Friday, December 18, 2009

Damning inconsistency puts Comelec on trial

December 19, 2009 02:38:00
Solita Collas-Monsod
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Original Story:

I AM CERTAIN that if the decision of the Comelec’s Second Division on the Isabela gubernatorial elections—declaring that Benjamin Dy (the protestant) won by 1,051 votes over Grace Padaca (the protestee)—were to be appealed to the Supreme Court, that body would slap down the Comelec as hard as it slapped down the PNCC’s “compromise agreement” with Radstock just over two weeks ago, and as hard as it slapped down the Abalos Comelec’s computerization contract in 2004.

Quite apart from the fact that the Second Division has gained notoriety—they are “the talk of the town” as far as the election lawyers are concerned—with the talk being about “syndicates” and “transactional justice”; quite apart from the fact that Padaca is known in Isabela to be the victim rather than the perpetrator of electoral fraud; there is the matter of some very glaring inconsistencies in the more-than-12,000-page decision that have been caught by Padaca’s lawyer, in spite of the fact that she (lawyer Donah Camitan) had barely five days to go over the material before filing their motion for reconsideration.

The one inconsistency that damns the Second Division the most is when its members—after supposedly having “personally examined” the questioned ballots—declare that certain ballots “should be deducted against protestee Sarmiento,” and also make reference to “protestant Tuazon.” Since the case is about protestant Dy and protestee Padaca, it is clear that the Second Division’s resolution was written either (a) by a lawyer who was involved in the Tuazon-Sarmiento electoral case (apparently the lawyer of Dy fills that bill), and forgot to substitute Dy for Tuazon and Padaca for Sarmiento; or (b) with the help of such a lawyer, and something went wrong with the copy-pasting process. Either case would belie the assertion of “personal examination” of the ballots by the members of the Second Division (or their representatives).

Then there is the duplication of 682 pages— yes, 682 pages—of the resolution. In other words pages 2,416 to 3,097 of the resolution are identical to pages 3,098 up to 3,780. The implication is that there was double counting of appreciated ballots and the decisions with respect to these.

And in the course of the appreciation of the ballots, there seems to have been bias on the part of the division members: for example, ballots bearing “Faustino Dy” entries on the Congressman/Representative slot were credited to Benjamin Dy for governor, despite the fact that in the list of candidates for the district, Faustino Dy was indeed a candidate. But when the name “Grace Padaca” was entered in the Congressman/Representative slot (which is just above the Governor slot on the ballot), such an entry was not credited to Padaca. Neither were ballots bearing the names “Gris Padaca” or “Grac Padaca” or “Grace Padacca” on the Governor slot credited to her—despite the accepted legal doctrine idem sonans, whereby a person’s identity is presumed known despite the misspelling of his or her name.

What comes next is not a glaring inconsistency in the Second Division’s decision, but rather an absolutely illogical, irrational conclusion on their part. Apparently the bulk of Dy’s objections to the Padaca ballots were that they were “Written-By-One”—i.e., his premise was that in the protested precincts, only one person filled up anywhere from 20 to 40 ballots. The Second Division swallowed this hook, line and sinker—despite what its implications were: that this happened in all those precincts, with the Dy watchers either not noticing the activity of this one person, or having noticed, not protesting at all to the board of election inspectors.

No question about it. If the case ever reaches the Supreme Court, especially if it lands with Chief Justice Reynato Puno or Justice Antonio Carpio, there is going to be hell to pay.

And speaking of the Supreme Court, the concluding part of the Carpio decision on the PNCC -Radstock case reads: “In sum, the acts of the PNCC Board in (1)…expressly admitting liability for the Marubeni loans, and (2) entering into the Compromise Agreement, constitute evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence, amounting to fraud, in the management of PNCC’s affairs. Being public officers, the government nominees in the PNCC board must answer not only to PNCC and its stockholders but also to the Filipino people for grossly mishandling PNCC’s finances.”

That may not be as specific as the Supreme Court decision that ordered the Ombudsman to determine who in the Comelec was culpable in the computerization contract, but surely it is a very strong statement, and surely the Ombudsman should take notice.

For starters, we should know who the members of the PNCC board were, who so cavalierly acknowledged that P6-billion Marubeni debt out of nowhere. Footnote 15 of the Carpio decision lists them, very conveniently: Renato B. Valdecantos, chairman; Rolando L. Macasaet, president and chief executive officer; Braulio B. Balbas Jr., Romulo F. Coronado, Basilio R. Cruz Jr., Alfredo F. Laya Jr., Victor Pineda, Edwin Tanonliong, Jose Luis Vera, Hermogenes Concepcion Jr. and Raymundo Francisco.

Then of course, we know who the head of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel was, who either negotiated or approved that grossly disadvantageous agreement— Agnes Devanadera.

Maybe this time Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez will pleasantly surprise us.

Original Story:

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