THE Citizens' Assembly for Truth issued this statement on June 30, 2005. The assembly was convened by the 'civil society' alliance Citizens for Truth (C4T), the Bishop-Businessmen's Conference for Human Development (BBC-HD), Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), Pagbabago@Pilipinas, and other organizations which signed the June 17 'civil society' statement.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has finally admitted to being the voice on the so-called Garci Tapes. These tapes have engendered so much frustration and uncertainty among the people in as much they have become political capital of an opposition bereft of credibility and whose motives are therefore suspect. The admission came only after increasingly strident calls for disclosure, even from some of her closest supporters. While most of us commend her for apologizing for her "lapse of judgment", belated though it may be, it leaves so much more questions unanswered. Foremost among these questions are: Did the President engage in electoral fraud in 2004? If there was fraud, who else were involved? What do these say about the moral authority of the President to continue to govern and about the competence and integrity of the COMELEC and our electoral system? Where did the tapes come from?
We believe that such questions can only be addressed by an independent fact-finding body tasked with ferreting the truth. This can only succeed if such were made up of persons of known probity and capability. We strongly urge the President to bring about the creation of the independent fact-finding commission by July 25, 2005. At the same time, we from civil society and business shall initiate and sustain our own efforts to seek the truth and safeguard the proceedings of the fact finding commission, as well as to involve the broad citizenry in its process. The investigation of the commission should be public and transparent. The country needs to move forward but only if we can close this sordid affair satisfied that the ends of justice have been met. Let the chips fall where they may. No one, least of all, a president, is above the law. In all these, we stand for the rule of law and for the constitutional processes to be followed.
Sorry is not enough. While the president's admission may give some people cause to forgive, it should be said that she has to give us reason to hope — hope that our political institutions can be reformed to perform their mandated task. Long-promised radical social justice reforms should now be implemented so as to inspire hope among our people.
In particular, the COMELEC should be immediately revamped and key electoral reforms put in place. We urge COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos and all COMELEC Commissioners to step down. Credible appointments should then be made through a transparent and accountable search process.