“The Commission on Elections, as a constitutional body, must not only be compliant with the laws ensuring honesty and integrity in the performance of government service, but also be above suspicion of any irregularity being the guardian of the Philippine electoral system.” –Senate President Vicente Sotto III
With the recent allegations by the wife of Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista claiming the President Benigno Aquino III-appointed official failed to disclose P1 billion in assets, Senator Vicente Sotto III questioned ethics at the agency, calling for a probe into Bautista and his alleged misgivings; while Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares called into question the result of closely-contested races in last year’s national elections.
According to the first term senator and former presidential candidate, the victory of President Rodrigo Duterte was fairly solid and is not in doubt; however, it is the close races that may have been impacted.
“For me, there’s no question the president won because of the huge margin between us, so there’s nothing personal in my stand because I conceded early on, but for other posts with thin margins this could be an issue,” she stated.
In the House of Representatives, Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque, Jr. also wants an investigation into a matter and said the situation “raises serious questions about the integrity of the May 2016 national elections.”
It should come as no surprise that with the most publicized electoral protest, the questionable race for vice president between former one-term Camarines Sur third district Rep. Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ Robredo and former Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr., in light of recent disclosures regarding the commission in charge of overseeing elections, her legal team, led by Atty. Romulo Macalintal, raised claims their opponents reneged on a legal commitment – a weak effort in trying to divert headlines away from the Bautista buzz.
According to a Philippine Star article, the statement by Poe-Llamanzares includes the vice presidential race, among others.
During the election itself, there were already questions, particularly after hearing statements coming straight out of the mouths of Liberal Party (LP) surrogates.
While former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manual ‘Mar’ Roxas and Robredo were both running between third and fourth in the polls, many supporters would say they would slowly climb as the election approached. Subsequent polls would later follow the trend they seemed to forecast, with a favorable upswing for the candidates coined as “the anointed bets of President Benigno S. Aquino III.”
Even taking Duterte out of the mix, as his lead was insurmountable once he started picking up momentum, Poe had been running a strong campaign from the beginning, much like her run for the Senate, banked on her last name with a bevy of celebrities supporting her candidacy. Marcos had also been enjoying a strong standing in the polls, with his closest rival being Poe’s running mate, Senator Francis Escudero. Yet, once the LP dropped hints about how they wanted the polls to look, with a president who has shown to execute maneuvers to get everything he demands (i.e. creating the Disbursement Acceleration Program, paying off senators to ensure Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached, etc.), everything seemed to suspiciously fall into place – while the party puts on a façade of being intuitive.
The more polling looked to trend a certain way, the more “believable” it would be for election results to skew in a similar pattern.
The juggernaut that was the Duterte candidacy came as a surprise to the LP, thinking they would easily carry on the supposedly popular “Daang Matuwid” platform of the Aquino administration. Past editorials called the Visayas for Roxas early, describing it as a “firewall” and that if Negros did not come out for Roxas, it would be difficult for him to win the presidency – meaning, with internal polling from the local party affiliate at the time showing a 57 to seven percent margin between Roxas and his closest rival, local LP insiders were somehow under the impression the race was already a lock.
The results of the election also called into question the claims of how “loved” Roxas is supposed to be in Negros, considering Robredo received more votes than the so-called “favorite son” of the province.
Either the supposed adoration for the presidential candidate is overblown or the LP, at some point, gave up on winning the presidency and solely focused on the effort to push Robredo as the second coming of Cory Aquino – a widow plucked out of obscurity, “reluctant” to run for office (she’s since claimed to have no ambitions for the presidency – that, after previously voicing no ambitions for vice president and congresswoman).
All of the regular voices shouting to the hills in protest of everything Duterte does have remained fairly silent, with the exception of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon claiming it is not the jurisdiction of the Senate to probe the Comelec chief.
After the late Corona ruled against then-President Aquino on a case involving the latter’s family’s interest in the Hacienda Luisita, the president and his party mates took immediate action to find a way to remove him from office – with Bautista in the running as a possible replacement.
According to the affidavit submitted by Bautista’s wife, the elections boss had 35 Luzon Development Bank (LDB) passbooks with a value of over P369 million; an HSBC account worth HK$948,358, or over P6 million; A condominium unit at the Bonifacio Global City; a condominium unit in San Francisco, where real estate can sell upwards of $1 million, or over P50 million; along with interests in companies in the Caribbean; among other investments and assets; yet LP officials ravaged Corona over P80 million – chump change compared to Bautista.
The Aquino administration may have been framed as an anti-corruption platform, but the more that is being uncovered under the administration of his successor, it would seem, just like the Aquino definition of democracy, the way they define “corruption” may also be skewed./WDJ