Category: elections

Plebiscite for the blind

Manuel L. Quezon III

… Young or old, all are generally ignorant when it comes to constitutionally-related matters. Older people still expect to debate the topic, but venues for doing so are very fragmented as to eliminate the possibility of consensus. Younger people do not take it as given that such subjects ought to be debated. And young or old, in a nonpresidential election year, more are inclined to stay home on election day.

There is an old Spanish saying that describes our current situation best. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

andy’s endgame

wednesday morning he said he was resigning as comelec chief, effective end of the year.  medyo nagulat ako, sabay mabuti naman, he should have done it (as advised) two months ago, faced tish’s charges squarely, or better yet, settled with her, never mind defending the “integrity” of the 2016 elections.

wednesday afternoon he was impeached by congress anyway.  the plenary overturned the justice committee’s dismissal (insufficient form) of the complaint against him; many more reps signed it instead, along with the original 3, finding the charges serious and deserving of a senate trial.

nagulat uli ako, sabay salamat naman, let it be on record that he was impeached, never mind that he had promised to resign.  because that’s all it is, a promise to step down come dec 31.  but what if he doesn’t, say ni rep gwen garcia, what if he waffles and changes his mind about resigning?  indeed.  despite his sweeping denials of any wrongdoing, the comelec chief has lost some / a lot of, if not all, credibility.

Bautista said that he wanted to give the President time to choose a new Comelec chairman and effect a smooth transition.

At the same time, Bautista said that he has still a commitment to fulfill as chairperson of the Association of Asean Electoral Authorities in a scheduled meeting with his counterparts to be held in Cebu in December.

umm.  seeing as he is resigning under a cloud of shocking allegations, among them serious questions re the conduct of the 2016 elections, and seeing as he has been impeached by congress to boot, why would he still deserve to chair, and host, that ASEAN electoral authorities affair?

“Kung makahanap sila o kung gusto nila mas agahan yung aking pagbibitiw, walang problema basta lang maayos ang transition,” he said.

clearly andy would rather not step down until duterte has appointed a new comelec chief.  i suspect that there’s stuff he needs to formally turn over, such as contracts maybe that he has signed, maybe with the likes of smartmatic?  sabay dasal, or demand? that these be honored by the new chief?  or else, what?  this may have been the topic of conversation when andy met with executive sec medialdea oct 10.

interesting endgame.  the next move is the president’s.  the palace has already distanced  from the impeachment.  but not from the resignation.

KIT TATAD: In Bautista’s case, since he had already decided to resign, DU30 could simply supply the immediate effectivity of his resignation. This would render Bautista immediately vulnerable to criminal prosecution, in relation to various questionable transactions during the last presidential elections, and, in particular, his estranged wife Patricia’s allegation that he had amassed over P1 billion in unexplained and undisclosed wealth during said elections, which he hid in 35 separate bank accounts in a rural (thrift) bank.

But the more important point is that it would give DU30 a chance to name a new Comelec chair through whom he could either reform the electoral system or control it for his own ends. Given his autocratic bent and tendency to exploit every opportunity to extend his power, he could indeed use Bautista’s replacement for his own political ends; but given the huge outcry against our thoroughly corrupted automated electoral system, which has given us so many illegitimately elected officials in 2010, 2013 and 2016, he just might allow the reformist groups to put in their desired reforms for the 2019 and 2022 national elections.

who knows, duterte might still surprise us.  though it would be surprising as well if he allowed the impeachment to proceed.  say ni harvey keh in a public status sa fb:

To Comelec Chair Andy Bautista, some unsolicited advice: Now that our disgusting members of Congress decided to impeach you, I suggest you now withdraw your resignation letter. Tang Ina, ilaban na natin ito.

We only need 7 votes in the Senate to win this, lets push back and push hard to show this administration that it can’t mess with the Filipino people. #LabanAndy

a full-length impeachment trial, yung hindi mapuputol, yung wala nang resignation come dec 31, yes, please.  otherwise mabibitin masyado ang taong-bayan, and who knows where we might end up.

andy bautista wins? who loses?

interesting that it is pro-duterte peeps who are protesting, questioning, criticizing the dismissal of the impeachment complaint vs comelec chief andy bautista, yet it is also the pro-duterte majority in the house of reps justice committee that dismissed the complaint on mere technicalities re sufficiency in “form” because, you know, they have to be strict and follow the rules daw; and yet they refused to entertain a correction of the form (which is NOT disallowed) and at once dismissed the complaint even when the rules entertain a dismissal only upon a finding of insufficiency in “substance.”  check out rules of procedure in impeachment complaints, rule iii, section 4, 17th congress.

the big surprise, however, is representative edcel lagman, who is known to be an oppositionist — he is against the drug war, voted against the death penalty, martial law in mindanao, and the CHR budget cut — but who belongs to the super majority pala. he voted, too, to dismiss the case.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of those who supported the dismissal of the case against Bautista, said there is no rule allowing a complainant to amend his verification and his complaint.

He said the attempt of Paras and Topacio to present an amended verification “clearly shows that the original was defective.”

to think that rep. edcel is a member (for the majority) of the committee on suffrage and electoral reform.  is this a portent of things to come?  we will never know if our votes are being counted correctly?  we will always be under the thumb of the likes of bautista (and smartmatic and their cohorts in congress) whose integrity and love of country are under such heavy clouds of doubt?

the andy bautista issue is a unique one that divides the body politic along different lines from the drug war.

the dilawans, of course, are happy about the junked impeachment complaint.  it means that leni is safe.  imagine nga naman:  if, when, andy is impeached, who knows what evil magic a duterte-appointed comelec chief might wreak in aid of bongbong’s claim to the vp seat.  kahit pa sabihing nasa supreme court na ang kaso, we all know how the system works for ones who are powerful enough.

the duterte diehard supporters in congress, of course, are also happy about the junked impeachment complaint.  it means that andy owes them big, and it means that the very crucial plebiscite on charter change for term extensions and economic liberalization, not to speak of federalism, would happen under andy’s watch, with smartmatic pa rin kaya?

which is to say that the duterte camp is clearly divided.  baka wala pang memo from the palace?  or is this one issue on which they will remain divided.  right now it’s social media ka-DDS vs. the house of reps ka-DDS.  the lines are drawn, the battle is joined.

but wait, there’s hope.  rep harry roque says that the House plenary can still override the justice committee’s decision.  hmm.  kailan iyan?  automatic ba iyan, magaganap within a certain number of days?  or will it be the call of majority leader dear rudy fariñas who is said to be, like the dilawans, afraid that impeaching andy means that leni will likely be replaced by bongbong.  he is also said to be of the belief that if not impeached, andy will resign of his own accord.  magugulat naman ako masyado.

a plenary would be good.  and when the reps vote, dapat ay nominal voting, one by one, let the records show who is for what!  itigil na iyang hiding behind viva voce!

and just in case fariñas won’t do a plenary…  if he does, then just in case the plenary lets andy off the hook…  ngayon pa lang, i’m thinking civil disobedience.  why should we vote when we don’t trust the people behind the machines that will be counting our votes?  what if they held elections and nobody came?

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.