Imee Marcos told: Address claims on inserting 'dangerous' provision on 2022 polls

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Imee Marcos told: Address claims on inserting 'dangerous' provision on 2022 polls
In this Feb. 12, 2019 photo, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos attends the campaign launch of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago coalition in San Fernando, Pampanga.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Imee Marcos should address the report that had multiple sources pointing to her as the one who inserted a provision in the 2021 budget that would have allowed Comelec to waive procurement safeguards in the next elections, a spokesman for Vice President Leni Robredo said Sunday.

Election lawyer Emil Marañon III took to Twitter on November 29 to warn that someone from the Senate had sought to put in a provision in next year's spending plan giving the poll body "a carte blanche authority" to disregard safeguards in the country's automated election law. 

Marañon added that this was "very dangerous" as it would allow the Comelec to adopt a new untested system or waive all safeguards for the upcoming national elections in May 2022.

Such was later on confirmed to be true after Senate finance committee chairman Sonny Angara said the insertion was pulled out per orders of Senate President Vicente Sotto III. 

A report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sunday had tagged Marcos, who heads the chamber's electoral reforms committee as the one behind the move, citing various sources from both the Senate and Congress. 

The senator's office had not commented on the report, the Inquirer continued, other than her office saying Marcos had "already addressed" the issue in a television interview where she described waiving procurement laws as a "dangerous thing."

Sought for comment, the vice president's spokesperson told radio dzXL that Marcos should address the claims directly, lest risk being the one who would have exposed the 2022 polls to dangers.

"Dapat sagutin niya para kung hindi man siya involved dito, ma-clear niya 'yung kanyang pangalan," said lawyer Barry Gutierrez. "Hindi ito maliit na bagay. Kung ikaw talaga ang magtutulak nito ay parang ikaw na ang nagtulak ng dayaan, parang ikaw na ang nagbukas ng pinto para sa korapsyon at dayaan sa darating na eleksyon."

(She should answer this to clear out her name if it wasn't her. This is not a small matter. If it is true that she inserted it, it would have appeared that it was her who pushed or opened the door for electoral corruption or fraud.)

Gutierrez added that it would have been ironic if true, as apart from Marcos leading the Senate body on election reforms, it was also during the time of her father — the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos  — where elections were marred by fraud allegations. 

"Kung totoo nga ito eh parang mayroong pag-uulit ng kasaysayan," he said. "Baka mamaya ang habol na naman natin nito mauuwi na naman tayo sa isang sitwasyon na magkakaroon ng magic sa eleksyon. Nagpapasalamat na lang ako na hindi ito natuloy, ito ay naagapan at natanggal ito."

(If this is indeed true then it looks as if we're seeing a repeat of our history. This could lead to another 'magic' in our elections. We are only thankful that this did not materialize and the provision was removed.)

Marcos has been pushing for a "hybrid" system of conducting the next general elections in 2022, or a mix of manual and automated voting after the Philippines shifted to a full automation of polls in 2010.

His brother, ex-senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., has pushed through with his poll protest before the Supreme Court, years after losing the vice presidential race to Robredo in 2016. 

Section 12 of Republic Act 9369 or the automated law states that "the Commission [is] authorized to procure, in accordance with existing laws, by purchase, lease, rent or other forms of acquisition, supplies, equipment, materials, software, facilities, and other service, from local or foreign sources free from taxes and import duties, subject to accounting and auditing rules and regulation."

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has reported that the 2022 elections "will be run entirely" by appointees of President Rodrigo Duterte, including its chairman Sherif Abas.

In 2019, shortly after the midterm polls, Duterte had told the poll body to nix Smartmatic as its election provider and opt for one that is "free of fraud." 

The poll body has said that it is expecting 63 million registered voters in the 2022 elections, that while could no longer see Duterte running as prohibited by the Constitution, could be a referendum of his administration's policies and in turn, of his endorsed candidate to succeed him or a chance for the opposition to reclaim Malacañang.




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