Monday, February 15, 2010

COMELEC Shrouds The 2010 Elections With Dark Clouds Of Doubt

"The Commission on Elections, or COMELEC, is one of the three constitutional commissions of the Philippines. Its principal role is to enforce all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of elections, initiatives, referendums, and recalls. Under the Constitution, the Commission on Elections is independent of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the Philippine Government

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) was created by a 1940 amendment to the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines. Before the creation of the Comelec, supervision over the conduct of elections was vested by law in the Secretary of Interior.

In view, however, of the close official ties between the President and the Secretary of Interior, there was always the danger of a partisan Secretary of the Interior exploiting his powers and influence to ensure the victory of his party at the polls. As a consequence, the Constitution was amended in 1940 to create an independent Commission on Elections." (- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Please take note that from its inception, the COMELEC was supposed to be a constitutional body totally independent of, and not subservient to the dictates of the sitting president. It was meant to be the uncompromising watchdog under whose supervision all the electoral processes in the country are to be conducted.

Unfortunately, this is not the scenario we see today. Sadly, what we have is not the ideal set up envisioned by the crafters of our 1940 which created the COMELEC as an independent constitutional body whose members can not be removed from office except by impeachment, with fixed salaries that can not be increased nor decreased as a safeguard to make sure that the body will remain independent!

Instead, what we see today is a highly partisan COMELEC which had been systematically reduced into a helpless, toothless agency totally subservient to the whims and caprices of the incumbent! Instead, what we see today is the fact that widespread cheating has been institutionalized into every electoral process by the very agency constitutionally mandated to protect us from such!

Under the 1940 amendment which birthed the COMELEC, there will be three commissioners to be appointed by the president with each one having a fixed tenure of nine years. Through another amendment made in 1973, the number of commissioners to nine but cut short the tenure of each to three years. This would have been an ideal set-up to prevent the COMELEC from having all commissioners appointed by a single president.

However, having been in office long enough (or should I say too long), Marcos had the rare opportunity to have all commissioners of the commission appointed by him. This must have emboldened him to bow down to the public's clamor for snap presidential elections. To quell the public's restiveness and brewing public disgust arising from Ninoy Aquino's assassination at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, Marcos called for the snap elections thinking he could win having a partisan COMELEC behind him!

Had it not been for the valiant refusal of some patriotic COMELEC encoders to input the fabricated results favoring Marcos, the dictator would have been in power a bit longer...and who knows, we might have ended up having his widow Imelda as our president up to today!

Under the glare of both local and international media spotlights, the COMELEC encoders walked out of the convention center where the national canvassing was being held -  exposing the massive attempt by Marcos to alter the election results through the COMELEC for the world to see!

Like Marcos, Arroyo had been in power long enough to have a COMELEC where all its commissioners are her appointees beholden to her out of fear and favor.

Much more, she succeeded where Marcos failed - which is to win the presidency by manipulating the election results with the help of the COMELEC!

If you will recall, one of her controversial appointments to the COMELEC  was that of the now infamous Virgilio Garcillano just before she run for president in 2004!  Arroyo had just served the unexpired term of  President Estrada then after Estrada was unceremoniously removed from office by widespread mass actions instigated by church leaders and civil society organizations critical of Estrada's presidency from the start.

Garcillano was a master fraud operator who used his knowledge of election laws and procedures, his long field experience, and his extensive network of contacts to rig the vote in favor of President Arroyo, Senator Robert Barbers, and a few other local politicians. "He was the plotter for electoral fraud, the overall supervisor and commander in chief," says a Comelec official who asked not to be named. "He was working for GMA."  Except for a six year gap from 1986 to 1993, Garcillano  had been with the agency from 1961 as a young lawyer in his mid-20's, then rising up from the ranks to become the COMELEC director for Northern Mindanao (Region 10) until he retired in 2002. He was plucked from retirement and suspiciously appointed commissioner on February 11, 2004 just as the presidential campaign was kicking off! The rest is now history for which we had to suffer the consequences of our indifference and passivity  for all of the next six years of Arroyo's governance.

Today, nothing has changed even after the wide spread public condemnations of the "Garci Tape" controversy. In fact, the COMELEC has brazenly undertaken steps to further institutionalized cheating in the country!

Take note of the following developments!

On the Poll Automation Project.

Despite the Supreme Court's ruling on the matter, the awarding of the Poll Computerization Project to the controversial Smartmatic remains highly spurious!

(For your information, Smartmatic is the company which pulled out its operations in the US to avoid an ongoing congressional inquiry which started as an offshoot of questioned poll results in one of the US states where Smartmatic held a concession.)

During the bidding process for the PCOS machines, most bidders have voiced out their common observation that COMELEC was clearly favoring Smartmatic right from the start.

It must be remembered that Smartmatic was already disqualified  from the bidding process for failing to submit documents to prove that they own or have in fact ownership (in part or whole) of an ISO certified manufacturing facility  for the PCOS machines they are offering ( in compliance with our General Procurements Bill)!

