COMELEC AND THE ELECTORAL PROCESS

Diliman Way

with Homobono A. Adaza

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power
corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton

“Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who  have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and  rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path  and gave him triumphal processions.” – Cicero

In times of election, there are two institutions in this country that appear to have power in determining the course of the election and the fate of the candidates, especially those running for President – the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the presidency. This is more real and visible, if the President acts like a de facto dictator, as it is today.

Flashback and precedents: In the past few decades, the Comelec never enjoyed a good reputation for conducting fair and honest elections. When Leonardo “Leonie” Perez was Chairman of that body, Ramon “Monching “ Mitra, who later became Member of the regular Batasang Pambansa (Parliament) and Speaker of the Cory Aquino House of Representatives called it as a body  that did not know how to count.
Mitra was absolutely correct. When I ran as Member in the interim Parliament, I placed second in the election in our region. I won the election but I lost the proclamation upon order of President Marcos. I filed an election protest at the behest of my client and friend, Secretary of Public Works and Highways Antonio “Tony” Raquiza. . Because of the bad reputation of the Comelec and knowing Chairman Perez who was also Editor-in-Chief of the Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of the University of the Philippines, during his time, I requested an audience with him to insure that I will get fair and just treatment.

Since it was about lunch time, he invited me to have lunch with him in his office. I accepted the invitation. When we were in his office, this is how the conversation went.

“What can I do for you?” He asked.
“I am not here to ask you for a favor. I just want fair and just treatment in my election protest,” I replied.
“What is your party –KBL?” He asked me again.

“No. My party is the Mindanao Alliance,” I answered.
“Sorry Pañero but I can’t help you. Let’s have lunch and while waiting, I’ll sing for you,” he said with finality.
He got his ukele and sang Pamulinawen, the song made famous by the UP radio station during the Diliman Commune when it broadcast that song which President Ferdinand Marcos sang to one of his lovebirds, the Hollywood actress Dovie Beams when FM was having a tryst with her.

That’s how partisan COMELEC has been  except probably during the time of Chairman Jaime Ferrer with an Associate Commissioner like Lino Patajo.

More precedents: During the snap elections in 1986, COMELEC facilitated massive cheating just so Marcos could win the election – padding of votes in Laoag, Isabela, Tawi-Tawi, Misamis Oriental and in almost every province and city in the country. Marcos lost the election but won the proclamation

As a sidelight in that election, I confronted MP Juan P. Enrile, Minister of Defense, about the cheating in Isabela province, he replied, “I have nothing to do with that. It’s Tino Dy.” Dy was governor of Isabela.

After Cory Aquino was installed President, people in this country had high hopes the country would be a thousand times better, especially during elections. But it turned to be false hopes as in the first election for members of Congress in 1987, Cory instructed his people in the COMELEC. This is how Cory ordered the Commissioners of the COMELEC before the congressional elections in 1987 as reported to us by Vice-President Doy Laurel “I want a majority in the Senate and see to it that Adaza and Espina do not get elected,” said Cory.

Espina was former provincial governor of Cebu  and senator while Adaza, this writer, was former provincial governor of Misamis Oriental  and Member of Parliament. As a result of the Cory order, twenty-to senators of candidates of Cory were elected and only Erap Estrada and Juan P. Enrile were grudgingly proclaimed.

The truth though, according to the reports gathered by the boys of Juan P in the COMELEC, the true results were – twelve (12) candidates of the GRAND ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY (GAD), TEN (10) candidates of Cory won and two (2) seats remained a toss-up between GAD and THE Cory party. It was in that eledtion the term dagdag bawas (add and subtract) became a household word. For the first time in the history of our country, fake and computerized senators of Cory participated in making laws. As punishment for Cory, the same fake and computerized senators terminated the US-RP BASES AGREEMENT in defiance of a Cory led demonstration with her dumb followers  marching in heavy rain to the Senate. As PR Duterte keeps on saying, there’s always a time for reckoning and it came early for Cory. 

When Fidel V. Ramos and Miriam D. Santiago ran for President in 1992, Santiago and her propaganda machine charged COMELEC of cheating for Ramos. There were reasons to believe that the charges of Santiago had basis. Santiago, many concluded, Santiago won the election but Ramos run away with the proclamation.

