In a move designed to prevent, if not minimize, possible election-related violence induced by intoxication during the tailend of the campaign period for the May national and local elections, the Commisssion on Elections (Comelec) en banc decided to extend the liquor ban from two days to five days effective Thursday, May 9, to Monday, May 13 (election day).
Voting 4-1 in its Minute Resolution No.13-0322, the en banc is of the opinion that the last five days of the election period are the most heated leg of the campaign when “miting de avances” and parades are held and tensions between partisan supporters of political parties and candidates are at their height.
Lone dissenter Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, however, believed the poll body does not have the power to expand the two-day coverage of the liquor ban under the Omnibus Election Code.
Brillantes said anybody who wishes to question the decision of the en banc on the matter is welcome to file a petition before the Supreme Court.
He added he is more concerned about the local elections which are parochial in nature with more die-hard partisans than those of the national elections.
Exempted from the five-day liquor ban directive are hotels and other tourist-oriented establishments accredited by the Department of Tourism.
With only two months before the mid-term elections, Brillantes announced yesterday the poll body has required officials of both the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces to submit, every two weeks, a status report on the peace and order situation in the whole country.
“We want to know or monitor the peace and order situation so we will know which areas need to be classified as and placed under areas of concern, immediate concern, grave concern and Comelec control,” Brillantes said.
As to the ongoing negotiations for the acquisition of the controversial Source Code from copyright owner Dominion Voting Systems, Brillantes reported that “it is still ongoing but what I can say is that I’m more optimistic now than during the past weeks. The negotiation now is between the lawyers of Smartmatic and Dominion. I’m more confident now...just give us a couple more days.”
Tuesday, 12 March 2013 00:00 Published in Headlines
Caught in a corner over two controversial appointments to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), President Aquino tried to save face by persuading former congressman Macabangkit Lanto to withdraw from his post in the poll body after allegations that Lanto, a close ally of Liberal Party (LP) secretary general Franklin Drilon, has benefited from poll fraud in a previous election.
Upset over another unwanted controversy, Aquino supposedly sent emissaries to Lanto over the weekend to deliver Aquino’s advice for him to decline the appointment as Comelec commissioner, a Palace source disclosed.
Aquino is dismayed over the failure of the Malacañang search committee to seriously not to consider the controversies surrounding Lanto, added the source.
Lanto was unseated as congressman for the 2nd District of Lanao del Norte in 1994 after the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) found his victory in the 1992 elections tainted with fraud.
With no other option but to adhere to the wishes of Aquino, Lanto in a letter sent Monday to Malacañang, said,”After a thorough consultation with my family, it is with deep regret, I respectfully decline my appointment as member of Comelec. I have arrived at this decision, owing in large part to the controversy that surrounded my appointment.”
Aquino last Thursday announced the appointments of Lanto and election lawyer Bernadette Sardillo as new commissioners of Comelec replacing retired commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco.
The chief executive in announcing the appointment of Lanto said,”He has proven his worth, I believe,during the times that he performed or tried to perform his functions when the higher -ups were preventing him from doing what should have been done. And , again, the track record is very extensive.”
Sardillo declined her appointment citing her family’s strong objection to her joining the government but reports have it that Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca lobbied strongly against Sardillo’s appointment.
Sardillo was the lawyer of Padaca’s nemesis in Isabela politics, Gov. Faustino Dy III.
Dy defeated Padaca for the governorship of Isabela in the 2010 elections.
Padaca refused media pleas for an interview. Her appointment at the Comelec is still pending confirmation by the bicameral Commission on Appointments.
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillanates Jr. expressed regret at the turn of events surrounding the appointments.
“I am saddened by what happened..particularly the decision of Beng Sardillo to decline her appointment. I personally knew her and I’m sure she would have been a great help to us especially in our quasi-judicial functions...in the disposition and hearing of cases being an election lawyer,” he said.
“As for congressman Lanto, I sympathized. I was surprised that he declined. I thought he would fight it out. But we are all professionals here,” Brillantes said.
Also yesterday, lawyer Benjamin Lanto, (younger brother of Macabangkit) in a press conference he called at the Comelec media office to air his family’s sentiment on the issue, became emotional in defending his 70-year-old brother.
“We are the victims here, my brother decided to decline the appointment so as not to add more problems to President Aquino and to our good friend Sen. Frank Drilon who is a long time friend of our family”, the younger Lanto said.
He admitted that his brother is a protege of Drilon, who earlier lobbied for the appointment of Lonto as officer-in-charge of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 2011 and as poll commissioner with a fixed term of seven years.
“Our detractors think my brother will side with the administration in the 2016 presidential elections, this is what it’s all about. My brother is not a Garcillano,” said the younger Lanto.
He also believed that the real target of the people behind the smear campaign is not his brother but Drilon, who gave a bold prediction of a 12-0 win for the senatorial candidates of the Liberal Party coalition in the May polls.
