyo) won the election, the (wiretap) tapes seemed to indicate she really made arrangements to increase her lead.

"It really sounded exactly like her. We all know how she sounds on the phone, and she really does make calls to people all the time. The conversations were so natural, they weren't speaking in complete sentences. It's hard to manufacture that type of conversation."

Garchitorena says that when she heard the tapes, "I felt I was listening to two people who really understood each other, even if they were not talking in complete sentences, each one knew what the other was saying. It sounded to me like a real collusion or conspiracy to increase her votes."

She compares Mrs. Arroyo to "a graduate student who will pass but who wants to be cum laude -- so she cheats in her exams. Any self respecting educational institution will kick her out. For her to manipulate the election results to increase her lead is still wrong. It is still cheating."

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