Calling a spade
Business World, 1 December 2011


Senator Koko Pimentel, if the news reports are accurate, has not allowed the four-year delay of his proclamation as a senator to embitter him, much less to get in the way of his legal ethics. He is quoted as saying that there is as yet no solid evidence that Gloria Arroyo was involved in the Maguindanao election cheating, for which she has been formally charged with “electoral sabotage,” a capital offense which must necessarily carry with it the penalty of life imprisonment.

Koko was referring to what had been revealed at the last two joint Senate committee hearings (blue ribbon and electoral reforms, including the testimony of a new witness, one Ahmad Mamucao, described as a working consultant (whatever that is), and acting Maguindanao information officer under Governor Andal Ampatuan.

What a difference between Koko’s assessment and that of the Comelec, which almost literally stumbled over itself filing those formal charges — on the basis, after all is said and done, only of the eyewitness testimony of Norie Unas, the Maguindanao provincial administrator and allegedly the right hand of the former governor. Unas, who has been implicated in the Maguindano massacre as being the clean-up man (with the back-hoe plan), is considered a credible witness by Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes — himself once upon a time an election lawyer of the Ampatuans.

If one reads the testimony of Mamucao, his only reference to Gloria Arroyo was that a campaign meeting in Malacanang, just before the 2007 elections, to which he had accompanied Unas, she “ordered that the result should be 12-0” — which on the face of it means almost nothing (in my one-and-only attempt at electoral office, the phrase “make sure we will win 12-0” is routinely mouthed, nobody really pays attention to it). Mamucao himself said that “she (meaning GMA) did not give direct instructions for us to cheat,” and that he did not sense anything illegal about it. A routine order, a routine promise.

Now hark back to the original news story that broke out on Oct. 3 (a scoop, apparently of former Vice President Noli de Castro). Unas described it thus: “It was a routine campaign meeting. Masaya. Halos lahat nagko-commit ng 12-0” (Happy. Almost everyone committing to 12-0).

Unas then asserts that after the meeting, the President talked to Andal Sr. “sa isang sulok,” and that’s when Unas overheard her order Andal that results in Maguindano should be 12-0, even if it should involve fixing or changing the results.

That’s it, folks. That’s the testimony that has gotten Gloria Arroyo arrested and facing life imprisonment — that “links” her directly to the electoral fraud in Mindanao. So let’s focus on that assertion, and judge for ourselves if Unas’s story is credible.

Put yourself in his place. You are in Malacañang Palace, a lowly provincial administrator. The President takes your boss off to a corner, presumably for a tete-a-tete. You think you would have the guts to follow them to the corner or at a close enough distance so you can overhear their discussion? Please.

Now put yourself in GMA’s place. Having been burned very badly by the “Hello Garci” scandal, do you think you would give an order like that within hearing distance of anyone? Even in the Garcillano tapes, where she was the one running for office, her conversation was circumspect. You think that in an election where her future was not at stake, she would give such a crude order, with someone lurking close by? Come on.

The subsequent events that Unas describes — the visit of Gov. Ampatuan to Mike Arroyo’s office — has to be pure hearsay except for the fact that he accompanied Ampatuan to the building. He obviously was not invited into the inner sanctum, and what he reports is what Ampatuan told him.

And again to hear Unas say it in the interview, Andal Ampatuan manipulated the elections in his province because “hindi maka-hindi sa mag-asawang Arroyo,” and used Comelec provincial supervisor Lintang Bedol to do the dirty. Toto Mangudadatu has a different view: he accuses Unas, who is related to Ampatuan’s first wife, of doing the dirty in the elections himself — not just waiting for Bedol to do it.

By the way, when Unas’ story first came out, his being used as a witness against Arroyo was hotly contested by the relatives of the Maguindanao victims and lawyer Nena Santos, because, as noted above, Unas, according to them, was in charge of the clean-up job (involving the back-hoe) after the massacre. It is therefore not unreasonable to ask what kind of deal he may have made with the government in exchange for his “eyewitness” testimony against Arroyo.

The Mamucao story is as devoid of any direct link with Arroyo as the Unas version. It is very interesting, as he talks in great detail about driving hither and yon on orders of one Bong Serrano, who he describes as a Lakas (political party) employee since 1998. Mamucao’s story implicates Migs Zubiri through his descriptions of his destinations (with a lot of Zubiri campaign posters) and his meetings with a Zubiri cousin (which Migs has hotly denied — he has no first cousin of that name). All very interesting — but nothing that can be pinned on Gloria Arroyo.

And yet there lies Gloria Arroyo, arrested, with everyone clamoring for “justice.” Justice, forsooth. The lynch mob kind, caught in a frenzy of hate. For shame.