POSTSCRIPT / December 7, 2014 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Why insist on including Smartmatic in bidding?

DISQUALIFIED?: What dark forces are at work at the Commission on Elections?

Why is Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. insisting that his suki Smartmatic of PCOS infamy participate in the bidding for 23,000 more Precinct Count Optical Scan machines — and that the bidding be held before he retires in February?

Documents are circulating in the Internet tending to show that Smartmatic, which has teamed up with Total Information Management Corp., submitted prequalifying documents last Dec. 4 to the Comelec that might just disqualify the joint venture.

The documents indicated that Smartmatic-TIM’s Articles of Incorporation, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2009, show that the purpose of their joint venture was for the automation of the 2010 elections only.

Does this mean that Smartmatic is not eligible to participate in any election-related activity after the 2010 elections, including the 2013 and the upcoming 2016 elections where it again intends to play a key technical role?

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PANIQUI CASE: On another issue, the election protest that Paniqui (Tarlac) Mayor Miguel C. Rivilla has been disputing in the local court and the Comelec has the poll agency twisting in contradictions.

The confusion in the Comelec was exposed when its Nov. 12 order declaring with finality Rivilla the winner in the 2013 polls was suspended two weeks later, on Nov. 28, by Commissioner Lucenito Tagle signing by his lonesome for the entire banc.

One wonders by what authority and what forces pressured Tagle to do that solo act. He is not even the chairman (Brillantes), who was reportedly out of town at the time.

The poll body is not helping calm the restive Paniqui townspeople, who recently massed outside the town hall to dislodge Rommel David, who had lost the elections but holed up in the municipio to play mayor.

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PCOS ERRED 78%: David’s claim to the mayorship was based on an order of a judge imported from Benguet to render a decision long after the order of the previous Paniqui RTC judge declaring Rivilla winner had become final and immutable.

The belated order of the visiting judge, Agapito Laoagan Jr., was also technically questionable because it was based on a one-sided manual recount of the ballots that were either tampered with or misread by Brillantes’ PCOS machines with a margin of error of 78 percent!

As Rivilla is serving a 60-day preventive suspension ordered by the provincial governor for an entirely different case, the Department of the Interior and Local Government has installed Vice Mayor Genevieve Socorro Linsao as acting mayor.

Rivilla’s suspension ends tomorrow. With the Comelec embroiled in its own confusion, how will the volatile situation at the municipio shape up?

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COMELEC CRIMES: If Brillantes would pause for a moment from his preparation for retirement and efforts to include Smartmatic in the bidding, he would discover that the scandalous Paniqui PCOS error is not isolated.

In many precincts in the country, the PCOS machines failed to deliver the credible results that the Automated Election System Law intended in the 2013 elections.

The Brillantes Comelec all but turned over to Smartmatic, a foreign entity with a local partner, its constitutional duty to manage the elections. Also, by formal resolution, the poll body ordered critical safeguards mandated in the AES law ignored or bypassed.

The Comelec’s lapses, if in fact they are not criminal acts, should not be papered over in this season of peace and goodwill and the preparation for the visit of Pope Francis in January.

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COMMERCIALIZED WELCOME: Talking of the coming papal visit, not a few parishioners have observed that the welcome banners and billboards along the streets of Metro Manila display the logo of several commercial establishments.

Election lawyer Romy Macalintal, who happens to be also a lector-commentator in a Las Piñas parish, said such commercial displays run counter to the spirit of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s call not to use the papal visit for personal interest or motivation. We agree.

The cardinal had appealed to those managing the welcome “not to use the occasion for other motivations and not to plaster the route of the papal visit with tarpaulins and other promotional materials.” He pleaded: “Let us respect the nature of his visit.”

Macalintal pointed out that the commercialized banners or billboards are examples of the “promotional materials” decried by Tagle.

The welcome banners and billboards remind one of the putting up of traffic and road signs displaying the logos of alcoholic drinks and of motels and such establishments of dark repute just because they spent for the signs.

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PEACE!: At the Vatican, the resounding message of peace was the theme of the first Advent homily this year by the Preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. Pope Francis and members of the Vatican Curia were among those present during his reflection.

Father Cantalamessa said that when we speak of peace, we are generally led to think of a “horizontal peace — between peoples, between races, social classes and religions,” yet the Lord teaches that “the first and most essential peace is the vertical, between Heaven and earth, between God and humanity.”

Hence, peace is a “gift of God,” which peace among men cannot do without, he said.

He pointed out that Scripture reminds us that, with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “something happened that has changed humanity’s destiny” and God has remitted his “condemnation” of man.

In fact, he added, after the fulfilment of original sin, God did not abandon man “to his fate, but decided on a new plan to reconcile him with Himself.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 7, 2014)

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