The Comelec is no ‘sacred cow’

By Herbert Vego

“HELLO, Garci.”

Certainly, Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Rey Bulay, 63, is not too old to forget the recorded telephone call made by the then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Virgilio Garciliano, an election officer in Maguindanao who had been tasked to rig the 2004 presidential election in her favor.

For that, Arroyo eventually whispered, “I am sorry.”

For that, the Senate as the impeachment court junked the impeachment case filed by the House of Representatives.

Doubts on the integrity of the Comelec have lingered since the martial law years when elections during that era always showed favorable results for administration candidates.

The People Power Revolution that kicked President Ferdinand Marcos out of Malacañang Palace had sprung from public rage against the rigged 1986 snap election that pitted him against opposition candidate Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.

And now, here’s a present-day commissioner telling the people not to criticize the Comelec personnel because it would erode their integrity. Otherwise he would ask the Armed Forces of the Philippines to arrest and jail the critics.

Does Bulay fear a surge of anti-Comelec rage a day after April 9?

The news on international observers and newsmen coming seems to confirm that.

The credibility of the “partnership” of the Comelec and Smartmatic (supplier of the vote-counting machines) has always been doubted.

Why be so rude, Mr. Bulay? Since you seven Comelec commissioners are all appointees of President Duterte, why don’t you take steps to erase those “aspersions”?

You are in no position to threaten the alumni of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) just because they had issued a statement asking the Comelec to “ensure an orderly, peaceful and credible elections on May 9, 2022.”

Mahiya ka, Mr. Bulay. AIM is a prestigious graduate school and research institution focused on business, management and economy.

This corner agrees with Danilo Arao, convenor of the poll watchdog Kontra Daya, for saying that the threats to freedom of expression are “counterproductive to democracy, of which elections are an inherent part.”

One such threat, I am sure, is the practice of paid pollsters naming candidates leading in mind-conditioning periodic surveys that flagrantly violate the law. As I cited here last Friday, the surveys violate the Fair Election Act of 2001 (Republic Act No. 9006).

The late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago had imputed two unspoken objectives behind the orchestrated surveys: first, to induce the voters into voting for their “winning candidates” that should include their clients; and second, to facilitate a “convincing” automated dagdag-bawas operation based on survey results.

That reminds me of the 2019 senatorial election which Cynthia Villar topped after the last SWS survey had given her 57 percent without explanation as to why she had become so popular.

Anyway, most voters had forgotten that Villar had placed a poor 10th in 2013.

In 2016, defeated senatorial candidates Lorna Kapunan and Susan Ople revealed that they had rejected an offer to be in the “magic 12” in SWS and Pulse Asia surveys.

Kapunan said she would have pushed for a law banning pre-election surveys so that they “could not be used as a racket”.

Why has the Comelec not lifted a finger to probe the profitable polling enterprise? Each survey nets each five million pesos from unnamed sponsors, according to Pulse Asia president Ronald Holmes.

Logically, the sponsor has to benefit. Otherwise, why pay?

Even if a survey claims only 1,200 unidentified respondents, the leading candidates are ranked according to percentages, never to their actual number of votes. In a country with a 65-million population, could that represent a nationwide trend?

It’s a pity that even the candidates today base their own chances on the questionable surveys.

And so, here’s presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos strutting as “the frontrunner” with 55 percent of survey respondents, while the runner-up, Vice President Leni Robredo, tails far behind with only 21. The rest of the 10 candidates, ay ahay, make do with a single digit.

Sad to say, there is no way the public could verify the published statistics which are also aired on radio and TV as paid ads.

In a Facebook post, lawyer-accountant Dominador Tersol called my attention to Section 5.2 of R.A. 9006, which requires the number of individual respondents, the areas from which they were selected, the specific questions asked, and an address or telephone number at which the sponsor can be contacted. Most of these requirements are not followed.

Have you, or anybody you know, been asked to face a survey enumerator?

Never in decades? If so, you have no reason to believe Pulse Asia, SWS, Octa Research, Laylo Research and Publicus Asia, among others.



CURSE MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) if you want, but a brownout in your household could be a blessing in disguise, since it would pave the way for better service.

Unscheduled brownouts occur because of defects or accidents that destabilize the system.  If they are detected soon enough, linemen would come at the earliest possible time to restore power.

Scheduled brownouts are intentional and announced in advance in the media, meant to replace aging or defective facilities – therefore a way of preventing fatal accidents.

It has to be pointed out that when MORE Power took over as the distribution utility in Iloilo City in February 2020, most of the existing facilities were already dilapidated, aching for prompt attention.  But just as in the proverbial “Rome was not built in a day,” the task of rehabilitation involving thousands of households would take time.

To enable the company to prioritize immediate concerns, the company has imported thermal scanners.  A thermal scanner is an imaging camera that is capable of detecting weak spots in the distribution system. Unless detected, the defective facilities could burn out and cause prolonged power interruptions.

With the purchase of units of infrared thermography equipment, MORE Power may identify high-risk and non-secure parts of electrical lines, connectors, and transformers long before they become problematic and eventually break down, thus preventing unexpected power interruptions.

Aware of the seriousness of the rehabilitation work, MORE president and chief operating officer Roel Z. Castro has set himself a five-year deadline to convert the company into one of the most efficient power distributors in the Philippines.

Already, it has replaced the old poles with concrete ones and has upgraded primary lines.

Well, who can argue with the proverb, “Patience pays”?



SPEAKING before the Earth Day celebration at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) in Quezon City last Friday (April 22), Antique Congresswoman and now Senatorial candidate Loren Legarda said, “We should not simply appreciate our planet and all life on it. We have to protect it, we have to fight for it, and as this year’s theme tells us, we have to invest in it.”

It was a challenge that Legarda hurled before “Pagyabong 2022,” a forum on planting of Philippine native tree species at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) in Quezon City.

The NAPWC is a legislated protected area and classified as a national park under Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act of 2018, which declared 97 natural parks, protected landscapes or seascapes, and reserves as protected areas under national law, bringing the total number of areas protected by law to 110.

Sad to say, we still see around us the fast-declining state of our environment due to our destructive ways and the intensifying effects of the climate crisis. The most recent case in point was the devastation caused by the floods of typhoon Agaton in almost the entire Visayas.

If we understand Loren right, however, we as the Earth’s defenders are obliged to revitalize our planet for the sake of our children and future generations who deserve to also marvel at its beauty.