MANILA - Former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and others involved in the so-called “Hello, Garci” scandal can no longer be held accountable for the 2004 poll cheating because the five-year prescription period for the filing of cases had already lapsed, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes said on Monday.
“We cannot go after them because it has already prescribed (under the law),” Brillantes said, referring to Section 267 of the Omnibus Election Code, which states that “election offenses shall prescribe after five years from the date of their commission.”
The scandal stemmed from the release of a wiretapped conversation allegedly between Garcillano and then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo about a plot to rig the results of the 2004 elections in her favor.
Brillantes also said there were varying views on when possible election cases against Arroyo had prescribed.
He said some believe the prescription period lapsed in 2009 or five years after the fraud was committed while others opined the cases prescribed in 2010, or five years after the cheating was discovered.
Others think the cases will expire next year, or five years after Arroyo stepped down from office in 2010.
Aside from Garcillano and Arroyo, several others were implicated in the controversy and have come to be known as the “Garci boys.” These include military and Comelec officials.
The electoral cheating was investigated by Congress but this did not lead to the filing of cases against anyone suspected of involvement in the fraud.
Brillantes said that while nothing — it seems – could be done anymore to hold anyone to account for the 2004 poll cheating, the Comelec is keen on pursuing cases involving the manipulation of election results in Maguindanao in 2007.
He added the Comelec had already filed electoral sabotage cases against Arroyo and former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol.
Brillantes also stressed that the Comelec is not keen on pursuing cases against Arroyo due to legal and procedural issues.
He said some documents on the 2004 elections got lost when an old Comelec building was destroyed by fire in 2007.