IF you think Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. would get a fair deal from the Commission on Elections under Chairman Andres Bautista, think again. This may be your rare chance to engage in second thoughts.
Let me look back. As chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, Bautista was tasked with going after any remaining ill-gotten wealth of the late Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. Now as the incumbent Comelec chairman, he should not blame those who voted for Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. for doubting the integrity of the counting of votes for the vice presidential candidates in last week’s elections.
In the first place, Bautista should be told the truth that the Comelec had installed vote counting machines (VCM) in a number of precincts which rejected voters’ ballots, a situation that was probably worse than a poll body that did not know how to count.
If Bautista could recall, PCGG was created in 1986 by President Corazon C. Aquino with the specific task of going after—harassing should be the more appropriate word—the late strongman Marcos’ cronies to recover assets believed to have been illegally acquired from the Filipino people. And today, as Comelec chief, he is probably perceived by some as being biased against Marcos, the son, as he has said nothing yet about the campaign by Malacanang’s outgoing occupant to prevent the return to power of a member of the Marcos family.
Having been educated by the Society of Jesus, who runs and owns Ateneo de Manila University, perhaps, Bautista has learned from the religious fathers something about honesty. That is, if the Jesuits ever bothered to teach Catholicism not as a required subject but as part of their religious mission to educate.
This assessment is a personal opinion that only suggests my consistent “bias” against Bautista. In one of two Duediligencers that I wrote last year, I chose for a topic an opposition against his appointment as the poll body’s chairman.
The first, “Ex-PCGG chief’s search for a bigger kingdom” appeared in this space on June 9, 2015. In it, I sought an end to the sequestration regime that Aquino’s mother, President Cory, initiated as her way of taking revenge on Marcos, the father. Somewhere in that piece I wrote:
“… if a people’s revolt in February 1986 toppled President Marcos, how about PCGG’s sequestration regime, when there is nothing more to sequester? Will PCGG ever relinquish its task to its mother unit, which is the Department of Justice?
“It appears that PCGG officials are not about to give up their domain as the agency is taking time in winding up its affairs by getting involved in protracted litigation. Could this be their way of prolonging their stay in what should have been only a temporary presidential assignment, albeit with more than a million pesos in annual compensation that could have made them multi-millionaires over the years?”
In a follow-up Duediligencer on June 14, 2015, my piece was titled “Why ex-PCGG chief Bautista should not be Comelec chair.” I began the piece by narrating the sad experience of the owners of a sequestered company in the hands of PCGG officials who were overdoing their assigned tasks. Fed up by too much meddling by Malacanang-appointed fiscal agents in the company’s management, the family that owned it closed it down.
As a result, the workers lost their jobs. So did the government’s sequestration watchers.
I am relating this story because Bautista is now Comelec chairman. If the accusation that the PCGG had abused its sequestration powers under him, it would also be possible for him to sway the Comelec to behave like the sequestration watchdog under his leadership.
The allegation of PCGG’s alleged abuse of power came from Lin I. Bildner, POTC (Philippine Overseas Telecommunication Corp.) vice chairman, president and chief executive officer, and director/chief finance officer of Philcomsat Holdings Corp. (PHC); and Jose Ma. Ozamiz, a former PHC director and chairman of its audit committee.
PCGG on board
In asking the Commission on Appointments to reject Bautista’s appointment as Comelec chairman, Bildner and Ozamiz claimed that the PCGG did not content itself with placing certain block of shares under sequestration. Its officials even voted themselves into POTC/Philcomsat board by using sequestered shares that have already been turned over to the Department of Finance.
Of course, the opposition against Bautista’s nomination to the Comelec has become moot and academic. Apparently, no one among Malacanang’s temporary occupants led by their chief found a conflict of interest between PCGG’s sequestration power and the election of certain PCGG officials to sit on the board of sequestered companies.
All this may be worth reiterating because of the controversies surrounding the election of the vice president and the defective VCMs that could not count votes including mine (see my previous column). What recourse do the voters have against Smartmatic-managed but defective vote counters that rejected their ballots, thereby disenfranchising them of their right to the secrecy of their votes? Unfortunately, Duediligencer does not have the answer.