In 2004, Gloria M. Arroyo (GMA) and Fernando Poe, Jr, (FPJ) ran for President. Many people in this country still remember the infamous Hello Garci Tape which revealed massive electoral cheating in Mindanao to make Arroyo win. She lost the election to FPJ but was proclaimed as the elected President, thanks to Associate Commissioner Garcillano and the COMELEC. Why do I have first hand knowledge? I was engaged as lead counsel of FPJ in the national canvassing of votes in Congress. I lost the legal engagement due to the insistence of four senators who were members of the National Cavassing Board – Edgardo Angara, Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., Teresita Aquino Oreta and Tito Sotto – and  City Mayor Jojo Binay,  that if I continue to be the  lead counsel, they would all desert him.

 The poor FPJ had to make what he thought was a practical decision. So in a contrite tone at breakfast at his Greenhills residence, he said to me, “Attorney, you have so many enemies in the Senate. I have to agree to relieve you as my counsel. Please remain as my consultant. “I was astounded because I thought I had no enemies but friends in the Senate, so I responded, “Who are they?” Diplomatically, FPJ referred me to Edmer Lim, the man who arranged my legal engagement who was around.

I never thought those senators and Jojo Binay were my enemies except Sottto, Ed Angara was my classmate in the UP College of Law and room mate in the UP Men’s South Dorm (now Narra Residence Hall).

Nene Pimentel was my boyhood friend and I made him run as my mayoral candidate in Cagayan de Oro City and won, thanks to my party –  Mindanao Alliance. Tessie was the sister of Ninoy Aquino. Jojo Binay is a fellow alumni of UP and joined us in the Cory presidential campaign.

They were all afraid that if FPJ won, I’d likely end up as Executive Secretary or Secretary of Justice and if I did, they certainly would have been in trouble on issues of graft and corruption, not to speak of illegal drugs and immorality.

Antecedent story: When Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro was running for President in 2010, I visited the late Manoling Morato at his residence at Morato Avenue, Quezon City. He told me this interesting story relating to the COMELEC and the electoral process.

Manoling started his story with the following statement, “Bono, I was visited here by four ranking officials of the COMELEC.”

 “What for?” I interjected.
“You know, they  were  requesting me to tell Gibo’s family that if the family pays  them TWO BILLION PESOS, Gibo will become the next President of the country,” Manoling replied.
“Did you tell the family of Gibo? I asked.

“Of course, I did not. If I tell Ditas (the mother of Gibo) that, she surely will give me a tongue lashing,“ he replied.
“Then, what happened?” I continued asking Manoling.

“Curious on their effrontery, I asked them about the Hello Garci Tape and weren’t they worried about being found out, and then their leader said, Oh, you must be talking about Garcillano, he is only our errand boy. About being found out, that is the least of  our worry as we have houses in Canada and we can fly out fast the moment there is any hint of a problem,” Manoling replied.

Manoling Morato testified before the Teddy Boy Locsin Committee which was mandated by the House of Representatives to look into the cheating in the 2010 elections but he refused to identify the COMELEC culprits for fear of reprisals.

As far as I know, COMELEC did not investigate the revelations of Manoling. For all we know, these sleazy characters may still be in the COMELEC today.

And now: These words have nothing to do with this line from a Frank Sinatra song -“And now, the end is near.” It has something to do with what the COMELEC is doing now. In an order disqualifying a presidential candidate because he is running independent, the COMELEC order states that – he is “putting in mockery and disrepute the electoral process.”
Based on the events from the Marcos years to the present, who has been placing the COMELEC and the electoral process “in mockery and disrepute”? Is it not the COMELECvitself? Look at recent developments with the COMELEC. PR Duterte filed his certificate of candidacy as Vice-President.  Soon after, PR D withdrew his candidacy in favor of Senator Bong Go who filed for Vice-President. A little later, PR D filed his certificate of candidacy for senator.

The drama even gets to be more confusing – Senator Bong Go withdrew his candidacy for Vice-President and filed a COC for President. After all that drama, Mayor Sara Duterte of Davao City.   Daughter of PR D withdrew her candidacy for Mayor and filed her certificate of candidacy for Vice-President. Earlier, Senator Bato de la Rosa who filed his certificate of candidacy for President which media treated as mockery and a joke by segments of mainstream media withdrew his certificate of candidacy.

What a joke! What a mockery! What a scandal! Who are putting COMELEC and the electoral process in mockery and disrepute? Are they not the official and personal family of PR Duterte as well as the COMELEC itself? You be the judge but remember – these are rhetorical questions. Why? The things speak for themselves – res ipsa loquitor.

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