The new Commissions on Elections Commissioner, Grace Padaca has reportedly asked “the Sandiganbayan to junk the graft and malversation cases filed against her, saying her position in government has vested her with immunity from such suit.” Well, well, well. Who is Padaca trying to fool? It seems she is playing a trick on peoples’ memories. The cases she is facing now were filed before she was appointed commissioner. Her logic is such that perhaps Ms Padaca could answer one of the world’s oldest riddles: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? She does have the ability to muddle mind-bending matters with her simple answers.
The more bizarre question is: why did President BS Aquino give a very sensitive position to someone who has pending corruption cases? One would think that since the President’s main objective is to fight corruption, he would not want to be associated with someone whose trustworthiness is already in question. The President seems to be advocating for a radical shift in the Filipino mindset by doing this. It appears President BS Aquino wants Filipinos to show allegiance to his political party instead of the country.
It is no secret that Padaca is a member of the administration Liberal Party (LP). She is also a member of the Kaya Natin movement which generated a lot of noise against former Chief Justice Renato Corona. President BS Aquino must have been satisfied enough with their support that he was more than willing to provide the PhP70,000.00 Padaca posted as bail bond. Her case is not even something that the Filipino public should easily dismiss. Padaca was charged because of an “alleged irregular disbursement of a P25-million grant to the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation Inc. without public bidding in 2006.”
In another bold move, no less than the Interior Secretary Mar Roxas — someone who loudly protested his loss in the 2010 election to Vice President Jejomar Binay and someone who may even run for the Presidency in 2016 – even accompanied Padaca when she posted bail at the Sandiganbayan. Apparently, the President and his party mates do not know the meaning of “conflict of interest”. How can Padaca ever repay the President for providing the funds for her bail bond? Or to rephrase the question, in what way will Padaca repay the President for his “generosity”? It remains to be seen how “independent” she can work with all the money and kindness she owes the Liberal Party.
By claiming that she is immune from any lawsuit now owing to her position, Padaca having only been in her job for less than a month is already doing a bit of hocus-pocus on her case because she wants the cases against her to magically disappear. Who can blame her when majority of the members of the public don’t really care about what this current administration is up to? Only a handful of Filipinos are baffled by the shenanigans happening in the country, much of it seemingly with the blessings of the incumbent President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino. He continues to push his luck as he continues to enjoy majority approval and trust ratings with the public.
But wait, there is another questionable occurrence involving Padaca. Despite the outstanding hold departure order against her, she was granted permission by the Sandiganbayan to leave the country to attend a conference in the United States. This is basically a slap in the face of former President Gloria Arroyo who was not allowed to leave the country to seek medical treatment abroad despite her allegedly deteriorating health. Indeed, some people can get around the rules very easily. This is especially true for those who are allied with President BS Aquino.
Padaca was said to have “been tasked to represent the Comelec in the conference”. The main purpose of her trip is supposedly to monitor next month’s presidential election in the US — as if she can actually apply what she observes while she is there. She’s just kidding herself because vote buying and poll thugs still reign in every election in the Philippines.
Where are the members of Congress who were and are still very vocal against GMA and her perceived allies? Why are they so quiet about Padaca’s attempt at escaping prosecution by using her sudden immunity from lawsuit? More importantly, where is the public outrage against this apparent blatant abuse of power by the President and his party mates? The Filipino people are allowing the exploitation of privileges they bestowed upon their public servants who promised to serve the interests of the nation before their own.
Unfortunately, majority of Filipinos are clueless of the strategic alliance formed by the Executive branch and the Commission on Elections. This alliance could pave the way for an election result that could never be questioned. Coupled with the newly-implemented Cybercrime Prevention Law, it could mean a sure victory for candidates who are allied with the Liberal Party. Who now can serve to watch and ensure that Comelec complies with the laws and policies on automated elections that specifically Republic Act 9369 or the Poll Automated Law? Majority of the members of Congress are already allied with the Executive branch. An authoritarian government is almost complete.
It remains to be seen how Padaca can institute changes in the Comelec considering the agency is already committed to buying the unreliable electronic machines used in the 2010 elections. How can Padaca guarantee that the “deficiencies and glitches” seen in the machines in 2010 have already been fixed by Smartmatic before the 2013 elections? Considering many of the machines have been sitting in a warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna after the 2010 elections, they may not be in the perfect condition that Smartmatic claims they are in. As a commissioner of the Comelec, Padaca needs to ensure that the 82,000 machines will not have the same security problems observed the last time they were used. It is a very daunting task that should have been done a long time ago.
The use of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines is also questionable despite Comelec’s decision to purchase them. The supplier Smartmatic is currently in the middle of a legal battle with the company Dominion Voting System who owns the software used by the machines. This was the claim of Election watchdog Automated Elections System Watch (AES) spokesperson Bobby Tuazon.
Smartmatic has an ongoing legal battle with Dominion after the latter cancelled a 2009 license agreement with it last May. The agreement enabled Smartmatic to be Dominion’s legitimate representative in the country.
According to AES, “the termination denies Smartmatic access to technical support and assistance;” thus, Smartmatic might not get Dominion’s proprietary source code and other “escrowed materials” that the Comelec could use to enhance the PCOS system.
Dominion owns the technology used by Smartmatic.
“[Smartmatic] had already been denied to use the system. If Comelec still decides to use the system then the Philippine elections will be using a pirated computer technology,” Tuazon said.
It is doubtful that any information that Padaca would get out of “observing” the US Presidential election could benefit the Philippines. Filipinos in general particularly our public servants have never been good at accepting suggestions especially something that calls for making “cheating” during election harder for the candidates. Considering that Padaca herself is trying to dodge a lawsuit, it is highly unlikely that she can introduce an environment of “trust” in Philippine elections.
[Photo courtesy Yahoo! News.]
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