Early politicking takes many forms
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc () - July 27, 2011 - 12:00am

Midterm elections are still two years away. But if newsmakers are to be believed, recent headlines have to do with politicking this early.

Hottest was the confirmation by Muslim Autonomous Region ex-governor Zaldy Ampatuan of poll fraud in 2007. Allegedly the Arroyos had ordered his politico-dad to zero out the votes for senatorial aspirants Noynoy Aquino, Panfilo Lacson and Alan Peter Cayetano. In sequence the long hunted Maguindanao poll supervisor Lintang Bedol and three underlings surfaced to affirm Ampatuan. More unfolded. The Malacañang political adviser then broadcast that Virgilio Garcillano, of “Hello Garci” notoriety, would talk too about Gloria Arroyo’s 2004 poll rigging. The statements may be true. But the manner looked orchestrated, including Ampatuan’s announced desire to testify against his father and brother in the Maguindanao massacre of 2009. The lawyer of the massacre kin had to shout that a deal was being hatched to lighten Ampatuan’s murder charge, so he can post bail. Supposedly the favors for the known poll manipulator are in exchange for help for certain administration politicians in 2013. That Ampatuan consequently was moved from jail to hospital heightened apprehensions. As well, the entry of the deputy of the Comelec’s influential citizen arm, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, as Ampatuan’s attorney.

Of lesser prominence but purportedly political as well was the Ombudsman’s six-month suspension of Caloocan Mayor Rico Echiverri. Reportedly raring to take over, the vice mayor had accused him of withholding contributions to the state employees’ pension. Echiverri indeed had been doing so, but only because his city hall accountants were still reconciling their members’ rosters with the GSIS fund. Yet the Ombudsman, without getting his side, summarily ordered him — on a Sunday, barely ten days from the rap’s filing — to step down. Notably some 300 other mayors also have not been remitting, because likewise clearing up their records with the GSIS.

Odd too is the torrent of media commentaries against Camarines Sur Governor L-Ray Villafuerte. Up to last year, his sixth in politics, even partisan rivals were praising him for savvy administration, particularly in luring economy-spurring tourists. Reputation unparalleled, he had beaten the long ruling political clan by 100,000 votes in 2004, and again in 2007 and 2010 by 200,000. He has been multi-awarded for good governance. Now all of a sudden he is facing seven malversation raps, filed by only one man, from tentative audit findings. Even a loud fight with his estranged father, which he swears never happened, is being touted. Villafuerte attributes it all to a plan of three of five Camarines congressmen to split the province into two. Although a long shot in plebiscite, the gerrymandering would give one of the congressmen a chance to become governor.

Premature politicking does seem to be in vogue. So much so that President Aquino deplored it in his State of the Nation Monday as divisive of the citizenry. The cause apparently is the nationwide poll automation starting in May 2010. With results now tallied in three hours instead of the old three weeks, dagdag-bawas became impossible. The delaying tactic of pre-proclamation protest also is no longer allowed. Last election crooked pols resorted to bribing their rivals’ campaigners to stay away from the precinct on Election Day. But it was costly, up to P5,000 per stay-away, for tens of millions. Other ways had to be devised.

For those in office, one way to prolong their stay is to delay protest cases in the Senate and House of Reps Electoral Tribunals. The trick is effective. Real winners are proclaimed only on the last week of the term, when usurpers already had used up the office budget.

Another way is to cook cases right in the Comelec. Interesting were the twists and turns in the Lucena City mayoralty. The defeated contender had claimed that Mayor Barbara Talaga never qualified to run last year due to technical defects in substituting for her husband. A Comelec division upheld the protester as the true winner. Then, the vice mayor appealed to the en banc that he, not the protester, should assume the top post. The same commissioner-author of the division ruling wrote the en banc decision, this time favoring the vice mayor. Meanwhile, syndicates at the Comelec sell accreditations and victories for party lists.

Yet another trick is recall. Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes said that even before becoming valid starting June 2011, a hundred recall petitions already had been filed against June 2010 poll winners. Before, only two or three recalls would be filed on the local officials’ second year. A signature drive against Palawan’s Baham Mitra began on his fifth month in office, for loss of confidence in his yet unproven governorship. Before that, he had to hurdle yet another politicking trick: disqualification. The capital city where he lived suddenly was reclassified as highly urbanized and no longer under the provincial authority, so he had to re-file his candidacy with an off-city address.

Perhaps the cruelest trick is to put a foe out of the running by heinous criminal rap. Former Batangas vice governor Ricky Recto cries “political prosecution” for attempted assassination of the governor in 2006. He and his alleged co-conspirator objected to the defective preliminary inquiry by a “partisan prosecutor.” The co-accused was absolved, Recto indicted.

Politicians whom he would face in 2013 are implicating him in the murder of radio commentator Gerry Ortega, opines Palawan ex-governor Joel Reyes. When the justice department exonerated him recently, the pols griped. A supporter wondered why one of them kept praising the self-confessed procurer of the murder weapon, recruiter of the gunmen, and planner of the hit, for linking Reyes.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

E-mail: jariusbondoc@workmail.com


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