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Comelec, we have a problem

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2016 - 9:00am

The fun run held last week to kick off the campaign for clean and peaceful elections led by the Commission on Elections brings to mind the many faux pas this agency has done in the past that has cast doubts in its credibility and efficiency in the conduct of its mandate.

The Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, Article VII – The Commission on Elections, Section 52 on the Powers and Functions of the Commission on Elections states: “In addition to the powers and functions conferred upon it by the Constitution, the Commission shall have exclusive charge of the enforcement and administration of all laws relative to the conduct of elections for the purpose of ensuring free, orderly and honest elections.”

A study made from a layman’s point of view show various implications regarding the credibility and accountability of this important branch in Philippine government. The findings are a bit blatantly obvious. The Commission on Elections as an independent branch is meant to deliver a fair and honest election framework for the voting people of the Republic of the Philippines. But in reality, we must not be too naive that this framework is efficiently and competently structured to satisfy the fairness, orderliness, and honesty in achieving a credible responsible election.

The quality of people assigned as chairman and commissioners of Comelec in the past decades meant to ensure an effective and functional progressive office of Electoral Commission. Sadly, in studying the eventful and historical governing of the Comelec operations, it seems that the chairman and commissioners are somewhat clueless and helpless in controlling and maintaining a standard that have a stringent framework without political interference from the ruling local government governors and mayors. We must also keep in mind that the chairman and commissioners of the Comelec are appointed by the ruling President. This leaves us wondering if they are not biased towards the ruling party or specifically influenced by the President who appointed them.

In addition, based on an extract Resolution pertaining to the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI); constitutions and appointment, the Commission on Elections, through its Election Officer, shall constitute not later than a defined date, the BEI for each precinct/clustered precinct. These BEIs come from the list of all public school teachers submitted by the Department of Education’s (DepEd) highest official within the city/municipality/school district. Note that this DepEd highest official is selected and appointed by the governors of the provinces and mayors of the cities. These BEIs undergo Comelec training. But as they are initially paid and appointed by Provincial Election Supervisor (PES) governor or mayor, one can’t help but wonder where their loyalty would be.

Back in 2013, in Rizal Province, there were allegations that the canvassing of votes was transferred by the Provincial Election Supervisor from the City Hall of Antipolo, the seat of canvassing for every election, to the Ynares Sports Center in the Provincial Capitol grounds which is believed to be the center of political activities and headquarters of the Ynares adopted political parties.

By moving to the Capitol, when a separate working place was practically available in the City Hall, the Provincial Election Supervisor (PES) increased the risk to compromise Comelec’s independent role to that of the Provincial Government. This shows that the power of the PES seems to be beyond the control of Comelec. This likewise cast doubt on the fairness and honesty of the election.

If you can still recall, it was also in this province where during the 2010 post-election 60 PCOS machines were recovered in the resident of a Smartmatic technician. This nearly caused a rebellion in Antipolo, Rizal. Police and army personnel were called in riot gear.

On April 23, 2010, Comelec passed Resolution 8823 directing Smartmatic to store the PCOS machines in the central warehouse of Smartmatic in Cabuyao, Laguna after elections. Acting partly as mediator, then Senate President Enrile transferred the 60 machines to be stored in the Senate. But already after the fact, even with the directive of the Joint Congress Committee, only a truncated investigation occurred with negative findings.

No action was taken by Comelec against the PES of Rizal whose role is to supervise the Resolution directive of delivering the equipment to the specified storage location nor Smartmatic for violating and interfering the proper storage as stated in Resolution 8823. As a matter of fact,  Comelec continued trading with Smartmatic without considering insulting the voters of the Philippines with its inaction to a foreign supplier that violated its Resolution by being in possession of that 60 machines in a private dwelling. Now, is it wrong for the voters to think that Comelec was in collusion with Smartmatic with this event being clearly unresolved?

Comelec seems powerless in the local government management or manipulation of the election which does validate the statement that they are clueless and helpless in the election activities at local government levels.

Here lies the predicament of why we have such an unstable and corrupt government. Our election system framework lacks proper organization, monitoring and complete administrative infrastructure. This is why the Philippines is full of elite dynasties controlling our cities, provinces and even our national government.

This is why 80 percent of our population wallows in poverty. These elite dynasties control the full national government. Without the support of the government these dynasties risk unfavorable results in the election in the cities and provinces. So, efficient governance is stuck in these complex political maneuvers, so unproductive in providing the necessary services for the people of the Philippines.

The Commission on Elections, as an independent branch of government, lacks the complete organization framework that can provide a full accountable management of having a fair, orderly and honest competent election that they promote in their operating code. A factor in organization regarding legalities like Legislations and Resolutions becomes a hindrance in managing Commission on Elections. Management can easily be transformed in a more dynamic framework based on policy statements, procedural directives, detailed guidelines and hence producing a high form of working standards.

So in reality what is needed is a proper administrative infrastructure with full working framework structure based on a specific legislation as part of what the directive Constitutional statement states. The Commission can then freely plan and organize without being hindered or pressured through stalemate by defensive legal obligation and can manage, organize and account for the respective responsibilities it is meant to provide. It can satisfy the legal obligation more effectively.

The Comelec is supposed to be the premier guardian of the Philippine ballot. It is an embarrassment to have it operate inefficiently and ineffectively for so many decades because the same elite groups holds the power to ensure control not for good governance but for self-benefit and glory. This actually justifies why the electorate remain skeptical and negative towards Comelec.

Do politicians really think that as voters we are that naïve that we could easily be manipulated? It’s time for massive reforms to bring proper control to governance.

Perhaps Comelec can set up their offices far from the LGU premises. In this way, they can maintain and not compromise their unbiased independent status.

 

ACIRC BOARD OF ELECTION INSPECTORS CITY HALL CITY HALL OF ANTIPOLO COMELEC COMMISSION ELECTION ELECTIONS GOVERNMENT PROVINCIAL ELECTION SUPERVISOR SMARTMATIC
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