MANILA, Philippines- Commission on Elections’ (COMELEC) chairman Sixto Brillantes announced on Tuesday that the people behind the 2004 Hello Garci scandal case will no longer be held liable for electoral fraud as the case is now closed.
Brillantes said that the case has already prescribed under the law. “Whatever election offense they supposedly did in 2004, we cannot chase them anymore since it has already prescribed,” he told InterAksyon.
Brillantes said that they will no longer file a case against former COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and other involved in the alleged poll cheating including military officials because of the legal and procedural obstacles of the case.
“Why will we belabor ourselves when there is weak evidence due to the fire? It is also unclear if the cases have prescribed already,” Brillantes told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In 2004 presidential elections, Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo won against its closest rival, Fernando Poe Jr. by one million votes. A wiretapped conversation between Arroyo had been publicized in 2005 that sparked the call for her resignation. Arroyo admitted the recorded conversation with Garcillano and explained that she just ensured her votes. The former president apologized on national television after.
Aside from Garcillano, Cirilo Nala Jr, Renato Magbutay, Francisco Pobe, Ray Sumalipao, Renault Macarambon, and Teopisto Elnas Jr. allegedly took part in the poll cheating.
Brillantes said that COMELEC is no longer interested in pursuing the complaint on the wiretapping issue. “We cannot do anything against them any longer.”
However, he reassured the public that the commission will still pursue the 2007 poll cheating as it has more merits.
“We are now prosecuting them for 2007 on the electoral sabotage case since it has more weight. There has been no progress on the 2004 case despite separate investigations by Congress,” Brillantes added.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, election offenses will prescribe five years after the date of its commission.
Interaksyon , Philippine Daily Inquirer