Everybody is holding their breaths waiting for what the next move of the beleaguered administration party, the Liberal Party (LP) of the Philippines will be. For some mysterious reason, LP presidential bet Mar Roxas failed to submit his campaign statement of contribution and expenditures (SOCE). Not only that, the LP itself failed to do the same by the mandatory 8th June deadline.
Under Philippine Law and the rules applied by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for this year’s elections, candidates cannot assume their duties in their elected posts if their respective nominating parties fail to comply with these rules by the specified deadline which is not extendable. In effect, the LP’s administrative failure has pretty much cost not only “vice president” Leni Robredo her seat at the Coconut Palace, it also disqualifies all of the the LP’s winning candidates from Congress all the way down to local government.
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The COMELEC is in a bind. It cannot break the law, and back-pedalling on its own rules will set a bad precedent that has ramifications across the Philippines’ fragile “democracy”.
Most curious of all is the deafening silence in both corporate media, Malacanang, and the COMELEC that shrouds this debacle in mystery. Why, people are now asking, did the LP fail to comply to such a simple administrative requirement? And why has it so far failed to frame the nebulous messages it had sent out to the public since the 8th of June around the specific tenets of electoral law and COMELEC guidelines that are relevant in this issue?
Where there is silence from both “thought leaders” and national leadership, speculation, of course, becomes rampant.
One of the most plausible theories surrounding the failure of the LP to disclose its financials is that it may have spent billions in its failed effort to win the presidency for Mar Roxas. Robredo’s bid for the vice presidency alone cost 418 million pesos, dwarfing her statistically-tied rival Bongbong Marcos’s expenditure of just 140 million pesos.
There is also the other big issue of the electoral fraud allegations that surround Robredo’s “win”. Some observers have put forth the possibility that the LP had, by failing to meet the SOCE requirement, deliberately sabotaged Robredo’s vice presidency bid to diffuse any further attention to these cheating allegations. If, in fact, the LP did conspire to cheat both winners and “losers” in these elections of millions of legitimate votes (as many Filipinos now suspect), there is a strong likelihood that this may come to light during the administration of President-elect Rodgrigo Duterte. Marcos is making good on his threat to file an electoral protest highlighting these allegations. He is also good friends with Duterte who, in turn, had vowed to keep Robredo out of his Cabinet.
Indeed, in light of Roxas’s colossal loss at the polls, the embarrassingly enormous amount of money that was likely spent on his bid, the allegations of cheating that are likely to stick for years, and the very real possibility that Robredo will be mere expensive executive ornamentation over the next six years, the LP is unlikely to reap any tangible benefit from a Robredo vice presidency. More importantly, Robredo has been showing signs that she’s been distancing herself from the LP since her so-called “win” became apparent as the count came to a close in May. She has stopped wearing the characteristic LP yellow colours and no longer flashes the “L” hand gesture during public appearances. It is easy to see the writing on the wall in hindsight. Robredo was the VP candidate of last resort for the LP in the early months leading to the campaign, to begin with. Thus, the emerging turncoatism she is starting to exhibit is not surprising.
If the law and COMELEC rules are allowed to prevail and LP “winners” in these elections — including Robredo — are allowed to be disqualified for the LP’s non-compliance to the SOCE requirement, Bongbong Marcos will take his rightful place in government. Perhaps then, the electoral raps Marcos is currently working on that are likely to implicate COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautista along with members of the LP leadership will be dropped and the whole episode will pass into history as a mere footnote. The collateral damage — Robredo’s pride and the hopes of a handful of would-be congressmen and senators — will simply be a minor write-off in the overall bigger scheme of securing the on-going integrity of the LP banner and the Yellow brand of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan.
It does makes sense. Under such a scenario, important people will be happy. People who matter will be appeased. Certain issues will be swept under the rug.
And on the small matter of The Truth? Again, like Robredo, The Truth is really just a bargaining chip that can be played or withdrawn from the table depending on how the game should play out. That’s really all there is to it. It’s just politics.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.