By Victor Avecilla | Manila Standard Today
The camp of Leni Robredo, the purported Vice President of the Philippines, never seems to run out of gimmicks designed to promote her image.
Robredo is the purported vice president of the country because her claim to the office is currently contested before the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). Rightly so, because the recent allegations against Andres Bautista, the incumbent chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), to the effect that he has amassed a huge fortune during his stint as the head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, and during his incumbency as Comelec chairman, suggests that not all was well and clean in, among others, the May 2016 vice presidential race between Robredo and ex-Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Smartmatic was the foreign provider of the automated voting machines used in the 2016 polls. A Smartmatic computer expert was caught tampering with the codes pertaining to the canvassing of ballots. Smartmatic executives were even billeted at the Novotel Hotel in Cubao, Quezon City, the same hotel which hosted the national headquarters of Robredo’s Liberal Party (LP).
After the election, Bongbong Marcos petitioned the PET for a revision of ballots cast in several contested precincts in bailiwicks where he could not have possibly lost. In an attempt to lend credence to her suspicious victory, Robredo also questioned the counting in a number of polling centers. The Robredo counter-revision case is rather unusual because winning candidates do not contest the outcome of an election they won.
Pursuant to its rules, the PET required Bongbong and Robredo to pay revision fees proportionate to the number of ballot boxes involved in their respective petitions. Accordingly, Bongbong was charged P30 million and Robredo, P15 million. Bongbong’s fee was higher because his case involved more ballot boxes than Robredo’s case did.
The Marcos camp said Bongbong was able to raise the P30-million revision fee with the help of his family, friends, and supporters.
Right after Bongbong paid his revision fee, Robredo accused the Marcos family of using its wealth to unseat her. Huh? Paying a fee fixed by the PET is synonymous to using one’s money to oppress an opposing candidate? How Robredo and her cohorts in the LP arrived at that impertinent conclusion is unexplained.
When that ruse failed to stir public support and attention, Robredo stopped ranting and made a partial payment of P8 million. Last June, Robredo still had a balance of P7 million.
Seeing her situation as an opportunity to draw public sympathy anew, Robredo played to her supporters once more. Last July, six women filed a petition asking the PET to permit them to pay part of Robredo’s P7-million balance. To justify their rather unusual petition, they conveniently said that they have “the right to see to it that the outcome of the elections is protected.” Really? According to the law, that’s the task of the PET in the first place.
The petition prompts one to ask: Why do these women need to file a petition in the PET and seek permission to pay a part of the balance of Robredo’s revision fee? Why don’t they just turn over their contributions to Robredo herself and let Robredo pay it to the PET? On its face, the petition had all the trappings of a publicity stunt designed to drum up support for Robredo.
As expected, the petition was summarily dismissed, obviously because it is not allowed under the rules of procedure governing cases before the PET.
What is clear is that the six petitioners are rabid, partisan supporters of ex-President Benigno Aquino III and the LP.
Petitioner Corazon “Dinky” Soliman was social welfare secretary during the administration of President Aquino III. Secretary Soliman spent public money to temporarily house Manila’s street urchins outside of the city in order to keep them off the city streets during the visit of Pope Francis in Manila in January 2015.
Soliman was also the social welfare secretary of President Gloria Arroyo. At the height of the so-called “Hello Garci” scandal rocking the Arroyo administration, Soliman supported Arroyo for a brief period but abandoned her when the going got rough.
Another petitioner, Zorayda Amelia Alonzo, was the head of the Pag-Ibig mutual fund during the regime of President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino. Last May, libel charges were filed against her and other officials before the Regional Trial Court in Pasig City.
Petitioner Nina Yuson, a museum curator, criticized the dismissal of the petition. She accused the PET of favoring wealthy candidates, and of ignoring the concern of 25,000 Filipinos. Yuson, however, did not substantiate her accusations.
Another one said that the money raised for Robredo came from Filipinos from various sectors. How that argument justifies their unauthorized petition was something the petitioner did not bother to explain.
For her part, Robredo complained that the budget of the Office of the Vice President for 2018 was increased by a mere P15 million for 2018. That means her office will be free to spend some P443.95 million next year, compared to the P428.6 million allotted to it this year.
Good grief! P443.95 million and Robredo is still unhappy? What will her office do with all that money anyway? Since there is no law, other than the annual appropriations act, which specifically defines what the vice president may do during his or her incumbency, Robredo probably believes that she is free to spend the bulk of that money on criticizing the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, promoting herself as his ideal substitute, and maintaining her government-issued mansion in New Manila, Quezon City—unless Quezon City Mayor and fellow LP partymate Herbert Bautista has already pledged city funds for such maintenance. That should not come as a surprise because Mayor Bautista loves to spend city funds indiscriminately. Incidentally, is his brother, city councilor Hero Bautista, already cured of his drug dependency?