Press Release
July 26, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the swiftness with which three election commissioners in Thailand were convicted for their involvement in the irregularities in that countrys parliamentary elections in April puts to shame the judicial process in the Philippines where the criminal charges against top election officials remains unresolved two years after the May polls.

Pimentel said a lower court in Thailand meted out the prison sentence on the erring election commissioners after the Supreme Court nullified the parliamentary election due to charges of fraud. In that election, the political party of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra captured the majority of the parliamentary seats.

A Thai criminal court has convicted three election commissioners for unduly favoring Thaksins party in the April election and sentenced them to jail. But in our country, we are too slow in resolving such cases, he said.

Pimentel expressed exasperation over the indecisiveness of the Office of the Ombudsman in investigating the cases against commissioners of the Commission on Elections led by Chairman Benjamin Abalos for their involvement in the P1.3 billion election automation contract granted to MegaPacific which was voided by the Supreme Court for legal infirmities.

He was also dismayed that the criminal charges against former Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, the principal figure in the Hello Garci tape scandal, are hardly moving due to the alleged bias of the Quezon City prosecutor handling the case. This prompted the opposition congressmen and other complainants to demand a transfer of the preliminary investigation of the case to another prosecutor.

The Ombudsman has already recommended the initiation of impeachment proceedings against Commissioner Resurreccion Borra for his role in the fraudulent poll automation deal. But Pimentel questioned why only Borra was recommended for impeachment when the six other Comelec commissioners had approved the tainted contract.

Obviously, he said Borra is being made a scapegoat by the powers-that-be because he candidly admitted during a Senate hearing that massive fraud had marred the last presidential election in many areas in Mindanao, thereby further casting doubts on President Macapagal-Arroyos victory.

Meanwhile, Pimentel lauded the Ombudsmans ruling asserting its authority to investigate Comelec commissioners and rejecting their argument that, as constitutional officials, they do not fall under Ombudsmans jurisdiction.

One of the complainants in the case, Pimentel cited judicial precedents in the Philippines and United States showing that Comelec officials could be investigated and prosecuted by the Ombudsman even before they are impeached.

The Constitution does not say that impeachment must first be resorted to so that erring Comelec commissioners may be subjected to the penalties of the law, he said.

In a ruling issued last week, the Ombudsman invoked the Ombudsman Act of 1989 which states:

The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the power to investigate any serious misconduct in office allegedly committed by officials removable by impeachment, for the purpose of filing a verified complaint of impeachment, if warranted.

News Latest News Feed