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Winnie Monsod

What's up with the Comelec's Second Division?

February 24, 2010 8:50pm
(Following is the transcript of the segment "Analysis by Winnie Monsod" which aired on News on Q on Feb. 22, 2010. Prof. Winnie Monsod is the resident analyst of News on Q which airs weeknights at 9:30 p.m. on Q Channel 11.)

That Comelec is the center of attention at this time is not surprising. The May elections are fast approaching.

But the nature of that attention is another matter altogether, focused as it is on the credibility of the Comelec as an institution.

A joint House-Senate Committee chaired by Chiz Escudero and TeddyBoy Locsin has been showing concern about the Comelec's ability to handle an automated election .

In particular, the problem of delays in the Comelec's schedule — delivery delays, training delays, deployment delays, the problem of security, and the obvious lack of a back-up or contingency plan that can be activated in case something goes wrong with the machines, or something is shown to be wrong with those machines, these all have been haunting Comelec officials as well as our legislators — who got cold feet after appropriating P11 billion for Comelec's activities.

But that is not the only reason why attention is focused on the Comelec.

Quite apart from the problems of automation, there is the problem also of the Comelec decisions with regard to election protests, particularly those emanating from the Second Division, which for quite some time now has been the subject of rumors and speculation, and has gained notoriety among election lawyers.

This Second Division, composed of Nicodemo Ferrer as head, and Elios Yusoph and Lucenito Tagle as members, have handed down three very controversial decisions in which incumbent governors have been declared losers and asked to step down from their positions: the governors of Bulacan, Isabela and Pampanga.

What has captured the public's attention is not that a decision was made — resolving election protests are after all a primary responsibility of the Comelec.

It is not even suprising anymore that the length of time that it takes the Comelec to make a decision is almost the length of time of the term of office of the contested position — which is three years for every office except those of Senators, and the President and Vice President.

Rather, what has captured the public's attention, and possibly outrage, are the identities of those who, in effect, have been accused of cheating.

Yes, let's call a spade a spade here.

Because when someone is unseated, the default scenario is that he must have cheated to win in the first place. Or to look at it from another point of view, declaring someone a winner three years after elections took place is practically the same thing as saying that that person had been cheated, and the Comelec is just making things right.

The only problem is that in at least the Isabela and Pampanga cases, the public is incredulous about the implication of cheating on the part of the sitting governors, and instead suspects foul play on the part of, or with the consent of, the Comelec's Second Division.

Let's take a closer look at two of the cases, involving the provinces of Isabela and Pampanga.

Who were in effect found to have cheated? Grace Padaca in Isabela, and Ed Panlilio in Pampanga.

One was a radio commentator, the other a priest.

Neither of them have money, neither of them had political machinery — both of them were novatos — new to the political world.

And to cheat successfully in the Philippines, as we saw in a recent analysis, you need guns and goons, or gold. You need private armies, or you need the money to bribe either voters or counters.

Neither of which neither Padaca nor Panlilio had. They had volunteers who gave of their time and effort to help.

And yet, what did the Comelec's second division find?

In the case of Padaca, the Comelec managed to find enough evidence of cheating to overcome the 17,000 vote lead of Padaca, and make her opponent win 1,051 votes. That takes some doing, and it took Comelec 12,000 pages to do it, including, in some parts of the decision, referring to Padaca as Sarmiento, and to her opponent Dy as Tuazon.

In the case of Panlilio, not only did the Comelec's second division turn down his request for more time to raise funds for paying the costs of the case, but they seemed to have a strong desire to speed up the counting by allowing twenty teams of revisors at the same time instead of only the usual nine — and of course, that required even more funding than the usual.

Thus, Panlilio was left with only one revisor for every three that his opponent had — with the blessings of the Comelec's Second Division, who scoffed at Panlilio's plea, and asked him to use the "volunteers" he claimed to have had.

But there also seems to be more overt bias on the part of the Comelec Second Division.

Such as in the Isabela case, the name Faustino Dy was credited to Benjamin Dy for governor, while the names Gris Padaca or Grace Padacca, with a double c, was not credited to Padaca.

In the Pampanga case, the name Nanay Baby was credited to Panlilio's rival, but the names Ed and Among were not allowed to be credited to Panlilio.

And that's how Panlilio's slim lead of over a thousand votes vanished, and his rival won instead by over 2,000 votes.

With that kind of decision-making process going on in Comelec, is it any wonder that it is fast losing whatever credibility it had?

For shame.
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