Category: congress

who’s got andy’s (and smartmatic’s) back, perhaps in aid of federalism?

it’s beginning to look to me like uunahin ang impeachment complaint laban kay chief justice sereno kahit naunang i-file at i-endorse ang impeachment complaint laban kay comelec chief bautista.  tila marami-rami na ang signatures ng kay sereno, 41, samantalang tila tatatlo pa rin ang signatures ng kay bautista.

nakakapagpatanong:  sadya ba ito?  is this the lower house’s way of telling us that andy bautista will be continuing as our comelec chief (and smartmatic as our election controllers) despite the very disturbing allegations of undeclared wealth and unethical practices?

or maybe i’m just praning.  maybe it’s an extra challenge that the lower house will simply hurl at the so-called upper house: let the senate decide kung alin o sino ang uunahin, or, even, kung paano maipagsasabay-sabay.  e meron pa palang isa, vs the ombuds(wo)man naman.  lalong nakakapraning.  we’d be crazy to trust our senators to competently and justiciously handle more than one impeachment trial at a time, if that.  read kit tatad’s A unique Republic of Impeachments.

An unreasonable burden
The only thing I see that could prevent the simultaneous or serial impeachment and trial of Comelec Chairman Bautista, Chief Justice Sereno and Ombudsman Carpio Morales is the Senate’s capability as an impeachment court to try three or even just two cases at the same time. If the Senate could bear this load, doing so would have the singular benefit of keeping the senators out of the obscene and deranged business of monkeying around with “inverted federalism,” which DU30 and his sycophants seem so eager to railroad through this puppet Congress without any real effort to make the people at their level understand the serious issues involved.

But knowing the carrying capacity of our mediocre institutions and their members, my real fear is that it would be imposing upon the Senate and its members a burden far beyond their capacity to bear.

and read boo chanco’s Impeach epidemic.  why this attack on strong women in powerful positions?

Why are all the so called macho allies of this administration so scared of women leaders they want them impeached? First they wanted to impeach VP Leni. Then Chief Justice Sereno. Now they also want to impeach Ombudsman Morales even if she has barely a year left in her term.

This impeachment epidemic seems like a warning. Some people may have intentions of undermining our democratic system. Just because some constitutional officials refuse to kowtow to them, they want them impeached. Indeed, they imprisoned a lady senator earlier because she had the balls to stand up to them.

… I am sure the President is perfectly capable of dealing with the three women leaders within the framework of the Constitution without impeachment. Those claiming to be his allies should let the President fight his own battles.

again, maybe i’m just paranoid, but early last week, soon after three reps endorsed the impeachment complaint against him, and after the six comelec commissioners said it was time for him to resign and prepare his defense, chief andy told the press that he was praying hard for divine guidance and would make his decision, to resign or not, in the next few days.  the very next day he was quoted as saying na “para namang kakayanin” niyang i-defend ang sarili kung siya ay ma-impeach.  so parang walang planong mag-resign at parang walang takot sa impeachment?

MEANWHILE a graft & corruption complaint was filed in the office of the ombudsman vs comelec commissioner christian robert lim, he who was acting comelec chief in the transition between sixto brillantes and andres bautista in 2015, he who read the statement of six comelec commissioners asking chief andy to resign or take a leave.

what intrigues is that commissioner cr lim is being charged in connection with smartmatic…

The charges against Lim were lodged by former Biliran City Rep. Glenn Chong for alleged corruption and serious misconduct for purportedly giving undue favor to Smartmatic during the 2016 elections which is in violation of the election laws and rules. Chong said his complaint would lay the ground work for an impeachment complaint against Lim for betrayal of public trust.

AND it is the second such complaint.  read Graft raps filed vs Comelec’s Lim

The Biliran legislator said the complaint he filed was a “follow-up” to the graft and plunder raps which Paras filed with the Ombudsman in June 2016 against former Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., along with former commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph, and incumbent Commissioners Christian Robert Lim and Al Parreño, for approving Resolution No. 992 issued in December 2014.

The resolution gave way to the P240-million contract with Smartmatic to rehabilitate 81,000 PCOS, a deal that was declared null and void by the Supreme Court on April 21, 2015.

According to Chong, Lim pushed through with the negotiations of the refurbishment of over 80,000 precinct count optical scanners through direct contacting, and not through a bidding.

“Comelec failed to prove that direct contacting was legal for the P240-million contract with Smartmatic. There was no public bidding, and that Lim who privately negotiated with Smartmatic,” he said.

