MANILA, Philippines — Former T/Sgt. Vidal Doble Wednesday jumped the gun on the Senate’s plan to reopen the “Hello Garci” wiretap inquiry.
Doble named Smart Communications Inc. as the telephone company allegedly used by military intelligence in 2004 to listen in on the conversations of targets like former Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.
“I don’t think the top executive of Smart knows about the operation,” he said.
Was Garcillano using a Smart number? “Yes,” Doble said.
Were all the numbers given to them to listen to all of Smart subscribers?
“Yes,” he added.
Doble, an agent of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) who provided the opposition in 2005 with the “master files” of the controversial tracks, said his mother unit had a contact inside the telecommunications firm.
He claimed the ISAFP mole made the splitting of conversation signals possible from Smart’s network structure — one signal going to the subject subscriber and the person he or she was talking with, and the other signal going to ISAFP’s Nokia 3600 listening device.
“Definitely, there was somebody from Smart who was involved in the operation,” Doble told reporters in an undisclosed venue in Makati City.
Smart denied it had conducted any such activity.
The “Hello Garci” tapes are alleged recordings of phone conversations between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Garcillano which the opposition claims proved they connived to tamper with the results of the 2004 presidential election.
Despite Ms Arroyo’s and Garcillano’s denials, the issue has refused to die and continues to hover like an ominous cloud over the Arroyo presidency.
Doble said his superiors in the ISAFP’s Military Intelligence Group 21 at that time — Col. Paul Sumayo and Capt. Frederick Windell Rebong — gave MIG 21 members a set of mobile numbers to “monitor,” using a wiretap system involving a cell phone, its memory chip and a computer.
According to Doble, the ISAFP only targets members of the telco staff with technical know-how and with access to the “mainframe.”
“We have what we call spotting. We look for who we can recruit, we look for his weakness and then we use that weakness to make him work for us,” Doble said.
Doble said it was Rebong who coordinated with the ISAFP contact in the mobile communication service provider. The captain has since gone on military schooling abroad.
“We only target technical people. They do not have to be from the top (management) positions,” the former sergeant said.
Top AFP officers know
Doble said it wasn’t so in the intelligence service. The top officers must have known about MIG 21’s wiretapping operations.
“The only ones who talked to us were Colonel Sumayo and Captain Rebong,” he said. “But definitely, the other generals must know what we were doing, from (Vice Adm.) Tirso Danga, the J-2 [operations chief], down to (then) ISAFP chief Marlou Quevedo and the then chief of intelligence operations Col. Allen Capuya.”
Doble added that the officers would know who authorized the wiretap operation, called “Project Lighthouse,” and why.
“We were not told why we would do the operation. We were just given a set of numbers and were told to look after the conversations,” he said.
When Arroyo called
Doble said he was not the one who wiretapped Garcillano.
“I was just ordered to stand guard and listen in,” he said.
He said his job entailed listening in, transcribing the conversations, and recording them in a logbook.
Doble said MIG 21 agents were divided into four groups to do round-the-clock monitoring of the cell phones whose numbers they were given.
He said that when he and the members of his team heard Ms Arroyo call Garcillano and talk about the counting of votes, they alerted their superiors.
’Mother of all tapes’
“Captain Rebong asked that a duplicate copy be made. He said they would already be the ones to handle it,” Doble said.
Doble said the original recordings — the “mother of all tapes” — should still be with the ISAFP.
“That is, if it has not yet been destroyed,” he said.
The original recordings, Doble said, were on cassette and contained the unedited recordings of Ms Arroyo’s and Garcillano’s conversations.
“We were monitoring Garci’s phone. We only got to hear the President when she called up Garcillano,” Doble said.
Lacson has original copy
Doble said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who presented to the Senate the other day Doble’s video testimony about the tapes, has a copy of the original recordings.
Doble said what he gave former National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Samuel Ong — who had claimed to be holding “the mother of all tapes” — were “the master files.”
He said the master files were recordings of selected conversations tagged with identifying headers.
Doble said the ISAFP could make new master files if the unedited, original recordings still existed.
‘We were appalled’
He said all the conversations between Ms Arroyo and Garcillano that he knew about were already in the master files he gave Ong.
“All of us (soldiers in MIG 21) were appalled when we heard the President talk with Garcillano,” Doble said.
“We asked ourselves, how come this was happening?”
Doble said that when a soldier was caught cheating in a written test during schooling, he was discharged from the military.
“How come the Commander in Chief was caught involved in cheating?” Doble said.
He asked for forgiveness from Bishop Teodoro Bacani who received him and Ong at the San Carlos Seminary in Makati City in June 2005 when they sought refuge when they were about to announce that they had the “mother of all the tapes.”
Family held hostage
Doble said he had to turn back because he learned that the Arroyo administration had held his family hostage.
“How could I have pulled the trigger when they were hiding behind my family?” Doble said.
He said that on June 12, 2005, Bataan Bishop Socrates Villegas arrived at the seminary in a helicopter.
“He asked me how I was. He asked me if I wanted to see my family. I said, ‘yes,’” Doble said.
Doble said Villegas accompanied him to the quarters of then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Efren Abu.
“It was in the basement where I saw my family — my wife and two children,” Doble said.
“I was at a loss. I told my wife they should have stayed in Kidapawan,” he added.
Doble expressed doubt that Villegas was in on the conspiracy to force him to back out from his plan to present himself as the source of the wiretapped recordings.
“I think he was just requested to help by taking me to my family,” Doble said.
When he was taken into military custody, Doble said he was debriefed.
“I was dictated upon what to say,” Doble said.
He said he was told to declare that he was threatened by Ong to come out with the tape.
“The truth was the threat came from (the administration and the military leadership),” Doble said.
He said it was difficult for him to face the congressional inquiry.
“I lied when I said there was a threat from Attorney Ong,” Doble said.
“It was difficult to lie. You saw how I was at the stand,” he added referring to how he dodged questions from congressmen to keep himself from saying the Garci tapes were authentic.
Doble said the situation was different now.
He’s still not quite confident about the security of his family but he’s no longer a part of the military.
‘Tape is for real’
“I feel that I’m already free,” Doble said.
As for his family, he said he didn’t know their status. “I’ve yet to be in touch with them in a long time.”
Lacson on Tuesday said that Doble’s family was secure in an undisclosed location.