Wednesday, 15 May 2013 00:00 Published in Nation
An investigation has been ordered by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima over the arrest of operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Bacoor City in Cavite.
“I immediately gave verbal instructions yesterday (Monday) to NBI Director (Nonnatus) Rojas to probe that incident,” she told reporters and explained that she met with the chief of the NBI Cavite District Office and the leader of the arrested team yesterday morning.
“Based on their narration and supporting documentary proofs, it would seem that the NBI team was actually engaged in a legitimate operations,” she revealed. She pointed out the operation was “under a cloud of doubt” after it was found that some members of the team were confidential agents.
“As you know, we no longer recognize confidential agents. I had their authorities revoked or cancelled already,” she explained.
Justice secretary has directed Rojas to pursue the probe.
“In particular, you are directed to verify or confirm the actual involvement, including the basis and extent thereof, of NBI agents that resulted in the arrest of a number of them; determine the proper sanctions, if any, that may be imposed against those who may be found accountable for the incident,” she said in a memorandum issued.
De Lima also tasked Rojas to also determine “what legal actions may be taken in relation to the engagement of confidential agents” and submit a report as soon as possible.
Six agents — Honor Santos, Efifanio Baria, Rosauro Estardo, Rizalos Ronario, Danilo Cruz and Frederick Galvez — were arrested for violating election gun ban.
Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has clarified that they requested the assistance of the NBI men after fully armed RPSB personnel arrived and “surrounded” the senator’s mansion and tried to set up a Commission on Elections (Comelec) checkpoint near the village hall in Barangay Panapaan VII around 11 p.m. last Sunday.
Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas rebuffed charges of political harassment by incumbent Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. after heavily-armed policemen tried to serve a search warrant in their family-owned compound in Bacoor, Cavite last Monday, hours before the opening of the polling precincts.
“I presume regularity. It was not something carried out covertly or done in the middle of the night. Members of the media were there and did you see anything wrong committed by the police?,” Roxas commented, referring to the actions taken by elements of the Philippine National Police-Regional Public Safety Battalion (PNP-RPSB) that resulted in the three-hour standoff with armed agents of the NBI.
Responding policemen would have gone after the alleged armed NBI agents when they sought refuge, supposedly inside the Revilla compound under the principle of continuing apprehension and chase, Roxas, in an interview with reporters at the Team PNoy headquarters in Makati City said.
“But they knew too well that under the law, they cannot just step inside a private property so what they did was to seek proper authorization and they were refused, they sought for the issuance of a search warrant from the court. Anong masama dun?,” he asked.
Roxas, in dismissing the claims of Revilla said the senator’s allegations of supposed harassment was a mere analysis.
“That’s his analysis of himself,” Roxas said.
Based on the reports given to him, only one of the apprehended NBI agents is considered part of the organic personnel of the bureau and it’s still unclear if he has secured a gun ban exemption from the Comelec.
With cable TV, high court’s TRO adverts almost limitless
It’s now virtually “sky’s the limit” for candidates’ advertisements in radio and television, with the Supreme Court (SC) clarifiying that the old time limits rule applies, which would be 120 minutes of advertisements for each candidate and in each television station, which would automatically include cable TV channels, which are numerous.
Radio is also being given 180 minutes per station.
The SC yesterday clarified that its recent decision clipping the power of the Commission on Elections on airtime campaign ads does not grant unbridled authority for candidates to go on air without limits.
In its resolution , the high xourt said the Comelec would revert back to the limit it imposed on candidates during the May 2010 elections.
“Consequently, the 120 minutes/180 minutes air time limit, per station, for candidates for registered political parties for a National Elective Position and the 60 minutes/ 90 minutes air time limit, per station for a Local Elective Position, implemented in the 2010 elections shall be implemented instead in the 2013 elections pending resolution of the consolidated cases by the Court,” read the SC order.
The SC also said that what it had issued was a temporary restraining order (TRO) – not a status quo ante (SQA) order as earlier announced by its spokesman Theodore Te.
“By a vote of 9-6 and after deliberation on the issues and the different opinions submitted pertinent to the consolidated petitions, the Court has decided to issue a Temporary Restraining Order in view of the urgency involved and to prevent irreparable injury that may be caused to the petitioners if respondent Commission on Elections is not enjoined from implementing its so-called “aggregate time” contained in its Resolution No. 9615,” the SC explained.
