April 6, 2023

Their local compatriots and friends rejoiced when Rodrigo Duterte appointed them to the Commission on Elections. That is very Filipino. Failure to see the bigger picture and the damage it does to the national body politic is also Filipino.

Current perceptions – speculations for the most part of course – see a plausible theory that Bongbong Marcos was elected at the first hour of electronic voting transmissions as a quid pro quo. And the trade off was for a Marcos Jr. presidency to protect Duterte from prosecution for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court. Note the specialized analysis now in the hands of the TNTrio who contend that the fraud in the last 2022 elections was done by electronic transmission. Bravo TNTrio!

In the Philippines, speculations are a favorite pastime. It has become embedded in the culture as a result of the normalization of dirty politics. When our transactional politicians do every unimaginable monkey business under the sun to preserve their reign and their money faucet, the Filipino who feels disenfranchised and disempowered at the political abuse one sees speculates as a convenient resort to explain the incredible one observes from politicians.

The present composition of the Comelec is probably the most garapal in our history. It is not an independent Comelec but an extension of Davao city. The commissioners are like the emperor who walked without clothes on, thinking we do not see the garapalan. They should go down in history in scorn and shame.

For the nth time, these were the Honorable appointees from the Davao region and Duterte connections.

Aimee Ferolino is a native of Davao del Sur where once the provincial police director (2009-2011) was Bato dela Rosa, said to be her backer to her appointment. Her sister Donnabel Joy Ferolino Mejia is vice mayor of Magsaysay town. Ferolino of the Comelec made infamous the so-called Ferolino Doctrine (“failure to file income tax returns is not inherently wrong” on the Bongbong Marcos tax evasion case). With that, she legalized lawlessness even as she is not the Supreme Court.

Aimee Torrefranca Neri was once a special counsel in the city mayor’s office of Davao City. She and her husband Glenn openly refer to Duterte and Bong Go as “ninong.” Indeed they were their wedding godparents. So the Duterte godchild was on a roll under his administration. She was assistant secretary in the Department of Justice in 2016, deputy commissioner in the Bureau of Immigration in 2017, undersecretary in the Department of Social Welfare in 2018. Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio accused her as a fixer when she allegedly accepted a bribe of P10M in the DOJ.

Marlon Casquejo was City Election Officer of the 3rd District of Davao City, Provincial Election Supervisor of Davao Del Norte, as well as Assistant Regional Election Director and City Election Officer of the 1st District of Davao City. He did not see the ethics of his Davao city roots.

Socorro Inting was a metropolitan trial court in Manila for 3 years, regional trial court judge in Manila for nearly a decade, and Court of Appeals associate justice for 9 years. Those may sound superb, but she is also a native of Davao city where she practiced law for 3 years before joining government. Her record – she junked two of the disqualification cases against Marcos Jr. for the 2022 elections.

Ray Bulay, before his Comelec appointment, was already favored with Duterte’s largesse. He was appointed Manila prosecutor in 2020 after his stint as commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government. He is a Lex Talionis fraternity brother of Duterte and co-alumnus of San Beda University. Would a fraternity brother rule against a fraternity brother?

Saidamen Pangarungan was another Duterte appointee before the Comelec. In 2018, he was appointed to head the National Commission on Muslim Fillipinos with the rank of cabinet secretary. Some have opined that his Duterte connection was his being a Bedan classmate.

In what was probably the most flagrantly shameless of Duterte’s appointments to the Comelec was that of Michael Peloton. Bong Go told everyone Peloton was Duterte’s lawyer. Of course he was another Davao city native. It appears that there was an about-face on his appointment and Peloton did not make it to Comelec. That was perhaps the only good thing the Duterte Malacañang did to Comelec.

With the controversy of the transmission logs and the Supreme Court mandamus the TNTrio has filed, this is not the first time there is widespread erosion of public confidence on the Comelec. It has happened before under the Marcos dictatorship (Marcos and Duterte – why do their reigns rhyme?). From 1973 to 1980, the Comelec chairman was Leonardo Perez, a long-time Marcos ally who he later rewarded with the post of minister of political affairs. Perez was one of the most publicly hated figures in the Marcos years.

Take note of the Perez legacy in the Comelec. After the May 1984 elections, the Comelec heard 62 electoral appeals. All but two were decided in favor of the Marcos lapdog party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. As a result, the Batasang Pambansa was ensured to have few opposition members.

The Government Printing Office that printed the ballots was headed by a former intelligence operative at the office of the dictator. Florendo S. Pablo Jr.’s task as “confidential assistant” to Marcos, he admitted to a foreign correspondent, was to “monitor developments in the political opposition and the underground.” Take note of the similarity: under Duterte, who won the bidding to deploy election equipment, peripherals, forms, supplies, paraphernalia and warehousing for the 2022 elections? Dennis Uy, one of his massive campaign contributors in the 2016 elections. Did Comelec see it as a red flag? It certainly did not.

Today, what we have is not a Comelec but an extension of the office of Duterte and Bong Go. It is a Commission on Davao Elections. They should go by the acronym Codalec. That is not a joke if we are to seriously question the legitimacy of elections.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.

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VERA Files

VERA Files is a nonstock, nonprofit, independent media organization. Founded in March 2008, it is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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