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Our issue for December 3, 2005

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS

December 3, 2005 Issue

Main Features

1. Cover: Virgilio Garcillano—Hello, Garci, Where Are You?

A supporter of President Arroyo in the House of Representatives leaked to the Philippine Daily Inquirer a draft report by the five House committees that inquired into the Arroyo tapes hoping that the newspaper would highlight the finding that there was a conspiracy to embarrass Mrs. Arroyo. The implication would have been that the congressional investigators cleared Mrs. Arroyo of charges that she rigged last year’s presidential election. But it backfired: the newspaper highlighted Malacañang’s attempt at a cover up. PDP-Laban Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. of Makati says the report does not clear Mrs. Arroyo of the charges just as the September 6 congressional vote that terminated the impeachment process did not clear her of the same charges. The leak has prompted a review of the report, which now needs revision to correct any misimpressions that might have been caused by the premature disclosure. The findings are almost similar to the Free Press’s views at the time of the investigation: there was this tape on which somebody, probably from military intelligence, recorded wiretaps of Mrs. Arroyo’s phone conversations with Virgilio Garcillano; somebody reproduced the tape and leaked copies to disclose the secret of Mrs. Arroyo’s electoral victory—not to embarrass her—to draw charges of fraud or the people to force her out of office; the Palace obtained a reproduction of the tape on CD and, anticipating its being made public, disclosed it but with an accompanying reproduction that Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye claimed was tampered with; but how he knew which reproduction was original and which was fake he failed to make clear to the investigators; all that the administration and its allies did was to discredit the tapes, but the investigators, not having the expertise, were unable to make a determination, although Mrs. Arroyo’s June 27 apology to the nation is a clear admission that the tapes are authentic. The investigation is unfinished. Many questions remain unanswered and not the least of them are: Who bugged Mrs. Arroyo’s telephone? Where is former NBI deputy director Samuel Ong, who claimed he had he mother of all the tapes? Where is Virgilio Garcillano, whose disappearance speaks volumes about the charges against Mrs. Arroyo? The man is the answer to the question of the legitimacy of Mrs. Arroyo’s rule. Does he still live? The Palace insists on closing the book on the Arroyo tapes but the opposition refuses to drop it because the truth must be known. Is Mrs. Arroyo president of the Philippines or is it Fernando Poe Jr.? Wait for the worst, the opposition in the House says. The people hold the final judgment.

By Ricky S. Torre and Wendell Vigilia

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Our issue for November 26, 2005

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS
November 26, 2005 Issue

Main Features

1.Cover: Winners and Losers

President Arroyo wants all newspapers and radio and television stations to be like the Manila Bulletin, the only newspaper in the whole universe that runs such insignificant headlines as “GMA meets Bush at APEC? and “10,000 jobs offered by trade fair.? She wants to manage the news so that only what her administration is doing will make it to the front pages. She doesn’t want news about irregularities in her government, about allegations that she rigged last year’s presidential election, about her Marcosian tactics in dealing with opposition to her rule, about her investigation by the people’s court, about “losers,? meaning the opposition. Imagine the gall of a leader who will say those things at a meeting of television journalists, and pulling reporters at a job fair and telling them to interview businessmen. For that she got a mouthful from both the opposition and her own allies and the press, at least the organizations that will not be dictated to. Mrs. Arroyo has been thinking dangerously since she imposed her rule on the Philippines last year, not unlike Ferdinand Marcos who after saying he was not running for reelection did not only stay but also canceled all elections and all freedoms in 1972 and went on ruling the losers—the Filipino people—until they decided to stop losing and gave him the boot in 1986. Maybe it is true that Mrs. Arroyo has a private army or she will not go on squandering her political capital and rolling back civil rights and liberties. But what can her private army do or the military, if she doesn’t have a private army, do when the people have summed up her sins against them? (Here, review from December 30, 2002 to attack on clergy-led rally on Mendiola.)

By Ricky S. Torre
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Our issue for November 19, 2005

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS
November 19, 2005 Issue

Main Features

1. Cover: Age of Majority (House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles)
By Ricky S. Torre and Wendell Vigilia

2. Sunset Joe
For the first time, House Speaker Jose de Venecia feels threatened. The majority in the House killed a motion to declare all positions vacant, but members of the ruling coalition are meeting in blocs and sharpening their knives and they will surely use those vile blades on him when they get the numbers. While Malacañang wants de Venecia out for insisting that President Arroyo must step down after the Constitution has been amended, the majority in the House feel de Venecia has sinned against them in many ways, not the least of them his frequent absences. He is always in the United Nations, they complain, neglecting his duties as leader of the House. But that is just a minor gripe. His mortal sin is agreeing to slashing the House members’ share of the pork barrel from P70 million each to only P40 million for this year, although all of them also agreed to the cut, sold as they have been to Mrs. Arroyo’s claim of a fiscal crisis in the government. But de Venecia is not following up the releases of funds in Malacañang, appearing to have lost interest in patronage since a shift to the parliamentary system is imminent. Well, that’s what he thinks. The Constitution may be amended, but if Mrs. Arroyo will still be there after the amendment, Filipinos will surely reject the proposed new constitution in the referendum and the presidential system will stay. Will there be pork for the MPs? Now that’s another thing that de Venecia has not made clear to the House members—because he is always in the United Nations. What the hell is he doing there? Why doesn’t he just ask to be appointed ambassador to the United Nations and leave the House to another leader who will mind the store full-time? And there’s the question of the bonuses for the maximum protection the majority gave to Mrs. Arroyo during the impeachment process in September. Where are the bonuses? The rattled de Venecia is trying to stamp out the fire, but he has already shown where his heart is and Malacañang, offended by his talking to foreign correspondents about Mrs. Arroyo not having any choice but to step down in 2007, is not helping him. Lakas Rep. Prospero Pichay of Surigao del Sur is the Palace’s choice for a new speaker. Unless de Venecia finds something in his hat in the next three weeks, he will just be Lakas Rep. Jose de Venecia of Pangasinan, a station not worth anything in the United Nations.
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia
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