“I was told it was an SQA. That the actual resolution later refers to it as TRO is something beyond my control,” Te said in text message to reporters.
For his part, Sen. Edgardo Angara yesterday expressed alarm over some possible serious consequences of the SC order stopping the Comelec from imposing airtime limits on political advertisements on television and radio, saying that the move somehow changes the rules in the middle of the game.
Angara practically sided with Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes as he too expressed disappointment over the High Tribunal’s series of reversal of decisions reached by the Comelec, especially on the matter of the airtime limit rule as there seems to be a sense of “unfairness” as it came three weeks before the end of the campaign period.
Although the High Court’s TRO against the Comelec is not yet final and can still be appealed by the poll body, the senator said it has somehow placed all the candidates on shaky grounds since they are still not free to avail of, or follow the regulation, set by the SC and could affect the poll body’s exercise of its authority in supervising the conduct of the elections on May 13.
“The ruling of the Comelec has been going on for the almost over half of the campaign period so all candidates have planned on that basis and no one can say that ‘we were misled, that it was not the (time) limit after all’...so no one can say that because of that--that he was disadvantaged. So when you change (the rule) after almost 60 percent of the campaign period has lapsed, there’s some unfairness to it. The word is unfairness because it caused surprise on the candidates,” he said, appearing guest in the weekly news forum at the Senate.
Angara likewise raised the “economic consequence” as it will prove to be more favorable to moneyed candidates because the rules of the game have been changed and would no longer prevent them from placing ads as many as they can.
“If you could only afford to have three spots a day, it will be a disadvantage really, economically,” he said.
Angara. former chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws and electoral reforms, echoed the sentiments aired by Brillantes that based his understanding, election matters are “exclusively given to the judgment of the Comelec.”
“That is addressed to the judgment of the Comelec and the SC can only reverse it on the ground that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion. So unless they really erred in their judgment amounting to lack of jurisdiction, (the SC can intervene). That’s the principle.
“In other words, it takes so much to upset or reverse a decision of the Comelec on matters of election because the Constitution itself lodges that judgment only and exclusively with the Comelec,” he said.
In siding with the arguments of Brillantes, Angara emphasized that the issue on broadcast time is a judgment call on the part of the Comelec and it requires some industry practice or some knowledge of broadcast that is highly technical.
“On the part of the SC, you cannot get evidence anymore. But at the level of the Comelec they gather evidence, they can easily answer whether it will be unfair to those who cannot afford but in favor to those moneyed candidates. There are many technical and very discretionary points of law that Comelec is able to gather evidence and expert witnesses which the SC cannot do,
“That’s why the principle there is, it’s addressed to the judgment of an administrative body like the Comelec, then the SC will not disturb or reverse that judgment unless there is palpable, gross abuse of discretion and proving gross or palpable abuse of discretion takes quite a lot of argument. One cannot just say that there is abuse of authority when there’s no showing that they abused their authority,” Angara said.
The senator also expressed strong belief that the issue of relegating matters concerning the election, “we should leave it to the Comelec because election is time-bound and we should not be changing the rules in the middle of the game.”
“The ultimate principle is, all election matters should be judged exclusively and solely by the Comelec, unless and this is a very big unless, the Comelec abuses its authority, not just plain abuse or neglect but gross abuse of discretion. It’s difficult to prove whether there’s proof of gross abuse,” said Angara.
In Dipolog City, rich candidates or those who have more resources than the others should be wary of the SC’s TRO because taking advantage of the ruling against the Comelec could backfire and make them liable for violation of the airtime limits.
According to re-electionist Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel he would ask for the disqualification of candidates who would exceed the limits in the event that the SC would finally rule on the issue in favor of the Comelec.
In an interview before a huge rally at the Dipolog Sports Complex here, Pimentel stressed that the ruling favored candidates who have more resources than those who are poor.
“Let this be an omnibus warning or reminder to all candidates to proceed with caution. Definitely I am an enemy of cheats and those who would take advantage of the TRO, I will move for their disqualification,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel, maintained that the spirit of the law on air time limits is to level the playing field. He said that not every candidate can afford the 120-minute airtime limit imposed on each candidate.
“So advantaged billionaire, second… advantage millionaire,” he said.
