POSTSCRIPT / February 1, 2022 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Comelec not meant to be bipartisan

The Commission on Elections was never intended to be a bipartisan body that balances contending political interests. It was designed to be a non-partisan manager of elections, plebiscites, initiatives, referendums, and recalls.

The intramurals among some of its commissioners over the qualifications of ex-senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to run for president in the May 9 elections test the independence of its officials and their capacity to resist pressure and corruption.

The Commission on Elections weighs disqualification petitions against presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (Photo: CNN Philippines)

It is unfortunate that the debate has taken on partisan color that smears the image of the Comelec, a constitutional body that should remain above partisan frays to be a credible and effective manager of the May national elections.

We have been watching for more salvos from Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, who presided over the Comelec’s first division that heard the DQ petitions against Marcos. She and Commissioner Aimee Ferolino and Marlon Casquejo sit in the division.

Reporters caught up with Guanzon yesterday after she attended mass at the Manila cathedral near the Comelec office. She was still mainly explaining her vote for disqualifying Marcos.

Her basis, she repeated, was that the son of the deposed dictator was convicted for not paying income taxes in the 1980s, a crime she said involving moral turpitude that bars one from holding any public office.

She has been railing also about the failure of Ferolino to submit the division’s resolution on the case that the latter as ponente has been assigned to write. If a resolution is not issued before Guanzon’s retirement tomorrow, her opinion for Marcos’ DQ may be disregarded.

There must be a way to make Ferolino submit the division’s resolution with Guanzon’s vote and opinion included. She has had enough time to evaluate the cut-and-dried issues. Besides, Guanzon is/was the division’s presiding commissioner.

The controversy has become so passionate for some quarters that there are already insinuations of money having changed hands, a sign that corruption is endemic in our part of the political wilderness.

Releasing the resolution promptly should clear the way for any review or appeal to the Comelec en banc and then on to the Supreme Court if any proper party so desires.

The DQ feud is adding to the psychological burden of the poll body already saddled by an epidemic that has complicated logistical operations, including the positioning of election equipment and supplies throughout the archipelago.

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As if that was not problematic enough, three of Comelec’s seven commissioners will retire tomorrow. Even if their replacements are quickly seated and familiarized with the tasks awaiting them, the transition is expected to disturb the pace of operations.

Retiring with Guanzon are Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas himself and Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr. Until Abas’ replacement is nominated by President Duterte and installed, Ms. Socorro Inting (the most senior commissioner left) will serve as interim chair.

Logistical constraints, meanwhile, have forced the Comelec to delay from Feb. 8 to March 29 the posting of the registry of voters. At least 65 million voters are expected to be on the lists to be posted at city, municipal, and district halls, and Comelec field offices.

With the commissioners’ retirement and other problems, the poll body is expected to have a hard time policing the election campaign and managing the election while performing myriad duties that are normally done by other officials. Even the permits to carry firearms outside of residence must now be approved by the Comelec.

Under Section 9 of Article IX pertaining to the Comelec, the election period covers the 90 days before the May 9 elections and the 30 days after. During this transitory period, the Comelec looms almost like a mini-government.

If only for that reason, the Comelec should be populated, especially at the top – not with partisans or rabid followers of the appointing power – but with people who are exemplars or almost like models for the leaders we are to elect on May 9.

 Pope: ‘Sinner yes, corrupt no’

Citing corruption, we are reminded of the morning meditation of Pope Francis on Nov. 11, 2013, as reported (excerpts only) by L’Osservatore Romano:

The Pope based his homily on a passage from the Gospel of St Luke: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him”.

“When I read this passage,” the Pope said, “I always see in it a portrait of Jesus…. He never tires of forgiving. And he counsels us to do the same”. However, he added, there is another passage which reads: “Woe to those by whom scandals come”.

“Jesus is not speaking here about sin but about scandal,” he says, “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves!”.

The Pope asked: “But what is the difference between sin and scandal?”.

The difference is that “whoever sins and repents asks for forgiveness, he feels weak, he sees himself as a child of God, he humbles himself and asks Jesus to save him. But the one who gives scandal and does not repent continues to sin and pretends to be a Christian”.

It is as though he leads “a double life,” and he added, “the double life of a Christian causes great harm. This person deceives.”

“A holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit, and will rise and depart from foolish thoughts, and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness… Where there is deceit, the Holy Spirit is not present,” Pope Francis said.

“This is the difference between a sinner and a man who is corrupt. One who leads a double life is corrupt, whereas one who sins would like not to sin, but he is weak or he finds himself in a condition he cannot resolve, and so he goes to the Lord and asks to be forgiven… Sinner yes, corrupt no”.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 1, 2022)

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