He took pains to stress that his brother did not cheat in the in the 1992 elections as they were then pittted against the acknowledged political warlord of Lanao at the time, Ali Dimaporo.
“It is like going to the bailiwick of the Ampatuans and cheating them in their own turf. That was the situation then in 1992. The ballots were in the Municipal Halls and the mayors then were Dimaporo’s men, so how can we cheat. They said that the ballots were tampered. Who then is in the position to tamper the ballots, its them. They controlled the place,” Lanto stressed.
Holding back tears, he said, “personally, I wish that Malacañang should have first made an investigation so that my brother can clear his name.. he has sterling qualifications being a former undersecretary of justice and tourism and ambassador to Egypt and Sudan. Now all that is gone...just because of a case 20 years ago where he is completely innocent.”
Drilon claimed he knew nothing of the supposed involvement in the 1992 poll fraud case of Lanto when he recommended Lanto to Aquino to fill in the vacated Comelec position.
The senator who is acting as the campaign manager of the administration’s senatorial ticket under the coalition Team PNoy, confessed he did not know about the former’s case which reports said, led to Lanto being unseated by the HRET.
“No, I did not know it was fraud, that it was about fraud. I did not know that,” he told reporters covering Team PNoy’s campaign sorties in Quezon province, during an interview.
“I didn’t see the case itself at that time. I was told that there was HRET case. I did not know the details,” he said.
Drilon begged off from answering questions whether he would have still backed Lanto’s appointment, had the latter told him about it or had he been fully informed about it, saying the matter is already academic.
Yet, Drilon owned up to the issue of him being endorsed by him to Malacanang as possible appointees to the vacancies in the poll body.
Reports last week noted an apparent long-standing political ties of the senator with Lanto, having been also endorsed in the past by the senator for the position of officer-in-charge (OIC) or acting governor of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 2011.
“I did recommend him. I did recommend him initially in 2012 when the first vacancy occured. That’s not denied,” he said.
But on the matter of the supposed appointment of Lanto as allegedly part of an orchestrated plot in relation to the 2016 presidential elections as his term would have last until 2020 for a full seven-year term, Drilon vehemently denied any truth to this charges.
“That’s absurd. I really think it’s malicious, it’s a lie....that’s part of the politics. But I deny it and it’s malicious,” he said.
Drilon said he had not talked to Lanto following the latter’s decision to decline his appointment, saying he had only been informed of the former congressman’s letter to President Aquino on this matter.
“It’s unfortunate it happened,” he commented.
Lanto was feared by opposition as a resurrection of the infamous “Hello Garci” election scandal, referred to former Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano who was accused of rigging the 2004 presidential elections of Fernando Poe Jr against Gloria Arroyo.
Lanto’s letter to Aquino Monday morning was not seen as Aquino left the Palace early to join the campaign sortie of Team Pnoy in Quezon province.
“The President is not here yet. The statement of Mr. Lanto was that he submitted, he submit his resignation this morning. The President as we all know, has an official event in Quezon province, so the letter arrived after he had left for Quezon province,” Edwin Lacierda, the Presidential spokesperson said.
Lacierda said he could not give any comment on how Lanto decided to withdraw his appointment when as part of the selection process, Lanto was even interviewed by Aquino.
“I am not part of the process. So, I am in no position to answer whether they applied or whether they were endorsed,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda earlier said that the appointment of two more commissioners in the Coemelc was a part of the avowed “social contract” of Aquino to have a credible election process in the May 2013 and 2016. That Aquino declared the announcement of Lanto and Sardillo last week in Davao City.
Even as Lanto had declined his appointment as a Comelec official, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) yesterday asked Malacañang’s Cabinet Search Committee to still explain why it failed to check his pending election cases in 2007 and alleged election fraud in 1994.
UNA secretary general and campaign manager Toby Tiangco said while the coalition welcomes Lanto’s decision to turn down the Comelec post, Liberal Party (LP) campaign manager Franklin Drilon cannot easily wash its hands of the controversial appointment that placed the Palace in an embarrassing situation.
“Although we commend Macabangkit Lanto’s decision to graciously decline his appointment to the Comelec, the story does not just end there. Drilon should also explain his role in the selection process.
“The imprimatur of the Balay Group of the Liberal Party is clearly seen everywhere,” Tiangco disclosed.
UNA cited credible information that Lanto’s appointment did not pass through the regular screening process of the Cabinet Search Committee and the appointment was apparently “detoured” through the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) which is headed by Julia Abad, daughter of Budget Secretary and LP stalwart Butch Abad.
UNA said it is bothered by reports that Lanto’s nomination bypassed the search committee and managed to land on the lap of PMS with the machinations of the administration party.
“Is it true that Lanto’s appointment did not pass through the Cabinet Search Committee? Now, the plot thickens, and the grand conspiracy gets clearer now that the LP has reached its limbs in the search committee,” Tiangco said. adding it would be best if someone from the Cabinet Search Committee, or from PMS to explain the Palace gaffe in Lanto’s appointment.
