On the taped conversations, the legitimacy of the GMA presidency, and the validity of the laws signed by GMA
The controversy generated by the surfacing of CDs containing taped conversations allegedly between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano has provoked a debate on whether the presidency of Malacañang’s current occupant is legitimate or not. If it is found to be indeed illegitimate, are the laws and executive orders Macapagal-Arroyo signed since assuming office in 2004 then void?
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
The controversy generated by the surfacing of CDs containing taped conversations allegedly between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Commission on Elections (Comelec) official Virgilio Garcillano has provoked a debate on whether the presidency of Malacañang’s current occupant is indeed legitimate.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye had released June 6 two CDs containing audio files of what he said was a taped conversation between the President and a political leader of the administration Lakas-CMD in Mindanao, southern Philippines. One of them, Bunye said, was a version purportedly altered by the opposition to make it appear that Macapagal-Arroyo had cheated in the 2004 presidential election.
Both “original” and “tampered” have portions in which a woman – said to be Macapagal-Arroyo – was asking a man (“Gary” in the “original” version, “Garci” in what Bunye called the tampered version) if she would still win by a million votes. Macapagal-Arroyo won by a million votes over her closest rival, Fernando Poe, Jr.
Days later, lawyer Alan Paguia, counsel for deposed President Joseph Estrada, came out with a longer tape, and after a few days he would be followed by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent Samuel Ong who claimed to possess the “mother of all tapes.” Ong said his source was military intelligence agent T/Sgt. Vidal Doble, who denied this.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales had dismissed the content of the tapes as obtained from wiretapping.
The Anti-Wiretapping Law declares it unlawful for any person, “not being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire or cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication or spoken word by using a device commonly known as a dictaphone or dictagraph or dectaphone or walkie-talkie or tape recorder, or however otherwise described.”
The Department of Justice (DoJ) has been assailed for not investigating the conversation itself. Gonzales has also been criticized for claiming that the tapes were obtained by wiretapping without showing sufficient proof.
Is there need for an investigation to find out whether the contents of the tape were obtained in violation of the Anti-Wiretapping Law?
Which leads to another question. If it is eventually found that Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency by fraudulent means, are all the laws and executive orders she signed rendered void?
Since her assumption of office following a hotly-contested election last year, Maqcapagal-Arroyo has signed a number of controversial laws and executive orders. Among these are the law increasing the coverage of the value-added tax, as well as an executive order pushing for a national identification system.
The new VAT law has been criticized as an added burden to ordinary people who are already weighed down by high prices of commodities and low wages, while the national ID system has been assailed as a violation of the right to privacy and a prelude to a surveilled society.