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Opinion

Why the threats?    

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

Comelec Commissioner George Garcia disagreed with Commissioner Rey Bulay's threat to have the poll agency’s critics arrested. Bulay even said he will ask the AFP to effect the arrests with the latter being under Comelec control during elections. Garcia said in a democracy it should be free to air views and sentiments about Comelec and all government agencies. It is also a right guaranteed under our Constitution.

I’m not surprised by Bulay’s threats. This is characteristic of officials of this administration, starting with the chief executive himself. Any criticism is not well received as they believe themselves to be the best administration in decades, run by the supposedly best and brightest of the land because President Duterte handpicked them. So, being incapable of wrongdoing, no form of criticism or opposition should be leveled against them. If a person or group criticizes, officials retaliate with threats of arrest, detention, lawsuits, closure, and even imprisonment. Bulay was peppered with more criticism, citing abuse of power and unconstitutional actions. He has since walked back, saying he was merely warning and not threatening. In this administration, is one better sounding than the other?

What is wrong with criticizing, and expressing sentiment or opinion on what government may be questionably doing? Isn't it the duty of the government to serve the people and not the other way around? And regarding asking the AFP to effect arrests, is there a threat to national security where the AFP is summoned to respond? Has the AFP been relegated to police duties?

Take for example this latest issue. The final presidential and vice presidential debates were supposed to be held at Sofitel. It turns out Impact Hub Manila, the private company that organized the said debates, was unable to fulfill its financial obligations to Sofitel to the tune of ?15 million. Checks issued by Impact Hub to Sofitel bounced. It was then revealed Comelec will guarantee the said amount. Does this mean Comelec will directly settle with Sofitel, in essence bailing out Impact Hub? Why didn't Comelec vet Impact Hub’s financial capability to organize the debates in the first place?

Comelec cannot settle with Sofitel because no contract exists between them. Therefore, the said “misunderstanding” that led to the cancellation of the debate is now being investigated. The Comelec assured it has not released any funds to fix this mess and those involved may be criminally liable. The planned debate will no longer continue in favor of a "panel discussion" with individual candidates. So, is it wrong to criticize what just happened?

COMELEC

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