MAGANES: Comelec’s folly
“Dura lex, sed lex.” These are Latin words used in legal parlance that means ” no matter how hard the law is, it is a law”. Similarly, we are a country of laws not of men, therefore any law for that matter should be applicable to any Filipino regardless of life’s status.
But what is this? The Commission on Election (Comelec) has lately drawn flak from netizens after reversing its previous ruling that the filing of Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) of those who ran for political office last election ended last June 8 and “not extendible.”
The Liberal Party and its presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II were not able to beat the deadline for the filing of SOCEs and requested the Comelec to extend it for 14 days. And the Comelec did it with fashion! Comelec’s commissioners en banc did not only extend it for 14 days but set a new deadline on June 30. The commission en banc voted 4-3.
Comelec’s Resolution No. 9991, which was approved by the Commissioners explicitly stated that the ” deadline for the submission of SOCEs is June 8 and non-extendible.” The Omnibus Election Code also stated that candidates who won in election could not assume their offices if the political party that nominated them fails to submit their SOCEs. With the reversal of its ruling, Comelec has proven itself as an institution that could not be relied upon, much less to be trusted. The policy shift has caught the ire of the netizens calling it a foul move that favored the Liberal Party.
Comelec is a constitutional body with the commissioners having fixed terms of office. They can only be removed through impeachment by which it is political in nature. Was the policy shifting an impeachable offense? Leave that to legal experts to decide. One thing is sure. The commissioners who voted to extend the filing of SOCE were one in a blatant display of immaturity. They have fooled the Filipino people and considered us pure nincompoops. While they may have reasons to alter their policy, it is clear that these commissioners are subservient to the administration of PNoy.
So what if vice president-elect Leni Robredo, more or less 40 governors and many elected local officials could not assume their posts on June 30 because of Liberal Party’s ineptness? Will that be enough reason that Comelec will accommodate its request for extension? Will that disenfranchise the Filipino voters? Comelec’s mandate is to conduct credible elections, which are covered with resolutions that are decided by the commission en banc. Changing the election policies will definitely change the course of the agency’s credibility. Bending the law to favor political parties will just give the impression that Comelec is not an independent body that protects the sanctity of suffrage.
How many times has Comelec played favoritism for the candidates? It will be recalled that Senator Grace Poe was a victim of Comelec’s inanities. Poe was pressured on the legal maneuverings of the commissioners during the deliberations of cases questioning her citizenship and residence. This to me has affected her quest for the presidency because the decision of the Supreme Court came in late. People were put in limbo whether Poe could qualify as a presidential candidate. That action of Comelec manifested a harmful precedent of what it has to do with a candidate. Apparently, there was political intervention and pressure as well from the ruling power. The commissioners could not deny such intervention so they have to rule in favorably against Poe.
During the counting of votes, was it not clear that even the voters counting machine was manipulated? During the operation quick count being administered by the Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PCRV), a script was suddenly altered by Smartmatic leading to the disgust of vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his supporters. There was a semblance of fraud which is now the subject of electoral protest of Sen. Marcos.
Incoming President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte is keen on having a nationwide reforms particularly in combatting all forms of criminalities notably the war against illegal drugs and corruption. Isn’t it time also for Duterte to include reforms at the Comelec? If the Comelec could not perform its duties as an election arm of the Filipino people, would we ever have a credible election in this country? Whether we like it or not, Comelec needs overhauling to include the dismissal of the commissioners who opted to be manipulated by the powers that be.
Commissioner Christian Lim has already manifested his intention to resign. Clearly, he was disgusted by the decision of the commission en banc to extend the filing of SOCEs. Lim is the current chair of the Committee on Finance, which is responsible in reviewing the SOCEs of the candidates last election. He voted against the extension saying that it was “unfair” to other political parties and candidates who filed their SOCEs in time. If Lim could really resign from his post, who among the commissioners would? Comelec as of now is in hot water. There are legal personalities who are bent on filing a case against the agency before the Supreme Court. But legal proceedings in this country are not that swift leaving Filipinos restless.
The clamor for change at the Comelec is something to be acted upon by the incoming president. It will take a political will for President Digong to do so during his incumbency. Let’s wait for it.
(For comments and suggestions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit my blog “The Roving Pen” at http://www.virgilmaganes.wordpress.com. Listen to my radio program “VIRGIL MAGANES SA DWPR” aired over DWPR Radyo Asenso, 1296 KHZ AM Band at 8:00-9:00 AM, Mondays to Saturdays.)
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