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‘Wanted’ Ad

CEBU CITY – “WANTED: Worker to fill in 18,000 ballots. Grade school education. Ability to count not required. No lunch break.
Comfort room visit on request. Salary negotiable. Apply in person. Commission on Elections’ Second Division.”
That’s a spoof classified ad. But it sums up the mess that Comelec stews in, after it’s decision to oust Isabela governor Grace Padaca.
The Second Division leaks like a sieve. In newsrooms and “kapihans,” rumors flew long before Comelec ruled : former Gov. Benjamin Dy won the 2007 elections with 199,435 votes, a thousand more than garnered by Padaca.
After Padaca, will the next victim be Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio? , ask Senators Benigno Aquino and Mar Roxas. Panlilio also trashed dynasty allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: the Pinedas.
Dy is capo of a dynasty that sat astride Isabela for 34 years. They’re one of roughly 250 dynasties entrenched in 80 provinces.
These clans constitute a miniscule “0.00001667 % of the country’s 15 million families “, UP professor Roland Simbulan calculated . But they monopolize political power, often with guns and goons – and wealth such combination extorts.
The Ampatuans of Maguindanao, for example, have 24 mansions. The military are still unearthing their arsenals Amapatuans and relatives are governors, mayors, judges, even backhoe operators and murder suspects…
Over two thirds of the 8th to 12th Congress members sported political dynasty bona-fides, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism found.
The capo di tutti capi_is the Macapagal-Arroyo dynasty, President : Arroyo is daughter of Diosdado, 9th Philippine President.
Son Mikey represents Pampanga’s 2nd congressional district.
Son .”Dato” is congressman for Camarines Sur’s 1st district.
Brother-in-law Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo stands for Negros Occidental’s 5th district.. The fourth Arroyo in Congress is Ma. Lourdes, younger sister of the First Gentleman and Kasangga party list representative.
Filipino elections are almost always contests for power among an elite few, “ reads the . 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service citation for Padaca. “A handful of families controls political power from one generation to the next. Everyone else may vote, but the choices are limited to a cast of all-too-familiar characters”.
Such was Isabela until 2004 when Padaca began, what PCIJ’s Isa Lorenzo aptly called: “Isabela’s Non-Dynasty Detour”. She walloped Faustino. Dy and was hailed. By, local and international media, as “giant slayer.” (But )even tougher battles awaited her “ She scrimped 14% of Isabela’s Internal Revnue Allotment to pay the crippling P700 million province’s debt. She abandoned a bankrupt medical scheme for a sounder PhilHealth -backed plan. She poured resources instead into farm-to-market roads that farmers needed.
“When it comes to fiscal matters, the money is safe (with Padaca).” PCIJ quotes former Ilagan mayor Mercedes Uy. Personal integrity and restored fiscal credibility permitted increased spending for schools, reforestation in a province savaged by politically-backed illegal logging. That was “the easy part,” Padaca says.
Dy loyalist mayors refused to remit real property taxes. By 2005, frozen RPT and, special education taxes exceeded P26 million. Residents suffered from this political “embargo” This war of attrition continues today.
Out of the blue, President’s Arroyo’s election lawyer ripped into Comelec’s Second Division for a “scandalous and shameful” decision.
Padaca had been victimized by a “syndicate” within Comelec, Romulo Macalintal told Inquirer. :Within Comelec, highwaymen specialize on nullification thru “allegedly manufactured votes”.
Makalintal is a counsel who choses words. “I hope Comelec will not issue an execution on this kind of decision.,” he said. “That decision cannot be tolerated.” Why so?
Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer & Company’s “finding”: that a single voter filled in 18,000 ballots” is physically impossible, Makalintal snorted. “Can you imagine one person writing 17,000 to 18,000 ballots all by himself? “His hand would have swelled up”. And Comelec doesn’t usually conduct penmanship tests.
Assume 18,000 ballots were manufactured, Macalintal added.. “The same number of voters would have been disenfranchised.” There would have been pandemonium after the 2007 elections. But nothing of the sort happened” .
The Second Division declared in 2007 that Padaca won by 17,007 votes – only to execute a 180 degree turn, three years later. It now says: Dy”won”, after all, by 1,051 votes. The decision is “very whimsical, capricious, and arbitrary,” Wait. The most chilling part of Makalintal’s blunt interview is to come: implications of decision for the 2010 elections
“Unless the Padaca case is corrected, it is doubtful if Comelec could run clean elections in May next year,” Makalintal warned.
“The elections may be clean in the precinct and board of elections levels, but not when the results reach the Comelec,” This is a prediction of chaos. Perhaps, we need a new add:
“WANTED: Candidates for Comelec commissioners, Integrity essential. So is backbone. Ability to count required. Avoid Second Division. See Comelec chair instead.”
(E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.com)

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