SHORT of saying “We told you so,” election watchdog Kontra Daya blames Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. for the fiasco in Maguindanao, where reports of large-scale cheating and results-tampering have again pulled down the poll body’s already low credibility.
Kontra Daya spokesman Fr. Joe Dizon says his group repeatedly met with Abalos and warned him against allowing Comelec officials who were mentioned in the “Hello Garci” tapes from seeing action in Mindanao, among them Maguindanao elections supervisor Lintang Bedol.
To refresh your memories on how Bedol figured in the “Hello, Garci” recordings, click here and here.
“We were yelled at by Abalos,” says Fr. Dizon, when his group requested the transfer or exclusion of the so-called “Hello Garci” personnel from the 2007 elections. He says among those who were with him in that meeting were former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Bishop Deogracias IÃ±iguez and several other Kontra Daya convenors.
“He asked us to file charges, although the Comelec on its own, can and should investigate the ‘Hello Garci’ issue,” said Dizon.
WHILE majority of the governors who have been elected so far belong to the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) and its allied parties, two opposition candidates clinched victories by espousing a different kind of politics.
“In our stint here in Pampanga it was very evident na ang mga tao po ang talagang naghahanap, umaasa, at gustong magtrabaho upang magkaroon pa ng pagbabago sa pulitika (that people are really looking, hoping for, and willing to work for political change,” said governor-elect Father Ed Panlilio via teleconference in a forum on political reform held last week.
Panlilio beat incumbent Mark Lapid and board member Lilia Pineda. Lapid has been accused of taking bribes from quarrying operations in Pampanga, while Pineda is the wife of an alleged jueteng boss.
Panlilio said that he would introduce good governance through leadership by example, by becoming a model. He also stressed that leaders should have the competence to lead, so that people would work with them, and with the government.
These may seem like the familiar platitudes spouted by many politicians. But Panlilio, at least, has some concrete plans. He wants to activate Pampanga’s local government council and extend the duties of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) beyond election season.
If Panlilio’s plan pushes through, the PPCRV would become the the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Politics.
There are many similarities between Panlilio and reelectionist Isabela governor Grace Padaca. Both of them had no previous background or experience in politics, and, they say, no desire to run for office.
YOU can be forgiven if you slept through the May elections. There were hardly any surprises there, which in itself is rather disturbing, considering that may mean we now take violence as part and parcel of the process of selecting our leaders and legislators.
In a post-mortem on the polls that is the closing piece for i Reportseries on the May 2007 elections, Manuel L. Quezon III argues that the results show a return to â€œtried-and-tested themes in our political history.â€ As expected, the administration maintained its grip on the House of Representatives. But the results of the senatorial race, which is often considered as a referendum on the sitting administration, clearly show that the public is not pleased with the Palace.
Quezon highlights what he calls â€œsignalsâ€ sent out loud and clear by the election results: â€œPresident Gloria Macapagal Arroyo lacks a national following; her machinery could not counteract the national tide; the public expressed itself firmly in favor of checks-and-balances between the executive and the legislative and between the two chambers of the legislature; the military itself, which resisted the call to decide matters in February 2006, also revolted against its commanders and voted as it pleased.â€
IT’S been said that “victory finds a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” This quote accurately sums up the fate of three Catholic priests who threw their hats — or habits if you will — in the political ring in this year’s midterm elections.
While Father Ed Panlilio‘s electoral victory has been hailed as a triumph of good versus evil, and has even merited a statement from the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which welcomed the “exceptional” victory, not a squeak was heard about the fate of two other priests who ran — but lost — in the May 14 elections. Their names, much like their crusades, have faded into political oblivion.
Panlilio, who ran for governor, anchored his campaign on providing a “credible alternative candidate” for the people of Pampanga. The incumbent governor, Mark Lapid, has been accused of pocketing bribes from quarrying operations in the province, while the other candidate, Provincial Board member Lilia Pineda, has been associated with jueteng, being the wife of alleged gambling lord Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda.
Panlilio vowed to stop corruption and gambling in Pampanga. He won, despite being the subject of a smear campaign for allegedly fathering children with different women, a charge he vehemently denied.
In Occidental Mindoro, Father Ronilo Omanio’s gubernatorial bid seemed to mirror Panlilio’s: man of the cloth running for a local position, seeking to provide an alternative to long-time politician and incumbent governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato, and banking on the people’s sentiments against issues like mining and small town lottery.
ALMOST everyone running for public office believes that a considerable sum of money is needed for a respectable campaign. But as several candidates in the recently concluded midterm elections are finding out, pouring tens of millions of pesos into an ad campaign is no guarantee of a win.
Of those included in the media research firm AC Nielsenâ€™s list of top 12 ad spenders among the senatorial candidates, only four so far are among the Commission on Electionsâ€™ (Comelec) winning dozen. The number one ad spender by AC Nielsenâ€™s count, Team Unityâ€™s Prospero Pichay, occupies a far 16th slot in the Comelec list.
Some political strategists and analysts say that many of the candidatesâ€™ handlers simply misread the political landscape and thought people were still easily swayed by glitz and glamour. But Filipino voters have apparently wised up, and now look for substance in the people they will vote into office.
For sure, there are still those who fail to see the real persona behind a candidateâ€™s media image. Experts say, though, that more and more voters have become discerning — or at least try to be — and now look for clues on what the candidate will eventually do once he or she is elected into office.
For ads to appeal to voters and make them consider a candidate, therefore, the basic ingredients would be resonance, believability, and relevance, say experts. And these, they say, should not necessarily mean a hefty price tag.
We hope the piece, as part of i Report â€™s current series on Elections 2007, would help your readers look back at the elections in a new light — and perhaps reflect on how they arrived at their choices on election day.
