THOUGH we, too, have very serious misgivings about the eligibility, qualifications and competence of Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares as a candidate for the presidency, we think the Comelec, especially its Chairman Andres Bautista, has handled her case in a shockingly sloppy, unprofessional way. Regardless if the decision was correct or not, the behavior of the Commissioners, and in particular, Chairman Bautista, causes us great concern for the credibility of the conduct and outcome of next year’s elections.
The problem, which understandably infuriated the Senator’s supporters, happened Tuesday night when a couple of commissioners “leaked” the news about the 5-1 vote against Poe-Llamanzares by the Comelec en banc. Proper procedure specifies that the various opinions of the commissioners should be gathered, and a proper ruling explaining the vote written and signed before the ruling is officially made public.
The Poe camp decried the “leak,” saying that it only served to sow confusion, and we agree with that assessment. Even though the information was accurate, it is important for the integrity of the process and fairness to the candidate concerned – who still has some legal remedies she can seek – that procedures are respected. For instance, the now-disqualified Poe-Llamanzares has five calendar days to obtain, if she can, an injunction against removing her from the ballot from the Supreme Court; will that be measured from Wednesday, when the formal announcement of the Comelec vote was scheduled, or from Tuesday, when the news was informally released publicly? The Senator’s competitors may very well now have a valid argument against a TRO she might obtain from the High Court, because she was given an unexpected head start, for example.
The biggest share of the blame for any confusion caused by the Comelec’s handling of the Poe-Llamanzares case goes to Chairman Bautista, who apparently is incapable or unwilling to exercise control over the important agency he heads. While mildly chiding his fellow commissioners for leaking news of the vote ahead of time on Tuesday, Bautista only compounded the problem by discussing the very same thing at length with the media. And he even offered and published his dissenting opinion and has discussed it in a way that can be seen in no other way but an effort to lawyer for Mrs. Poe Llamanzares’ cause.
That there is no indication of an ulterior motive to sabotage Poe-Llamanzares’ campaign behind the Comelec’s and in Bautista’s actions is actually more worrisome than if there was a plainly evident conspiracy against her. For the only other conclusion that can be drawn from these confusing and chaotic burst of opinions and declarations is that the Comelec is a reckless and inconsiderate body headed by an unprofessional chairman.
How then are we to have confidence that the process of inclusion and exclusion of persons who have filed applications to be certified as qualified and valid candidates was handled fairly and correctly? And how can we be certain that the process and results of next May’s elections will be proper, correct and untainted?
At this point, we cannot be certain of anything—not with this Comelec and not with its disappointing chairman.