Tiangco said it is quite unusual that the search committee, which meticulously screens all nominees to sensitive government posts, would disregard or overlook such a glaring legal and moral issue surrounding Lanto’s appointment. The PMS serves as the secretariat of the search committee.
He added that the serious oversight on the appointment of Lanto suggests that it was not the search committee that handled the screening.
Brillantes confirmed that Lanto still has an active case before the Comelec in connection with a harassment case against election inspectors in the 2007 elections, an offense that carries a penalty of disqualification from holding public office and a jail of six years.
“Again, we want to hear it directly from Senator Drilon himself. He should be frank enough to admit that he was Lanto’s principal backer, and be man enough to admit that he tried to pull a fast one in appointing Lanto to the Comelec,” Tiangco said.
The militant party-list group, Anakpawis for its part, scored Aquino for attempting to appoint Lanto to the Comelec.
“We expected the President to appoint trusted allies to the vacant posts in the poll body. But the President went far beyond the acceptable when he recommended a highly questionable individual to a sensitive post as Comelec Commissioner.”
“The attempt to place Philippine ambassador to Egypt and former Lanao Del Norte representative Macabangkit Lanto to the Comelec is a clear indicator of the President’s obsessive objective of ensuring that election results will be in favor of his Team PNOY,” said Fernando Hicap, Anakpawis Vice-Chairman. Paul Atienza, Charlie V. Manalo
Vice President Jejomar Binay has joined the clamor for a review of the controversial source code of the computer programs for the May 13 elections.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, in an interview, yesterday said his office has received a letter from the Vice President informing the electoral body that “they (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, or PDP-Laban,) want to conduct a review of the source code.”
Section 14 of the Republic Act 9369, or the Automated Election System Law, states that “Once an AES technology is selected for implementation, the Commission shall promptly make the source code of that technology available and open to any interested political party or groups which may conduct their own review thereof.”
PDP-Laban which Binay chairs is under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Brillantes, however, conceded that the poll body is now inclined to use a copy source code being offered by precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines supplier Smartmatic-TIM, in the event the ongoing negotiations with software copyright owner Dominion Voting Systems fail.
“The copy now with Smartmatic is an exact replica of the one being withheld by Dominion, it has the same hash code or numbering, it is practically the same. This will be made available for review by registered political parties and other interested groups should our negotiations with Dominion fail,” he said.
Brillantes is set to make an official announcement on March 7 as to the outcome of his negotiations with Dominion.
“Whatever happens, I’ll have to file a report on Thursday or Friday, if we come out with an agreement with Dominion. If Dominion doesn’t agree, then I also announce no agreement, then the source code will not be brought here by SLI. We will just make use of the Smartmatic source code, which is the same as the source code reviewed by SLI,” he said.
He maintained that the automated elections will push through as scheduled with or without the source code from either Dominion or Smartmatic-TIM.
“We are definitely proceeding with the elections even without the source code from anybody, we just wanted the political parties to have something to review which is practically the same source code. Now if the parties refused then its okay with us,” Brillantes stressed.
Cesar Flores, Asia-Pacific president of Smartmatic, told lawmakers during a public hearing conducted last week by the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Elections that their source code copy also bears the certification of SLI Global Solutions, the certification agency commissioned by the poll body to attest to the soundness of the source code.
Meanwhile, two party-list groups that failed to remove their campaign posters placed outside common poster areas are now facing election charges, the Comelec said.
The poll body will issue subpoenas to party-list groups Ang Kabataan and Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) for violating Comelec Resolution 9615 or the implementing rules and regulations of the Fair Elections Act.
They failed to remove their campaign posters on the wall of the Philippine General Hospital and along Taft Avenue.
Comelec law department head Esmeralda Ladra said the groups should have removed their posters within three days after receipt of a notice from the poll body.
With the subpoena, Ladra said the groups will be required to submit their reply.
‘“What the candidates or the party-list groups should be wary about is not just the criminal process for sometimes it takes longer, they should be worried about our disqualification proceedings which is immediate, even if their names are already printed in the ballots. Brillantes warned.”
We are monitoring compliance with the rules, Ladra added.
The Comelec en banc will then decide on whether to disqualify the groups from running in the May 13 polls or file separate charges.
Under Comelec Resolution 9615, campaign paraphernalia could not be posted “outside authorized common poster areas, in public places, or in private properties without the consent of the owner.”
Earlier, Kabataan said it has complied with the poll body’s orders to remove its posters placed outside common poster areas.
With regard to the Bacolod Diocese oversized “Team Patay, Team Buhay” tarpaulin, Brillantes said if the Supreme Court does not come out with a temporary restraining order by March 5, the poll body will be constrained to issue a subpoena to Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra to appear before the Legal Department for preliminary investigation.
Bishop Navarra has filed a petition before the high court questioning the constitutionality of Comelec directive to remove the tarpaulin, invoking freedom of expression, among others. PNA
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