“Those with much funds can now pour TV ads, radio ads, anywhere everywhere, but we cannot do that,” he said.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, campaign manager of Team Pnoy, shared Pimentel’s view about the SC’s order.
“I find the decision will favor those with more resources, candidates with more resources, to the detriment of those who may be more deserving of the people’s confidence. Personally, I believe that the decision is not consistent with the original intent of the law, which is to have an even playing field,” Drilon said shortly before the campaign rally started. He estimated the crowd at around 10,000.
Drilon explained that the riuling is not yet final.
He said that the decision of the SCt could eventually uphold the Comelec’s resolution. He reminded the candidates that the airtime limits resolution is for the candidates and not on the radio or television stations.
“Remember what is at issue is the resolution of the Comelec limiting the time to 120 minutes per candidate. The limitation is on the candidate, not the station,” he said.
He explained that what the Supreme Court was saying is to momentarily stop the implementation of the Comelec resolution until it finally comes out with the ruling on the issue.
“In the status quo ante, follow the old rule, meaning 120 is a limitation per station. Meaning… follow the old rule while we are reviewing on the merits of the new rule. Suppose on the merits they will say, the new rule is valid, what happens when you avail of the old rule and exceeded your 120?” he said.
The Supreme Court (SC) threw out a petition by a party-list group which lost accreditation to participate in the May 13, 2013 polls.
In a resolution, SC sitting en banc turned down the petition for certiorari filed by Aksyon Mahirap Inc. (Amin), citing that the group failed “to show grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Commission on Elections (Comelec)” in ordering its delisting.
Amin sought a reversion of the Comelec verdict striking its name off the list of accredited party-list sectors.
“Despite having been given the opportunity to present evidence in support of its petition, Amin failed to appear to prove compliance with the guidelines for accreditation and registration for the Party-List System as set forth in Ang Bagong Bayani v. Comelec.”
The court added that the Comelec “correctly found that the documents submitted by petitioner failed to prove the existence of its history and track record in representing the sector it seeks to represent.”
Under the Partylist System Act, the Comelec may cancel or remove a party-list’s registration if “it fails to participate in the last two preceding elections or fails to obtain at least two percentum (2 percent) of the votes cast under the party-list system in the two preceding elections for the constituency in which it has registered.”
Amin, represented by its President Vincent Dinglasan, was among the 17 party-list groups, including those representing addicts and alcoholics, that were disqualified by the poll body last year.
Besides Amin, also delisted were Asosasyon ng Mangangalakal (Askal ), Addicts and Alcoholics Carrying the Message Association (Aacma, Inc.), Isa Akong Magsasaka Foundation (1 AM); Aniban ng Magtutubig ng Pilipinas (Ama ng Pilipinas) and several others.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling allowing groups not representing marginalized and underrepresented sectors to participate in the elections, has changed the country’s entire perspective on the partylist system, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said yesteday.
“Boy, we were all gobsmacked by that! You know, we were all blindsided. Nobody expected that. Now, it becomes a proposition that we have the party-list system in the Constitution for social engineering. That’s apparently the way the Supreme Court sees it,” the senator told reporters in a chance interview following a speaking engagement in Pasay City.
Based on the ruling of the high court, at least a majority of the SC justices is of the opinion that the country’s party-list system “is a means or a tool for social engineering of our elective system,” Santiago, chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revisions of codes and laws, said.
“We all thought before that the party-list system is an anti-poverty measure. (The SC) changed the entire perspective.
“In my view, I just don’t think that the party-list representatives have been worth it. If there is a move to change the Charter, one of my first suggestions will be to abolish that system. It’s not working.
“We’ll just have the legislative districts—they are not any better than other people. I am not condemnatory of the position taken by the majority of the Supreme Court, but I think it is evidence that the party-list system was poorly thought out during the constitutional convention,” she said.
Comelec intensifies efforts against violators of campaign rules
Meanwhile, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is intensifying its efforts against violators of campaign rules and regulations, which will be very rampant as the May 13 midterm polls draws closer.
“We are already doubling our efforts in monitoring and sending out of notices to (erring) candidates,” said Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez.
He added that the commission is looking at decentralizing the sending of notices from only the Law Department to all local election offices.
“We have not received any official report from the field yet but we know that there have been notices (for local bets) sent out already,” Jimenez said.
The Comelec official said that they expect more violations by politicians as the elections draws near. With PNA
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