A test for new Comelec chief Sixto Brillantes

Published at Blogwatch

Now that veteran election lawyer Sixto Brillantesassumes his position as new Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman, the time becomes ripe for a major housecleaning. Such task is necessary if the tainted commission really wants to have a new shine.

Some may say that there’s need to do so, for last year’s automated elections had already restored the people’s trust in the poll body. Foreign embassies, multilateral agencies and the elite were in chorus in praising the previous polls as successful. But was that really the case? Poll automation was no housecleaning. The dirt actually stays with the Comelec up to this day.

Talk about the counting machines supplied by Mega Pacific Consortium which cost the government P1.3 billion but which were not put into use. The automation deal between the Comelec and the consortium was declaredvoid by the high court for violating the poll body’s own bidding rules. The planned automation of the 2004 elections did not push through. But up to this day, no one in the Comelec’s Bids and Awards Committee was held accountable in court.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who retreated from his initial bid for Comelec chairmanship, even suggestedthe poll body to use the cobweb-stricken counting machines for the next elections. I don’t know if those machines would still work properly, but I am pretty sure that such idea would only revive the ghost of the past.

“Hello Garci?” appears to have mellowed, thanks to the euphoria brought by the 2010 automated elections. But is there justice in former Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano (a.ka. Garci) wandering with impunity? Sometime in July last year, Garci surfaced to deny again that he rigged of the 2004 elections in favor of former president Gloria Arroyo. But the people and the media were perhaps so high with Noynoy Aquino’s victory that no one cared about him. The former commissioner successfully retreated into the shadows again.

The men who worked closely with Garci, collectively called “Hello Garci boys,” enjoyed their freedoms better. In fact, they were well-entrenched during the May 10 polls “either as regional election directors or provincial election supervisors in Mindanao,” a report said.

As it appears, the 2010 automated elections was not as clean and transparent as most of us thought. On the contrary, it further added anomalies to the Comelec’s stock while it glossed over the controversies of the past. For one, the Special Bids and Awards Committee approved the P7.2 billion bid of Smartmatic-TIM consortiumdespite the still unresolved anomalies in the bidding process. This is aside from the fact that the consortium worked contrary to the 60-40 constitutional provision, as multinational firm Smartmatic eventually took control of the entire poll automation project.

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