NORTH COTABATO – While senators and generals in Manila were bickering over who got more millions in pabaon among outgoing chiefs of staff of the Armed Forces, Sergeant Rolly was wondering why his meager salary had thinned some more.
And then his pay check showed that General Headquarters (GHQ) had made deductions for several loans that he never took out.
Sergeant Rolly is just one of more than 100,000 soldiers who have kept their ears cocked to the ongoing Senate investigation into the staggering amounts that some generals have allegedly stashed away in bank accounts and prime real estate here and abroad.
THE PRESENT crisis facing the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo underlines the necessity for far-ranging changes in our political and electoral systems. It also poses both a threat and opportunity as far as these reforms are concerned. As such, careful handling is needed to neutralize the threats and seize the opportunities.
UNDER ORDINARY times, 2010 is the year we elect a successor to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But the Garci scandal changed all that. Since then — or because of it — the Arroyo administration quickly abandoned its reform agenda in favor of short-term survival.
THE GHOSTS of the last elections haunt Lanao del Sur and they refuse to rest. They will not go away. They flit about, seeking resolution. So when Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, the commander of the Marine brigade stationed in the province during the last election, testified in the Senate in September, saying that he had been mysteriously relieved from his post two clays after the voting, the ghosts were roused again. Days after the Senate hearing, Gudani and one of his officers, Marine Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan, were sent to court martial for refusing to heed their superiors’ orders not to testily. The ghosts, having been roused, are now rattling even more noisily than ever before.
IN THE May 2004 elections, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo maintained a campaign organization so elaborate it even included a group dubbed “Special Ops,” an infamous abbreviation for “special operations” that many equate with “dirty tricks,” or cruder still, poll cheating.
FROM overpriced highways to secret bank accounts, to gambling lords and thoroughbred horses, controversies have hounded the Arroyo administration long before wiretapped conversations implying election fraud hogged the headlines. And it is not only the president who has more than once been asked to account for charges of improper behavior; so too have husband Mike, eldest child Mikey, and brother-in-law Ignacio Arroyo.
PITY party-list organizations. Although Republic Act 7941 reserves 20 percent of House seats for these groups, which are supposed to be from marginalized sectors whose interests are not represented in Congress, the reality is that it is difficult for them to win votes. That’s because Filipinos are still mostly uninformed about the party-list process and the Commission on Elections has done nothing in terms of a voter-awareness campaign to remedy the situation.
VIRGILIO Garcillano will go down in history as the election official whose wiretapped conversations mortally wounded a president. He disappeared from public view in the second week of June, as the controversy over the wiretaps heated up, and many may have a hard time recalling what he looks like. Yet his raspy voice, distinctive lisp, and thick Visayan accent are now embedded in the audio memory of millions of Filipinos who have listened to the “Garci” tapes.
TO DESTROY an institution like the Commission on Elections (Comelec), you must first fill it up with handpicked commissioners with questionable credentials and even more dubious impartiality. Then, let them run the constitutional body as if they were ruling over personal fiefdoms. This would then reduce middle-level bureaucrats to mere vassals doing — or forced to do — their every bidding, including perhaps, as the taped conversations involving President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano suggest, rigging the elections in their political benefactor’s favor.
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