Daily Tribune - Comelec’s useless regulations

News & Interviews
9 March 2019

By Victor Avecilla | Daily Tribune

Promulgating regulations is one thing. Being able to enforce them is another. This truism apparently has not dawned on the narrow-minded bureaucrats running the Commission on Elections (Comelec). The Comelec promulgates regulations to enforce the pertinent election laws, but it has been largely impotent when it comes to enforcing them.

For starters, there is the controversy concerning ex-Sen. Sergio Osmeña III. According to the Comelec, the veteran politician from Cebu failed to comply with the legal requirement to file a post-election statement of expenditures after he lost his latest Senate bid in 2016. That failure, the Comelec maintains, is a ground for permanent disqualification from running in future elections. That is why one section of the Comelec sought to disqualify Osmeña in this year’s senatorial race.

That measure notwithstanding, the Comelec allowed Osmeña to participate in this year’s polls and included his name in the computerized ballots. Good grief!

That’s not all. From the Comelec’s own records, Osmeña failed to comply with that expenditure reportorial requirement during the past two senatorial elections, namely, 2010 and 2016! If that is so, the Comelec should have disqualified Osmeña outright when he filed his certificate of candidacy in 2016. Despite that clear breach of the election law, the Comelec still allowed Osmeña not just once but on two more occasions. Good grief!

Under the Constitution, no senator is allowed to run for a third consecutive term. Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, who was installed by the Senate Electoral Tribunal as one of the 12 winning senatorial candidates in the 2007 elections, and who was reelected to a second term beginning 2013 and ending in 2019, filed his certificate of candidacy for a third term this year. A famous litigation lawyer filed a disqualification case against Pimentel late last year, but the Comelec decided to allow Pimentel to run anyway. Holy smokes!

Election laws prohibit political parties from exerting any influence on both the Comelec and Smartmatic, the service provider for the computerized election system used in the May 2016 polls. Despite the same, the Comelec billeted Smartmatic officials at the Novotel Hotel at the Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City – the same hotel where the Liberal Party (LP) general headquarters was located. That hotel is also owned by the Araneta family, to which then LP presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Araneta Roxas II belongs.

All automated voting machines obtained from Smartmatic should always be in the secure custody of the Comelec. The news media reported that on the eve of election day in 2016, several automated voting machines were seen inside Novotel Hotel. Instead of acting on the matter immediately, the Comelec took several hours to get to the hotel. After the Comelec chairman back then inspected only the few rooms which Novotel management allowed him to see, he declared that no such machines were in the hotel. Good heavens!

Election campaign signages for outdoor use must comply with the legally prescribed dimensions. There are also designated areas where campaign propaganda may be publicly displayed. These restrictions notwithstanding, candidates have come out with campaign propaganda in violation of the requisite dimensions. Their posters are found everywhere, also in violation of campaign regulations.

The Comelec recently announced that it will embark on a nationwide effort to get rid of those illegal campaign propaganda. Hah! It is almost certain that right after those illegal materials are taken down by the Comelec, replacements will be all over the place again.

Even before the official campaign period for the House of Representatives officially begins, many congressional candidates in the provinces have been putting up campaign propaganda in clear violation of election campaign laws. These propaganda are not the usual discreet posters and streamers. They openly state that this and that politician is running for congressman!

Comelec officials in the different regions are supposed to monitor these violations of election laws. None of them are doing their job. Many citizens suspect that these Comelec regional officials have been paid to look the other way.

The reckless inaction of the Comelec regarding the rampant and manifest violations of election laws only give the people good reason to think lowly of this constitutional commission that is all hot air and no genuine public service to speak of. It is a far cry from the election watchdog it is supposed to be. The budget given to it by Congress is a waste of public money.