The COMELEC suspiciously reconsidered the disqualification after Smartmatic submitted unverified documents claiming they own 10% of Jarltech, Taiwan, an ISO certified manufacturing firm but which have never even manufactured a single PCOS machine for Smartmatic or for anyone else in the world. Without verifying the veracity of the submitted documents, the agency reconsidered the disqualification!

As it turned out later,  Smartmatic had the PCOS machines manufactured by Qisda of China (whose papers and ISO certifications were never presented to COMELEC during the bidding process) instead of by Jarltech -  in total disregard of the General Procurement Bill. Clearly, the documents submitted by Smartmatic during the bidding process was not to prove they have manufacturing capabilities but merely to comply with the required documentations! On top of that, the General Procurement Bill prohibits the subcontracting of the PCOS machines but they were able to go away with it!

For matters involving not only a huge amount of public funds but one involving national security and sovereignity, the bidding, manufacturing and final delivery of counting machines should not have been left to chance at all! In this case, the whole matter was left totally in the hands of a questionable company which has already figured in controversial elections both in Venezuela where it came from and the US! Curiously, the Supreme Court, ruling against a concerned citizen's group which filed a petition to stop the computerization project gave its final verdict for COMELEC to go ahead with the poll computerization with Smartmatic... this, despite the blatant violations of the General Procurement Bill!

(If I may add, the appointment of Melo as COMELEC's chief commissioner, a former SC justice, must have paved the way for this decision, and perhaps even an essential part of a grander scheme to perpetuate Arroyo's sway on the government!)

No doubt, there is no more stopping the computerized elections for 2010! But I'd like to point out one of the concerns about the poll computerization which the PCIJ has even brought out. And this is the fact that the source code, the program that tallies all the votes cast is contained in  memory chips to be held by election officers in each precinct. Despite PCIJ's recommendation to have the source code embedded in the machine itself to lessen the risk of having it hacked, substituted or even tampered with, COMELEC paid no heed.

With 80,000 PCOS machines, there will be 80,000 memory chips in the hands of election officers nation wide...if you are not multiplying the risks of  the chips being tampered with, or being replaced, or even the  getting lost or misplaced, I don't know how you will describe this. The recent publicity done  by the agency showing them depositing the source code does not allay our fears that the 2010 elections will again be rigged... this time in a more inconspicuous way using Smartmatic technology contained in a memory chip held by COMELEC and Smartmatic officials...who'd only need to insert the chips in every machine for a few seconds to rob the country of its real mandate!

Ahh, but there is the paper they say!  Now, how come they refuse to accredit NAMFREL as a citizen's arm favoring to have only the lesser experienced PPRCV instead as the accredited poll watchdog? Will it harm any if they accredit both? Is it because NAMFREL, in the event that any cheating is uncovered may be able to stir a more widespread public condemnation of the act than PPRCV whom they can tame into submission using their allied Catholic bishops?

Another thing, with the polls now computerized, the winner can be proclaimed immediately. Any election protest will only be blocked by the Electoral Tribunal , majority of whose members belong to Arroyo's party...making a repeat of the 2004 electoral fraud. To file a case with COMELEC would be useless. To seek redress from the Supreme Court, all of the justices are Arroyo appointees too except for Puno who is scheduled to retire anytime soon.

On the matter of  the disqualification case against Acosta as filed by LP standard bearer Noynoy Aquino!

The COMELEC was quick to dismiss the case. As it turned out, Acosta who filed his candidacy for the presidency as the KBL standard bearer has not, even up to this day, printed a single campaign material, much less appear in person even to his running mate (who incidentally has voiced his plan to dumped Acosta with the media). Clearly, Acosta's filing for candidacy was to merely to prevent Aquino's name from appearing first on the ballot list among the presidential candidates. It is now too late to declare Acosta as a nuisance candidate since the ballots are already being printed with Acosta's name in it, however, COMELEC must bear down hard on this guy for making a mockery of our electoral process! Unfortunately, they are not lifting a finger at all...making me think that Acosta's filing of candidacy may be part of Arroyo's Grand Scheme to perpetuate herself in power and escape escape prosecution for all wrongs she had done to the nation after she steps down from the presidency!

At this point, let me say that I am just worried of the gathering storm similar to that which hit Marcos after the 1986 Snap Elections! I am also appalled by the indifference of many among us  to the prospects of a looming national disaster poised to bear down hard on us...I am bewildered by the refusal of many  to lift a finger or raise a voice against the many injustices blatantly committed all around us by those in power.... I am totally dismayed at how many can keep their eyes closed to the real issues confronting us, electing instead to be swayed by the empty promises and sugar-coated excuses of the moneyed and the powerful.

Let me end my rant with a poem by Adam Smith

A spring storm

Arises from the East

Tearing and ripping everything

There is nothing out of it's reach

It has already invaded your home

Your church, and everywhere you may roam

There is no escape from it but death

And even then

You are not out of his reach

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1 comment:

  1. what a comprehensive enumeration of Comelec's blatant violation against law and honor! the worse part is they're not held culpable of such wrongdoings.