No gun ban for incumbents? Comelec shows partiality

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - February 2, 2016 - 9:00am

A retired Army general, who has a cousin in the PNP brass, requests anonymity in sharing his view: “I hope the next set of Executive and Legislative officials would do better. Your piece on whether the AFP and PNP can still trust each other after Mamasapano (Gotcha, 1 Feb. 2016) correctly notes that the present officials promoted a public blame game between the two uniformed services. For years the AFP has been grooming the PNP to take over the counterinsurgency, essentially a law enforcement work, so it can focus on external defense. Will the PNP ever take over, if it suspects that no help would come from the military big boys if things get rough? Will the Army now withhold aid to all police operations that do not coordinate with it well beforehand? And, oh, that General Napeñas was right to tell the Commander-in-Chief that the AFP is compromised. Anyone who has seen the 6th Infantry Division’s camp in Awang, Maguindanao, would say it teems with ‘the enemy.’”

Sister Elena H., San Jacinto, Pangasinan: “What indeed was Chairman Andres Bautista thinking in rehiring as consultant that discredited Comelec finance director Eduardo D. Mejos? It’s good you caught him red-handed extorting 25 percent from suppliers (Gotcha, 18 and 22 Jan. 2016). One of the victims is my nephew. I didn’t know what to do with the info when he told me. But you beat me to it. I will tell my bishop to support your crusade for clean elections against an untrustworthy Comelec.”

@Rick221, Twitter: “With your extensive exposés on the DOTC, you might be able to answer my query about the proposed North Rail from Manila to Malolos, Bulacan, then onto San Fernando, Pampanga. Budgeted at $800 million under President GM Arroyo, it was dubbed the most expensive railway in the world. When the P-Noy admin came in 2010, it gave the impression of shelving the project.

“Weeks ago while visiting my dad in Valenzuela City, I noticed construction going on there. (Attached are photos I took at the Acacia Road-Malabon segment.) It is fenced off, so I never noticed it before. That’s where the Philippine National Railway tracks are, cleared of squatters by the Arroyo admin.

“Right after the recent APEC Summit in Manila, this ‘misadministration boasted of getting a $2-billion loan from Japan for a railway from Tutuban Central Station in Manila to Malolos. Questions: Is the Arroyo rail project different from this one of P-Noy’s from Japan? Based on the pictures, is the government now building an elevated light railway, instead of the originally planned ground-level heavy railway? I did write the DOTC, but have not received the courtesy of a reply.”

My response: Rick, just the other Monday in a roundtable with The STAR editors and writers, Sec. Joseph Abaya said there’s no work going on there. But better for him to say so himself, since your photos show otherwise, and he is duty-bound by the Code of Conduct to reply to citizens’ queries. Besides, that “walk-outing” U-Sec. of his might wail again that I’m putting words into his boss’ mouth.

* * *

The “Economist” claims to be the world’s best magazine, but from my experience it’s the worst in customer care. For years I was a print-edition subscriber. I can count with the fingers of one hand the few times the local office delivered my weekly copy on Fridays as advertised. It was always two to three days late. I switched to the costlier on-line audio edition, to my later regret. The audio of one double-issue couldn’t be downloaded. The local subscription complaints office kept promising to fix their technical problem, but never did. Six weeks since, they just continue giving me the runaround. Think twice before subscribing to that publication.

* * *

The first post-Marcos presidential election, in 1992, was iffy. Eight coup attempts had rocked outgoing President Cory Aquino. Communist and Moro insurgents were at their fiercest. Armed robbers reigned. An administration lawmaker had smuggled suitcases of pistols into the airport. Large-scale violence threatened to erupt anytime. The Comelec enforced a gun ban. Politicos grumbled. Not even the congressman-brother of the President could get an exemption. Then-election chairman Christian Monsod was steadfast: “If politics is too risky for you, then get out of it.”

Four presidential polls later, this 2016, the situation isn’t much different. Moro separatists have massacred 44 police commandos for taking down their secret international terrorist-ally. Narco-traffickers rule, along with murderers-for-hire. Everyday citizens are being killed in home invasions and street crimes. Presidential candidates openly have dared each other to gunfights. Local political rivals expectedly will follow suit. But the Comelec is soft. The commissioners automatically exempted senators and congressmen from the gun ban if they are running for any office. Then, imagining to have painted themselves into a corner, they expanded the exemption. No longer will they stupidly be selective; they will be more stupidly unselective. All lawmakers, whether running or retiring, shall now be exempted from Jan. 9 to June 9, since they are after all to exercise legislative duties till terms end on June 30.

The exemption is shortsighted. By being partial to incumbents, the Comelec in effect disfavors challengers. And since most incumbents are with the ruling Liberal Party, it in effect favors the administration.

Whether running or retiring, chances are the incumbents come from political dynasties. In effect, the Comelec is prolonging the life of dynasts, instead of eradicating them as the Constitution prescribes. The automatic exemption also erases the balance of non-terror of equally disarmed opponents. In effect, the Comelec promotes private armies.

The next chapter is predictable. Pretty soon the commissioners again will imagine having painted themselves into another corner. So they might as well exempt all elective officials: governors, mayors, vices, provincial board members, city and municipal councilors. And because they could be criticized all the more for being pro-incumbent – reportedly 40 LPs are running unopposed as congressman, governor, or mayor – they would just as well scrap the darned gun ban.

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

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

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