Such was “manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government,” he added.

“Respondent cannot feign ignorance of the facts and circumstances surrounding the problems and anomalies of the PCOD machines before and after the ‘midnight deal’ in question because he actively took part and even defended Smartmatic TIM Corp. in the several [congressional] hearings on these issues,” the 19-page complaint read.

Chong, however, raised concern if the Ombudsman would act on his complaint, saying “obviously, Commissioner Lim is a lawyer of the Liberal Party before becoming a commissioner so he is ‘yellow.’”

If Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista is impeached, Lim could take over the poll body, he lamented.

so.  it’s not as if chong wants comissioner cr lim impeached instead of chief andy; it would seem, rather, that he wants both impeached, along with smartmatic.  yes, please.   tama rin si rolly reyes:

While I would like to know the truth about Andy Bautista, I would like to know also the ROLES played by the commissioners during the 2016 elections. They all approved the contract of Smartmatic, kept quiet all these years and are now distancing themselves from the Commissioner? “Napaikutan ng nag-iisang tao? nagmamalinis at naghuhugas kamay?” Hmmmm, we have seen this before.

if bautista’s impeachment does not fly, could it mean that a deal has been struck with bautista (and smartmatic) in aid of winning for duterte the plebiscite on charter change and federalism in 2018, and let’s not forget the midterm elections in 2019 and maybe even the national elections in 2022?  old boys club at work?  or does bautista have a dossier on everyone, too.

as for smartmatic, most instructive is carmen pedrosa’s excerpts from the andres bautista chapter, “Chasing the Wind: Assessing Philippine Democracy,”  of the book Elections as an instrument of political control (2016) edited by Felipe Miranda and Temario Rivera.

“When former Far Eastern University college of law dean Andres Bautista was appointed in May 2015 by President Aquino as the term-ended Brillantes’ replacement as Comelec chairman, many somewhat naïve observers hoped that the former academic might disentangle Comelec’s distinctly unholy alliance with its foreign supplier Smartmatic and restore some measure of openness and integrity into our defective and untransparent automated election system. That hope was initially nurtured when Bautista made the right noises, pledged “cleaner elections,” and launched a charm initiative to try and offset Brillantes’ arrogant and offensive manner.

“More astute observers, however, immediately understood that the appointment as Comelec chairman did not come without strings and that Bautista’s active pursuit of the position – having earlier failed to get his desired appointment to a seat on the Supreme Court – effectively meant that he had accepted those strings. Essentially, those strings meant that he would follow the directives of the ruling political cabal and that Smartmatic control of Philippine elections would remain firmly in place. As events that soon unfolded showed, that understanding would, sadly, get to be validated.

“After barely two months of pretending to listen to the suggestions of IT experts and critical observers of the 2010 and 2013 automated elections, and after pretending to consider two better – more secure and more transparent – systems that had been developed by local software engineers, Bautista was singing an old familiar tune. Using as justification that tired excuse, “time is of the essence”, he announced a decision to hand over to Smartmatic a contract to supply – via lease – 93,977 new PCOS voting and counting machines for the 2016 elections. With a straight face, Bautista claimed that this decision was “the most prudent approach” considering the factors of “costs, timeliness, and technical risks” and would best ensure that the May 2016 automated elections would be a “credible” one. The amount of the new contract would be P8.4-billion. (The original PCOS machines were leased from Smartmatic in 2009 for P7.2-billion and then foolishly purchased – through an option to purchase clause – in 2012 for P2.1-billion, whereupon the machines were warehoused at a cost of P9.6-million a year.)

“The Bautista decision was the denouement of a tiresome cliché-riddled zarzuela [a musical play, often comical] – beginning soon after the 2013 elections – wherein the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee disqualified Smartmatic twice and reinstated it twice, after disqualifying all other bidders.

“In making this reportedly unanimous decision, Bautista and his complicit fellow commissioners were pre-empting any Supreme Court ruling on cases pending before it regarding Smartmatic. Several had been filed by various parties essentially seeking the nullification of contracts with Smartmatic and blacklisting it for failing to meet even minimum system specifications and for assorted other transgressions of law (including the fact that Smartmatic had been revealed to be 100% foreign-owned and not a 60-40 joint venture as claimed). The petitioners included CenPEG, CenPEG chairman Dr. Temario Rivera, AES Watch, AES Watch executive director Evi-ta Jimenez, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, former Comelec commissioner Augusto Lagman, Catholic Bishop Broderick Pabillo and several of his fellow bishops, Mother Superior Mary John Mananzan, TransparentElections.org’s Maricor Akol, Philippine Computer Society president Leo Querubin, past Philippine Computer Society presidents Nelson Celis and Edmundo Casiño, and myself. The legal counsel assisting the petitioners in each one of these cases is the intrepid Manuelito Luna.