(This report was written by PCIJ intern Julienne Urrea.)
HALALANG Marangal’s (Halal) initial findings reveal significant discrepancies in tallies for senatorial candidates in nine provinces and one city based on data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel).
In Negros Occidental, the top vote gainer was Genuine Opposition (GO) candidate Francis Escudero with an additional 65,000 votes in the Comelec’s provincial certificates of canvass (PCOCs), compared with provincial breakdowns released by Namfrel based on election returns (ERs).
Team Unity (TU) candidate Vicente Magsaysay lost the most votes, with 52,200. Most of the vote gainers in Negros Occidental came from GO, while most of the vote losers came from TU.
In neighboring Negros Oriental, TU candidate Luis Chavit Singson gained 17,800 votes while independent candidate Francis Pangilinan lost 11,600 votes. The top five gainers are TU candidates while the top five losers are GO and independent candidates.
Halal noted however that Namfrel had a low completion rate of 26.6 percent in the province and that close observation would be needed at a higher completion rate. Halal said that comparisons may not be accurate due to the low completion rate of Namfrel tallies as compared to Comelec tallies.
But even in provinces like Mandaluyong City, where Halal said there is a relatively close agreement between Comelec and Namfrel tallies, discrepancies exist.
IN many ways, the recently held midterm elections were a more-of-the-same affair, with the usual reports of disenfranchised voters on election day; the massive vote-buying and patented cheating operations to manipulate the results perpetrated during the voting, counting and canvassing of votes; and the high casualty count from poll-related violence.
That the May elections were “dirty,” however, also assumed a routinely literal meaning. Because, in spite of the initial display of political will by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), it proved futile in preventing the avalanche of election campaign materials from swamping every conceivable area all over the country in the few weeks leading to the polls.
This perennial “wastefulness” of the May elections has so exasperated a coalition of environmental advocacy groups that it has called on the Comelec to adopt â€œgreen electoral reformsâ€ that would dramatically alter the way election campaigns are conducted in the country.
â€œWe find that the Comelec did not exercise sufficient leadership to ensure that the elections would not only be free of fraud, but also of trash during and after the three-month campaign period,â€ said Rei Panaligan, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition. â€œTo halt this massive assault against Mother Nature, the Comelec has to institute a zero-waste policy that will green and ensure that election activities conform with the countryâ€™s electoral and environmental laws.â€
THE resignation of Commissioner Rene Sarmiento as head of Task Force Maguindanao — the investigative panel tasked to “ferret out the truth” in the province’s midterm elections — comes as another blow to an already embattled Commission on Elections (Comelec). Observers say his resignation severely undermined whatever semblance of credibility the poll body has.
Sarmiento, the commissioner in charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said his failing health forced him to step down. But in what may be the first time in his career as a public servant, nobody seems to believe Sarmiento, who is regarded by many as the most credible commissioner in the poll body.
The move was ill-timed, and speculations on the “real reason” are rife: Sarmiento was eased out so that the cheats could cover up for the anomalies in Maguindanao; the political pressure to keep him quiet on the Maguindanao situation proved too much for the commissioner; or that it was Sarmiento’s way of saying that he refuses to be used as a deodorizer for the poll body.
Last week, the Comelec had to defer the canvassing of the certificate of canvass of Maguindanao following allegations of massive poll fraud in the province. The results, with 213,191 votes at stake, could largely affect the outcome of the senatorial race.
Earlier results showed a 12-0 victory for the administration-backed Team Unity (TU) in Maguindanao, with Luis Chavit Singson leading the race. Even Maguindanao Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. figured in the controversy, after promising P1 million to each of the province’s 22 mayors who could deliver a 12-0 win for TU.
THEY say politics is addition, but in some cases, it brought division to families.
In Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, three brothers slugged it out in the recent polls. Incumbent Mayor Aristeo Atienza, who is on his last term, ran for vice mayor, and chose his nephew, Dr. Hubert Dolor, as his running mate.
But Aristeo’s two brothers, Victor and Francisco wanted to succeed him. Failing to get his support, the two decided to make a go for it. The Dolor-Atienza tandem won.
The island town proved to be too small for the big Atienza family. The Atienzas are a family of 12 siblings, with Aristeo as the sixth, Francisco as the eleventh, and Vic as the youngest.
“Matindi ang mga panaginip nilang maging mayor, kaya ayan, mayor sila hanggang sa panahon lang ng kampanya (They have dreams of becoming mayor, and they were, but only for the duration of the campaign),” he says.
Aristeo downplays the rift with his brothers, saying it is common for relatives to squabble for elective positions in a town made up of just a few families. “In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies,” he says. Still, he is ruling out Sunday lunches with the whole family.
AS the canvassing draws to a close, complaints of poll fraud pile up before the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Just yesterday, progressive party-list groups filed a case against the entire board of canvassers of Zamboanga Sibugay for the “unusually and incredibly huge number of votes” in favor of two “party-list fronts” of the administration.
In a seven-page complaint filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, Kabataan, and Suara Bangsamoro said they found glaring irregularities between the certificate of canvass (COC) and the statement of votes (SOV) in seven municipalities in Zamboanga Sibugay.
According to the group, votes were tampered with by surreptitiously inserting another digit to make the original entry bigger.
Read the complaint filed against the Board of Canvassers of Zamboanga Sibugay.
For example, in Kabasalan, the Cooperative-Natcco Network Party (Coop-Natcco) only got 208 votes in the municipal COC, but the figures increased to 2,089 in the SOV by municipality.
Another “administration-backed” party-list, United Movement Against Drugs (UNI-MAD), supposedly got only 60 votes in the COC of Kabasalan; in the SOV, the figures were changed to 3,600.