The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) proved once again that patronage politics rules in the Philippines. By granting the request of the Liberal Party (LP) to extend the deadline for the submission of the Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE), the agency broke its own “final and non-extendible deadline” rule. The agency showed ordinary Filipinos that rules can be broken when you are connected to the right people. The Liberal Party’s connection to the COMELEC came in handy, indeed. It’s no secret that Chairman Andy Bautista was the losing Presidential candidate Mar Roxas’s former campaign adviser when he ran for senator in 2004. Bautista is also a close ally of President Benigno Simeon Aquino having once been the chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). Bautista may have voted against the extension but was said to have recommended allowing late filing of SOCE with appropriate fines. It’s basically the same thing. He merely gave them a slap on the wrist.
What the COMELEC did is tantamount to spitting on ordinary people’s faces. Only people in power can get away with breaking the rules in the Philippines. That’s not fair to ordinary people. Their decision is also unfair to all the other national political parties and national candidates who were able to submit their SOCE on time. What makes the Liberal Party so special anyway? Is it because BS Aquino is a member of the party? So what? Perhaps the Liberal Party were complacent in meeting the deadline because they have gotten used to getting away with violating the rules.
According to a news report, “the four commissioners who voted for the extension cited the absurdity of the result if they will not allow the extension of the filing of the SOCE”:
Jimenez said the extension will benefit five senators, 115 congressmen, and 40 governors, who otherwise will not be allowed to take office if the extension was denied.
The only thing I find absurd is the COMELEC not following their own rules just because they think it won’t benefit those who did not comply with the rules. It’s a joke! What kind of people are running the Philippines? It seems they are the kind who are more scared of what their party associates can do to them than the prospect of disappointing the Filipino people.
This move by the COMELEC, a government agency at that, is what is keeping the Philippines from moving forward. The country cannot progress because rules are quite often ignored by the smallest to the highest person in the land. No wonder a lot of Filipinos are unpatriotic. Some people think that this is no big deal but allowing the well-connected to get away with breaking the rules with impunity actually erodes people’s trust in their public servants. If public servants themselves cannot follow their own rules, who is left for people to trust to honour the code of conduct?
A lot of people are now calling out COMELEC’s bias. First, they allowed voting machine provider Smartmatic to illegally tamper with the program in the middle of canvassing of votes on Election Day. Second, they have been ignoring requests for a system audit to be conducted to prove that the tampering did not affect election results. Now they allowed the Liberal Party to file the SOCE late. Who are the people running the agency really working for? They are supposed to be working for the Filipino people, not the Liberal Party. They are a disgrace to the nation.
What is really appalling is the way the Liberal Party’s supporters are dismissing this whole thing as a non-event. They even laugh at people who are trying to advocate respecting the rule of law. They don’t mind their idols in the Liberal Party breaking the rules but highlight the smallest offenses of the members of the opposition. This was evident when they made a big deal of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo alleged parking offense. They have really lost their moral high ground. There never was truth to their claim that they are the “decent” members of Philippine society.
The Liberal Party supporters are the same people who show disgust over Duterte’s foul mouth but ignore blatant violation of rules. The truth is, it is not really Duterte’s swearing that is embarrassing to the world; what’s embarrassing is the Filipino people’s — especially the public servants’ — inability to follow the rules. Filipinos cannot expect other countries like China to respect them when they can’t respect their own rules.
The Liberal Party and their supporters cannot cry foul and complain the next time someone from the opposition breaks the rules. They have given the opposition licence to break the rules. They may think they have won this but this will come back to bite them. In the next election, candidates and political parties do not have to file their SOCE on or before the deadline because there is no point. There is no consequence and the COMELEC allowing the Liberal Party to file after the deadline has set a precedent for others to ignore the rules.
Ordinary Filipinos can be forgiven for violating the laws now. They can cite the COMELEC’s actions and send the government a strong message that the law should be applied equally to all or not at all. If you want fairness, then Filipinos should just advocate anarchy. It’s only fair since only the well-connected are enjoying the perks of their status in the Philippines. Most of the people who are rotting in Philippine jails are the ones who can’t afford to buy “justice”.
The COMELEC’s decision has outraged a lot of Filipinos. The only consolation they are holding on to is that the Duterte administration may finally put an end to the kind of stupidity that government agencies like COMELEC are perpetuating. There are a lot of people looking forward to the Liberal Party’s day of reckoning when The Punisher is in power.
[Photo courtesy Inquirer.net.]