“Weighing in, presumably to put pressure on the Supreme Court, Malacañang [the Presidential palace] quickly issued a statement that the Comelec decision to favor Smartmatic with yet another contract “fulfilled its mandate of ensuring orderly and credible elections”. This made clear the level to which the Comelec-Smartmatic conspiracy to control Philippine elections reached: it reached all the way to the top. It was not therefore unexpected that the Supreme Court effectively ignored all such contra-Smartmatic petitions.

“So, despite blatant violations of our election laws in 2010 and 2013 and despite abundantly obvious flaws in the Smartmatic system, the country’s so-called “independent” election body, Comelec, awarded again a supply contract for hardware and software to be used for the 2016 automated elections to the clearly unqualified Smartmatic. It has to be a source of extreme wonderment why the Philippines’ top election officials – by now, three successive sets of them – were so attached to this dubious and shadowy foreign supplier even if its performance has been nothing short of atrocious and it was never qualified – not being the owner of either the hardware nor the software it was providing – to supply the automation technology in the first place.”

and if you’re still with me, read na rin jarius bondoc’s Smartmatic again in Election 2019?

The Comelec is considering six automation options for Election 2019 – all will involve the controversial Venezuelan supplier in the 2010, 2013, and 2016 balloting. That has the info-tech community bristling. Since 2008, when Smartmatic demonstrated its touch-screen voting machines in the Muslim regional election, Filipino computer experts have been critical of its performance. Smartmatic badmouthed the competing optimal mark reading machines then, yet sold or leased the very OMR – for tens of billions of pesos – in the three succeeding national elections. Fraud and law breaches marked those elections, which the Comelec deftly swept aside. Now its six options are to: (1) refurbish the OMR units of 2010 and 2013, (2) purchase the leased OMRs of 2016, (3) combine the first two, (4) lease yet more such OMRs, (5) switch to the touch-screen, or (6) mix up any or all. Smartmatic beamed when the Comelec announced those last month, prompting Philippine Computer Society ex-president Leo Querubin to write Comelec chairman Andres Bautista:

“The national and local midterm election is fast approaching and it seems Smartmatic is again being considered as the election systems provider in May 13, 2019. When will you ever learn?

“I have sent you so many letters highlighting the incompetence and violations of Philippine election laws by this company, and yet you so stubbornly allow this Venezuelan company to ruin Philippine elections.

“In all previous elections managed by Smartmatic, from 2008 to 2016, Smartmatic has violated election laws by accessing elections servers during election day. In 2008 Smartmatic was surprisingly allowed by then-Chairman (Jose) Melo to access servers in Mindanao remotely from Manila. In 2013 I was actually not surprised that you, with the eager participation of PPCRV Chair Henrietta De Villa, authorized Smartmatic to illegally access the election servers, change scripts, and delete files.

“And again in 2016 you permitted a foreigner to access election servers during Election Day. Whether it affected the results or not is irrelevant. Republic Act 9369, Section 28 states that ‘gaining or causing access to using, altering, destroying or disclosing any computer data, program, system software, network, or any computer-related devices, facilities, hardware or equipment, whether classified or declassified’ is a violation of the law and ‘shall be penalized as provided in this Act, whether or not said acts affect the electoral process or results.’

“Marlon Garcia of Smartmatic admitted in a hearing conducted by the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System that he accessed and deleted computer data in 2013. In 2016, he again unrepentantly declared on national television that he accessed and changed computer data.

“You are the valedictorian of your batch in Ateneo Law School, and have a Masters in Law from Harvard. I do not have a law degree and yet I can see that there is a clear violation of Philippine laws.

“And despite these deliberate acts of blatant disrespect of a foreign vendor towards Philippine election laws, which as Chair of Comelec you are obligated to uphold, here you are again allowing Smartmatic to participate in the bid to provide the election system in 2019.

“You may accuse me of having vested interest because I am currently an employee of a rival election vendor of Smartmatic. (Yet) you and I, including the previous and current Comelec Commissioners, know that I have been advocating to blacklist Smartmatic since 2008, when they first showed the arrogance to access the servers in Wao, Lanao del Sur, remotely from Manila during the 2008 ARMM automated elections.

