‘Hello Garci’ mess started with a dare over drinks

By Norman Bordadora
Last updated 04:32am (Mla time) 08/23/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Where’s Samuel Ong, the former NBI deputy director who first exposed the “mother of all tapes” that almost ousted President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo two years ago? And how did he get the tapes?


It all started with an innocent dare between two bar-hopping buddies.


Former T/Sgt. Vidal Doble, an agent of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), and National Bureau of Investigation operative Lito Santiago used to work together in the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF).


Exchanging stories


Sen. Panfilo Lacson headed the PAOCTF during the administration of deposed President Joseph Estrada.


Little did Doble know at that time that Santiago’s boss was Ong, who subsequently claimed he had the “mother of all tapes” before he and Doble disappeared amid the controversy, saying their lives were in danger.


“In September 2004, we met in Camp Aguinaldo,” Doble said, referring to Santiago.


“We exchanged stories about our days with the PAOCTF,” he said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday.


“We often went out bar-hopping. At one point, I told him about the fraud we uncovered,” Doble said.


“He told me, ‘No, that’s not true.’ So I was challenged and I let him listen to the tapes,” Doble said.


He said it was early in 2005 when he told Santiago about the taped conversations between Ms Arroyo and the Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano allegedly detailing election fraud and when he made Santiago listen to the master files.


On Tuesday, Lacson announced in a privilege speech in the Senate that Doble had broken a two-year silence after he quit the ISAFP and admitted in a video-taped testimony that he did the wire tap.


‘I can’t accept that’


“Personally, I can’t accept that the President of the Philippines would call a commissioner of the Comelec just so she can cheat in the elections,” Doble told the Inquirer.


“During (a soldier’s schooling), when you are caught cheating, copying the answers of a seat mate, you’d be discharged from the service,” he said.


On March 12, 2005, Doble said he gave a copy of the master files to Santiago. A couple of months later on May 6, he first met Ong in a Quezon City bar.


Ong at that time was a bad shot with the NBI leadership.


The NBI was then led by a known Arroyo ally and former police general, Reynaldo Wycoco. Ong was an influential deputy director in the NBI during the Estrada administration.


‘Devastating and destructive’


“I knew about the devastating and destructive effects of the recordings,” Doble said.


“If I wanted to make money from the tapes, I would have asked for P40 million for it,” he added.


Doble said he didn’t want to receive the P2 million that Ong gave him when they met in May of 2005.


“He said it (money) came from Laarni,” Doble said, referring to the former movie actress Laarni Enriquez who’s also a mistress of deposed President Estrada.


He said it was Santiago who took the money for him.


“I gave him P200,000,” Doble said.


“My fellow agents were ribbing me that I should have asked for more. But I told them that it was not my intention to earn money from the tapes,” he added.


Doble said there was no turning back this time from the allegations he was making. He said he had also executed an affidavit to formalize his claims.


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