The most baffling thing about this latest circus surrounding revelations that Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Andres Bautista may have amassed a fortune through “unexplained” means is the muted — and, in some cases, even defensive — response of certain camps in the Opposition. The way the Opposition has rallied around Bautista is not without precedent. They behaved a similar way when the stink of allegations of electoral fraud wafted across the nation following the 2016 elections. Rather than checking for a fire upon seeing the smoke, the COMELEC leadership and its cheerleaders in the Liberal Party chose to deny the smoke itself.
At the very least, an investigation should have been conducted back then. Instead, whistle blowers who found suspicious patterns in the the way the results trickled in, highlighted breaches in security and control procedure in the way Smartmatic employees handled equipment, and did the math to determine the statistical significance of variances in the behaviour of polling samples versus actual numbers were vilified and even bullied into silence. Some campaigns even involved so-called “data scientists” from exclusive Catholic universities organising themselves into advocacy groups to shout down these whistle blowers — not through presentation of sound arguments or through presentation of counter-theses but through emotion-based partisan “activism”.
In the case of the Bautista circus today, the issue is quite straightforward. There is his SALN and there are all these bank accounts and records of assets to his name with amounts and values to the tune of millions. There are two objectives in an investigation that may or may not be forthcoming: (1) determine if and why these assets revealed by his wife Mrs. Patricia Bautista are owned by Bautista, and (2) explain the variance between Bautista’s SALN and the sum total value of these assets.
Whether or not Mrs. Bautista is a “slut”, an “extortionist”, or an overall “bad” woman is not the issue here. And yet discussion focused on the character of Mrs. Bautista forms the core of not only the chatter being exchanged by the Opposition’s inbred clique of social media “influencers” but also the content of Chairman Bautista’s official statement on the matter. The fact is, there is sufficient evidence submitted to the authorities to do a proper scientific investigation into the matter. With all that evidence on the table, the character of the messengers involved become less important and even irrelevant.
Interestingly, comparisons between Bautista and the case of the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona were inevitable considering that both were accused of fundamentally the same thing — purported personal wealth that was not reported in the Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) that is required of all Philippine government officials. If Corona was investigated and an entire Senate “impeachment court” was convened in 2012 on the basis of the appallingly low-quality evidence presented at the time, surely there is sufficient basis to mount an investigation on the evidence presented by Mrs. Bautista which, arguably, is likely to be superior in quality to the evidence against Corona bandied around by Aquino’s minions in 2012.
The key point here is that every allegation of wrongdoing should be investigated — specially one that has ramifications as critical as this COMELEC scandal which, if the right dots are connected, could cast a vast shadow of doubt over an entire national election. It is quite suspect that the Opposition does not support such an investigation. By pretending, in the face of all this evidence begging to be investigated, that nothing wrong has been done, they contribute even more reason to doubt their ability to present themselves as a credible Opposition to President Rodrigo Duterte’s persistently popular administration.
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