MANILA, Philippines — Senator-elect Antonio Trillanes IV has advised Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to seek a government position after he retires on February 28 if he wants evade summonses to legislative hearings on his involvement in alleged cheating operations in 2004.
“He can invoke [Executive Order 464] until he retires. He better line up and apply for a new position if he wants to invoke that,” Trillanes told reporters after he took his oath of office in Caloocan City.
EO 464, issued last year, bars government and security officials from testifying in legislative hearings without clearance from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The Supreme Court struck down several of the order’s provisions as unconstitutional last year.
Despite this, Esperon has said he would invoke EO 464 to evade congressional hearings that Trillanes plans to call to look into extrajudicial killings and the alleged cheating in the 2004 elections.
Nevertheless, Trillanes, who is being tried in both civil and military courts for being an alleged mutiny leader, maintained: “It’s nothing personal. We are after the truth.”
Trillanes said he would also summon other officers who allegedly figured in the supposed cheating operations.
Esperon was linked to the election fraud controversy after he and three other senior officers, who are have all retired, were mentioned in purported wiretapped telephone conversations of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her alleged accomplice in vote-rigging operations, ex-elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.
“Garci [Garcillano] mentioned his [Esperon’s] name clearly. Garci will not fool the President by dropping his name if he had not talked to him,” Trillanes said.
In the tapes, it was implied that Esperon had a hand in the relief of Marine Brigadier General Francisco Gudani, who was perceived to be sympathetic to the opposition, as 1st Marine Brigade commander.
A military fact-finding board cleared the four so-called “Hello Garci” generals but its report was not fully disclosed to the public.
EO 464, on the other hand, was issued just as Gudani and another Marine officer was to testify before the Senate into the alleged electoral fraud.