THE Senate has declared former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andy Bautista in contempt and has ordered his arrest, an order that is practically useless considering that he is already somewhere in the US.
That Bautista was able to leave the country is in itself a puzzle. He was already impeached by the House of Representatives. Probable cause was already found to accuse him of culpable violation of the Constitution, graft and corruption, bribery and betrayal of public trust. He is accused of committing not just the misdemeanor of treating his wife badly, but a serious crime of illegally amassing wealth. Worse, there were indications that such were connected to his position as Comelec head, with documents and receipts showing his alleged connections with the automated election service provider Smartmatic.
A prudent administration of justice must have already alerted our system that we may already have a crucial lead that needed to be secured, particularly considering that Andy Bautista may hold critical information about the commission of electoral fraud, not only in the 2016 elections, but even those held before it.
And yet we simply gave Andy a graceful exit of evading an impeachment trial, allowed him to resign from his post, and leave the country. He was practically treated with kid gloves.
At the heart of Andy’s possible culpability, for which the impeachment process has already found probable cause, was his possible participation in electoral fraud. He presided over the 2016 elections where we now see evidence of horrific acts of undermining the people’s will. Election laws were thwarted even by the Comelec itself, by passing resolutions that left unauthorized marks in the digital copies of ballots, authorizing an illegal fourth server to be installed, establishing six other regional elections management systems when the law only allowed for one, and failing to fully comply with the security and transparency measures required by law.
And the evidence of fraud are empirically validated not only by the anomalous straight lines of otherwise random votes. We saw digital footprints of precincts transmitting results as early as the day before the elections, ballots that were shaded for Bongbong Marcos being read as undervotes, and ballots that were supposed to be spoiled because there are two names shaded read by the vote counting machines as valid Robredo votes. We also saw precincts at least 60 kilometers apart with Boards of Election Inspectors (BEIs) bearing different names but practically the same handwritings, and the signatures of those who voted not matching the signatures of the registered voter. And we saw a discrepancy between the national tally of votes for vice president transmitted directly to the central Comelec server, and the sum of the votes that were separately transmitted electronically by the provincial and city board of canvassers. We also saw anomalous levels of undervotes way beyond the tolerable level of three percent.
Prudence would not have allowed Andy Bautista to leave the country. In fact, he should have been placed on the hold departure order list for his possible participation, if not liability under the principles of command responsibility, in electoral fraud.
Yet, the overall sense of rage both in real and virtual spaces of democratic discourse seem not to match what is expected of our people and leaders. After all, election fraud is a grave offense in a democracy. It undermines the people’s will, and subverts the very foundations of a modern and civilized political community.
Yet, it seems that the rage at Andy Bautista, while existent, is not as virulent and vigorous as that which Leila de Lima had to endure, or more recently, what Janette Garin had to suffer.
There is no doubt that a public officer like De Lima, who is accused of using her position to enable the drug trade, even profiting from it, deserves collective condemnation. It is also understandable that citizens vilify Janette Garin for presiding over the rushed procurement and large-scale administration of the Dengvaxia vaccine that exposed thousands of sero-negative children to possible dengue-related complications.
This is not to say that drugs and possible deaths from Dengvaxia do not deserve the rage. But electoral fraud is just as horrible, if not worse, for a corrupted electoral system is precisely the avenue that gives birth to people who appointed the likes of Leila and Janette.
And then we begin to realize that Andy Bautista is not as vilified, and that he is getting an easier pass, the useless arrest order against him notwithstanding, precisely because there are powerful forces that would like to see him quietly go away. An Andy Bautista present in the Senate hearing, talking, singing like a canary and revealing things is an inconvenient, if not dangerous, risk to many political ambitions.
There are those who have higher ambitions in 2022, and would not like Andy’s possible revelations helping the electoral protest of Bongbong Marcos. They would rather have Robredo continue to sit as Vice President, considering that she may be a lesser threat to their political plans.
And then you have those whose political careers may be undermined should Andy begin to reveal things. It is easy to imagine that if indeed it were true that an electoral machinery to commit fraud is in place, then it is also likely that many other politicians would have benefited from it. These people would most definitely wish for Andy’s absence and silence.
Finally, you have those who would still like to benefit from and use in future elections the entrenched cheating infrastructure that has long been embedded in our electoral landscape. This would definitely be threatened if Andy begins to speak. The mere fact that COMELEC has renewed the contract of Smartmatic, and Congress or even the Executive Branch not raising hell is very telling.
Thus, it is easier for politicians and their PR and social media operators to whip up hysteria and rage over drugs and Dengvaxia because this could even make them look good to the electorate.
But not against Andy Bautista because what he may know and reveal does not look good for their election plans.