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Comelec: a most debased institution

President Aquino’s daang matuwid is more and more strewn with damaged institutions he has debased for his purported crusade.

Constitutional bodies designed to be above the fray of politics were mobilized to take out Chief Justice Renato Corona: the Ombudsman teaming up with the Commission on Audit. Before this, to force Corona to resign before the Supreme Court could finalize its earlier decisions on the Hacienda Luisita case, the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s head tried to whip up mob frenzy against him by falsely claiming that he had not even filed his income tax returns for several years.
Other institutions perverted by Mr. Aquino to remove Chief Justice Corona: the Department of Justice, which claimed that the chief magistrate could manipulate the Court’s decisions; the Land Registration Authority which falsely alleged that Corona had 45 hidden properties; the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which turned a blind eye to the prosecutors’ break-in into his bank records; the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s secretariat that released bank data without a court order; the media which became Mr. Aquino’s mouthpieces against Corona; and of course, the House of Representatives which filed a rushed  impeachment complaint most of its signatories hadn’t even read.

This isn’t really surprising. Much earlier, Mr. Aquino had already debased an institution that is at the heart of a representative government: the Commission on Elections.

Many are still questioning the integrity of the election automation under the Venezuelan-managed Smartmatic, whose real owners have not been disclosed such that there is a suspicion they may even include strongman Hugo Chavez’s cronies.

Seventeen senators filed a resolution asking for a new registration of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, where voters’ list are so padded with fictitious voters that its census population increased by a million ghost residents. And that’s just for ARMM, which only drew the senators’ attention because of the postponement of elections there. It is common knowledge though among politicians that fictitious voters are so rampant in our country, that democracy is a myth in many areas. Legislative and local elections will be held in May 2013, and the Comelec hasn’t even started its preparations.

And what has its head, Sixto Brillantes, candidate Fernando Poe’s lawyer in the 2004 elections, been most occupied with? Putting and keeping the past president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in jail.

This in fact is the first time ever that the Comelec has been employed by a president to go after a high-ranking official for electoral fraud, a function that ranks at the bottom of its nine “powers and functions” on the Constitution’s list.

Why has Mr. Aquino shamelessly used the Comelec to go after Arroyo?

Because a year after his entire administration tried to dig up dirt and manufacture graft charges against Arroyo to put her in jail, Mr. Aquino miserably failed. Enter Brillantes, who until late last year still couldn’t be confirmed as Comelec head, as he still had to prove himself to be the President’s ruthless hit man.

Brillantes’ brilliant idea: There is an obscure section in the election automation law, Republic Act 9639 of 2007, which provides that a vaguely-defined offense called “electoral sabotage” is penalized by life imprisonment. And under the Penal Code, that makes it a “non-bailable” charge. If the Comelec charges Arroyo with electoral sabotage, she will almost automatically be put in jail, Brillantes must have told Mr. Aquino.

Because of media’s subservience to Mr. Aquino, many people still think—and even veteran columnists still write—that Arroyo is in detention because of charges she cheated to be President in 2004. That’s totally false. The charge involves the 2007 elections where, believe it or not, Arroyo is alleged to have ordered Maguindanao officials to cheat to make sure her party’s senatorial slate would win.

It is not coincidental that Brillantes picked Maguindanao officials to be the “cheaters” for Arroyo. These officials were in the deepest trouble possible: charged for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre in which 54 people were killed. Brillantes must have thought that it was an offer they couldn’t refuse: Testify against Arroyo, or be among those charged for the massacre.

To Brillantes’ consternation though, only one buckled under: Maguindanao warlord Andal Ampatuan’s minion Norie Unas who, relatives of the massacre victims claimed, ordered the digging of the corpses’ mass grave with excavating tractors. Unas’ testimony? He overheard Arroyo telling the Maguindanao governor—as they were walking towards the door with a crowd after a dinner in Malacañang—that she wants a “12-0 win” for her senatorial slate.

But because he is a witness, the only one in fact, against Arroyo, Unas has not been included among the accused in the massacre by the justice department, which put him in its witness protection program.

In the court hearing last week, Unas’ testimony has all but collapsed. He admitted that what he had earlier claimed was Arroyo’s order to Maguindanao officials to cheat so all her senatorial candidates would be elected could be just an electoral “battle cry.” Unas also admitted that he had to escape prosecution from several cases the justice department had prepared against him.

If I were with the opposition, and with a Comelec headed by a Brillantes intent in pleasing Mr. Aquino, I’d be very worried for the 2013 elections. If I were Brillantes, I’d have second thoughts feeding the deep hatred against him of the massacre victims’ relatives, who feel that he is shielding from justice the conspirator who ordered their kin to be buried in some mass grave.