Ghosts of 'Garci' scam haunt Noynoy

By Ces-Oreña Drilon, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 10 2010 01:47 AM | Updated as of May 10 2010 09:57 AM

Ghosts of 'Garci' scam haunt Noynoy 1
Sen. Benigno Aquino III and and eldest sister Ballsy's family on eve of May 10 elections at the Aquino Center in Tarlac City. (Ces Oreña Drilon)

MANILA, Philippines - Presidential frontrunner and Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III attended Mass with his family on Sunday to pray for a peaceful and fraud-free election on Monday.

In an interview, Aquino said he took a break on Sunday after a grueling campaign that started after he announced his presidential bid in September last year. He told ABS-CBN that it was the first time that he slept for 6 hours after the official campaign period started in February.

Aquino - a consistent frontrunner in pre-election surveys on the presidential race - expressed hopes that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be true to its promise to announce the vote results in 36 hours.

He added, however, that questions left by the "Hello, Garci" wiretapping scandal in 2005 continue to cast doubt on the country's election process.

"The issues of the Garci scandal have yet to be resolved and they have a direct impact today. Was there election cheating then? It's been 6 years without answers. How can we be complacent, that everything will run smoothly when there are problems with the automation everyday?" he said in Filipino.

He added: "I hope Comelec is just overconfident and there is no sinister plot behind it. Again, why should transition of administrations be such a  tension-filled event as opposed to being a  common day occurrence  in a mature democracy? This points the way to us that the next elections should not be like this."

The "Hello, Garci" scam involved the release of recorded wiretapped conversations of Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano allegedly discussing a plot to rig the 2004 presidential election. It sparked the worst political crisis ever in the Arroyo administration and culminated in several failed impeachment attempts against President Arroyo.

Members of the Aquino family and close friends attended a private Mass at the Aquino center in Tarlac City Sunday.

In his homily, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas talked about the road taken by members of the Aquino clan, including Aquino's possible electoral win.

“You are already our president. We’re just asking for the confirmation of our country. You’re our president. Its just sad that your mom wouldn’t be there to attend your  oathtaking as president. That’s how life goes. Because if your mom were alive, you would not realize that you're our candidate. Same way that if your father [late former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.] were alive, you have not realized that your mom [late president Corazon Aquino] is destined to be our president,” said Villegas, who has close ties with the Aquino clan.

The priest also had a one-on-one session with Aquino to discuss matters of governance.

“Ang gospel is about peace, tatlong bagay - peace is 'bigay', peace is grace, 'pagbibigayan' is sharing, pakikibagay is relationships. Leadership is precisely that, it is a grace from God.  Second, leadership is 'pagbibigayan' first and foremost a call to sacrifice, and a leader with good relationships, he should unite,” Villegas told Aquino.

Aquino said it was too soon to judge the Comelec and said he hopes that despite the dire events in the runup to the May 10 polls, the people’s will would still triumph.

He added, however, that Comelec officials could face impeachment if they fail to do their duty on Election Day.

“Marami tayong abogado, may checks and balances in terms of impeachment which will include people in Comelec pag naputanayan na may nagkulang dito. Dapat naman ay may managot," he said.