Why the silence and inaction?
The Commission on Elections on Sept. 9 released the report on the recount and revision of votes in three pilot provinces where losing 2016 vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. alleged massive cheating had taken place.
After the recount, Vice President Leni Robredo increased her winning margin by nearly 16,000 votes, with 19,933 added to her votes versus Marcos’ 4,191.
Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa submitted the report to the court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal that same day. Yet, until now, the public has heard little from the court and about the report, especially Robredo’s bigger winning margin.
The result of the recount/revision should mean the dismissal of Marcos’ poll protest, but court spokesman Brian Keith F. Hosaka said the tribunal has not taken any action yet on Caguioa’s report.
In fact, despite losing in provinces where Marcos said massive cheating took place, he is now asking for a continuation of the recount in the remaining provinces, at least 30 provinces, identified in his protest.
Rule 65 of the 2010 PET Rules says results of the recount conducted on pilot provinces shall be the tribunal’s basis for determining the merit of a protest. Marcos has identified 5,415 election precincts in the provinces of Iloilo, Negros Oriental and Camarines Sur, where cheating allegedly occurred in the 2016 elections.
Both Robredo and Marcos were reminded to avoid issuing statements to the media regarding the case, which is still under judicial consideration.
Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin recently said the court was treading carefully in the electoral protest because it is a “matter of very high public interest.” He also said the court wasn’t “footdragging,” noting that revising of ballots would take time.
It is strange. Precisely because the matter is of very high public interest, the court should take immediate action.
Closing the barn
The repercussions of the arbitrary release of convicts involved in heinous crimes by virtue of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law continue to hog the limelight.
The offer of a P1 million reward for the arrest of these convicts and the issuance of a shoot-to-kill order have persuaded some released prisoners to surrender, but many are still out there. As legal luminaries said, you cannot bring them back without arrest warrants. But the reward and shoot-to-kill order have turned the situation into a free for all.
I heard an inmate over the radio saying he was released from prison recently after serving his 30-year sentence, not for GCTA. But his neighbors eye him suspiciously, waiting for him to surrender. Hence, to avoid trouble, he went back to New Bilibid Prison (NBP) to surrender.
A 77-year-old murder convict from Norzagaray, Bulacan who had served 30 years at NBP also had to surrender after he was released on good conduct credits.
There are many similar cases where the inmate is indeed qualified to be released under GCTA but surrendered out of fear of getting killed.
It is literally closing the barn after the horses are gone.
As I emphasized, nothing happens in a vacuum. One fortunate outcome resulting from the infamous near-release of former mayor Antonio Sanchez, convicted rapist-killer: Many nefarious activities going on in the NBP, as long as the price is right, have been revealed.
Even Bureau of Corrections officials confirmed the rampant corruption inside the prison. Here’s a rundown:
- The commutation of sentence under GCTA can easily be obtained if the price is right.
- High-profile inmates have access to dancers, entertainers and prostitutes, paying as high as P30,000 if the woman stays overnight.
- Inmates could pay to have cellphone privileges and bring in contraband. Even sleeping mats, food and visitations are for sale.
- Inmates tip police on whom to kidnap for ransom, many of them relatives of inmates who visit them. Ransom paid for the kidnap-for-ransom scheme is as high as P200,000 per victim.
- Round-the-clock gambling is allowed for P800,000 a month.
- Medical passes, medical certificates allowing inmates to be confined in hospitals can be easily had for a price.
- Drug trafficking, credit racket, siphoning of prisoners’ food allowances and other illegal activities are covered up as long as bribes are paid.
“It’s (corruption) so I think it is logical to think that it has come to a point that it’s difficult to reverse. It should take a surgical action to reverse the situation. Their influence not only extends to fellow inmates, (but) even to people outside,” said Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, referring to VIP convicts.
The Senate investigation will come to naught if nothing happens after all these revelations. Changing the prison director can be a short-term solution but for the long term, the entire correction system must be overhauled.
Pigs for slaughter
The scenes of dead pigs thrown into rivers and creeks are disturbing enough. But what is worse is that none of the people overseeing the retrieval of the pigs from the waters are wearing protective gear.
The Department of Agriculture is on the defensive, castigating the mayors for supposedly prematurely announcing that the pigs died of African Swine Fever.
Instead of focusing its energy on helping the local government contain the spread of the virus, the DA was obsessed with the protocols that need to be observed when making pronouncements.
At this point, who makes the pronouncement is immaterial, what is important is that the local government admits that their area is now infected.
The footage showing thousands of dead pigs floating down North Vietnam waters should scare and educate the public that unless everyone cooperates, we may be hit the same way as North Vietnam.
The North Vietnam Animal Disease Control office culled more than 2.5 million pigs nationwide, or 7.5 percent of the country’s total pig population.
This number does not include those dead pigs thrown or buried indiscriminately by backyard hog raisers.
Unified and better information dissemination and quarantine are needed to prevent a wider spread of the virus, which may eventually affect the big commercial pig farms and all the downstream industries related to hog raising.