“In 2016 a Venezuelan thought he had the authority to implement a ‘cosmetic change’ in the middle of a tightly contested Vice Presidential race. Marlon Garcia has been managing election projects in the Philippines since 2008. Smartmatic has conducted three previous national elections in the Philippines. I am sure they already know the nature of Philippine elections, and yet they still implemented a cosmetic change to correct the ‘?’ to ‘ñ’. And that ‘cosmetic change’ has divided this country ever since.

“Smartmatic even admitted that they installed secret servers in 2016. Those servers collected all precinct results before transmission to the municipal canvassing and consolidation servers.

“Did you know about this? If you did, why did you allow this? If you did not know about this, what will you do now that you know?

“There is something sinister behind that action, or they are just simply incompetent. Either way, they should not have any business managing elections systems in this country. Ever.

“I do not blame these Venezuelans for what they have done. The Philippines for them is just business, and a lucrative one at that. They do not have a stake in this country’s political stability. They do not care about this country’s future. They do not care how history will judge them.

“I hope you do.”

and the latest is, as of yesterday thursday, the impeachment complaints vs. bautista and sereno are  both with the house committee on justice na.  sino kaya ang uunahin ng honorable solons?  dapat si  bautista.  our elections need fixing, uh, un-fixing, and ASAP.

andy agonizes, to resign or not to resign

now that the impeachment process has started rolling in the House despite the majority leader’ objections, and now that his fellow commissioners have publicly asked him to resign or take a leave so he can attend to his troubles with family, SALN, atbp., comelec chief andy bautista has to decide soon, and he says he will, in the next few days.

In a radio interview, Bautista admitted that he has reached a crossroad in his life where [he] is now weighing the interests of his family, the Comelec, democracy, and the 2016 elections.

clearly, family is not the primary consideration or he would have resigned already. so it must be the 2016 elections.  the grapevine has always alleged that it was rigged, that comelec and smartmatic connived to make LP win (mar, leni, the senate slate) except that in mar’s case, duterte was so far ahead, naging imposible nang talunin, which of course puts leni’s win, and our so-called democracy, into question, along with: how many votes did every one get ba talaga?

andy bautista has always denied it: no evidence or proof of cheating daw.  if that is so, then what is it about the comelec and democracy and 2016 that weighs on his mind more heavily than family?

can it be na totoo ang chismis, there was cheating?  which could mean that andy has been hoping that the beneficiaries of the cheating would could move heaven and earth to foil an impeachment attempt dahil sasabit din sila?  and / or maybe andy has been hoping to strike a deal with the duterte admin — leave me be and i will make sure you win the plebiscite on charter change and federalism?  is that too wild a thought?

alas for andy, an impeachment complaint was filed august 23 by former negros oriental rep jacinto paras and lawyer ferdinand topacio.

Apart from alleged misdeclaration in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, the complainants also cited as ground for the criminal liability of Bautista the hacking of the Comelec website that led to the leakage of voters’ database as found by the National Privacy Commission.

They accused him of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust in the complaint, which was immediately endorsed by three representatives… Gwen Garcia of Cebu, Abraham Tolentino of Cavite and Harry Roque of Kabayan.

the very next day, august 24, the house of reps’ secretary-general transmitted the complaint to the office of the speaker who has 10 session days to refer it to the rules committee that has three session days to refer it to the justice committee that has sole jurisdiction over impeachment cases.    

majority leader rudy fariñas, however, is being difficult.  puro hearsay lang daw, absent the personal knowledge of the complainants.

Fariñas underscored the importance of the verification portion of an impeachment document, which states that complainants must have evidence of their “own personal knowledge and/or culled from authentic documents”.

also, kailangan daw munang tapusin ng House ang budget deliberations, which he says wlll be around mid-september pa.  hmmm.  back in the time of corona, fariñas was part of a minority that didn’t sign the impeachment complaint.  today, it is said that it is he, not speaker alvarez, who calls the shots in the House.  read manolo quezon’s A Congress of cats

Today, the point person in the House is Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, arguably one of the most powerful holders of that position in living memory. This is because Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, even in his previous stint as a representative, was never a major mover or shaker and, aside from his closeness to President Duterte, lacks a track record of leadership or camaraderie, or a party franchise and independent means to quickly assert personal dominance in the House (in contrast to his predecessors and successors who were active party men before they assumed the speakership, like Manuel Villar Jr. who compensated for his lack of political ties with an immense personal fortune and by taking over the Nacionalista Party franchise).

in the year 2000 it took just 11 days from the chavit exposé that tagged erap as a jueteng lord (oct 7) for the house of reps to file a motion to impeach (oct 18).  in less than a month (nov 13) senate prez manny villar, upon obtaining the minimum one-third (73 of 218) votes, declared erap impeached and ordered the complaint transmitted to the senate without delay.  trial started dec 7 and abruptlly ended jan 17 2001.

in 2011 it took just six days since the PNoy speech (dec 6) savaging chief justice renato corona (seated just two meters away) for being beholden to former prez gma and for his foiled attempt to allow her to leave the country against the new admin’s wishes.  dec 12 iloilo rep niel tupas of the justice committee presented an impeachment complaint that a few hours later was signed by 188 of 284 reps and transmitted at once to the senate.  the trial began jan 16, ended may 29  2012.

in 2017 it’s taken 16 days for tish’s exposé to elicit an impeachment complaint. despite fariñas.  quick enough, considering that so much else is going on.  feels like a confluence of events coming up, and then again maybe not, yet.  the only thing i’m sure of is that we’re being asked to multi-task, to be vigilant on multiple fronts.  it’s a test.

in defense of tish

wittingly or not, patricia cruz bautista has succeeded in sharpening the divide between the pro-duterte — who love her to pieces and can’t wait to see chief andy impeached and replaced with a digong cohort — and the anti-duterte who have only contempt for a mother who has exposed her own children to public scrutiny and shame, never mind that chief andy does have truly a lot of unexplained wealth and unusual banking practices to explain.

and what if tish’s suspicions prove founded.  what if she’s not making up any of this.  what if she  speaks the truth, this is bigger than her and her children, the stakes are just too high.  i can relate to that.  she is said to have a “third eye,” is a faith healer of sorts, and believes that the universe will provide for, will look after, her children.  shades of desiderata.  very brave and new age, kinda like gina lopez, breaking out from patterns that oppress, even, breaking a taboo, as walden bello puts it:

Now that the taboo has been broken, there will be more B vs B cases. Good if the impact is less corruption.

yeah, IF.  would a duterte appointment in COMELEC bring less corruption?  i doubt it.  the president can rant and warn all he wants that he will not tolerate the slightest whiffs of corruption, but it’s really all talk and bluster, the corruption goes on anyway, sa COMELEC pa.  so do  i want chief andy to stay?  it’s out of our hands, it’s all up to congress, and we know naman, what digong wants, digong gets.

digong wants barangay elections postponed once again, from october this year to may 2018, kasabay ng plano nilang plebiscite on charter change (related to federalism and economic provisions malamang) and the BBL, and the house has obliged.  the senate is playing harder to get, good for them, but i’d be very surprised if the super-majority would dare defy, disappoint, duterte on this one.

so if it’s a done deal na pala, chief andy will be replaced, sooner than later, he should be considering options other than taking his wife to court for robbery, extortion atbp. (hell hath no fury like a macho scorned).  on SRO (dzmm teleradyo) i heard alvin elchico ask atty. tranquil salvador III (who was with the defense team of chief justice corona) what he thought chief andy should do.  he said he would advise chief andy to resign (spare us all from house and senate hearings and a possible impeachment process) AND to settle na with tish, for the sake of the children.  then the talk will just die down; he gives it three weeks (correct me if i heard wrong).  then, i suppose, the people can take andy to court, depending on NBI findings? and he can defend himself there.

in other words, huwag nang gatungan pa ang apoy, baka kumalat pa ang sunog.  which makes one wonder, how widespread kaya can it get.  if we are to believe ex-chief sixto brillantes’ parting words to acting chief robert lim in 2015, before chief andy’s appointment…

Brillantes’ advice to acting chairman Lim: “Relaks ka lang. Walang kwenta ‘yung mga batikos… Kalahati lang ang alam nila. Hindi nila alam ang tunay na nangyayari.” (You just relax. Criticisms are of no value. They only know half of the story. They do not know what really happens.)   

… then maybe we should have those house and senate hearings, now na!  let’s hear more from ex-chief sixto, and chief andy, of course.  let’s have the whole story finally, straight from the horses’ mouths.

Tug of war

Manuel L. Quezon III

As the hearings in the Supreme Court on the martial law petitions take place, many hope to find out what ought to have been put on the record weeks ago—namely, what factors contributed to President Duterte’s decision to impose martial law in Mindanao.

Read on…