Press Release
January 13, 2008


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today dismissed the proposal of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales to abolish the Commission on Elections as nothing but a cosmetic solution that tends to gloss over the real problems plaguing the country's electoral system.

Pimentel said that while Gonzales is correct in denouncing the Comelec as ridden with corruption and lacking in credibility, he has conveniently failed to mention that his boss, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is primarily responsible why the poll body has become a severely damaged institution.

"If the reputation of the Comelec has degenerated to such an abysmal state, this can be traced to the erosion of its independence resulting from the appointment of top election officials who were willing to do Malacañang's bidding," he said.

The senator from Mindanao said these crooked poll officials conspired with the administration in manipulating the 2004 presidential contest - widely regarded as the most fraudulent election in the nation's history.

The same discredited Comelec executives were also behind the rigging of the 2007 senatorial polls in Maguindanao by making it appear that most of the opposition candidates obtained an incredible zero vote in the administration-controlled Mindanao province.

Pimentel said it is the height of political naivette to aim for the dissolution of Comelec and replace it with an "interim body" - as broached by the national security adviser - because it will need an amendment to the Constitution which will take a miracle to carry out.

For about 20 years now, attempt after attempt has been made to amend the Constitution but it has all failed due to the people's distrust in Malacañang and Congress, he noted.

Pimentel reminded Secretary Gonzales that the Comelec was a well-respected and credible institution during the chairmanships of Ramon Felipe, Christian Monsod, Jaime Ferrer, Hilario Davide, Haydee Yorac and Harriet Demetriou.

"Things started to go wrong at Comelec only when Benjamin Abalos and Virgilio Garcillano were appointed chairman and commissioner, respectively," he said.

Judging from the experiences of the past, Pimentel said it's very clear that the Comelec can still be reformed by appointing the men and women of integrity and competence and who will not allow themselves to be used by Malacañang for sinister motives.

"It would seem that Secretary Gonzales, by dangling the drastic proposal to abolish the Comelec, is not only aiming for an illusory goal but also camouflaging the culpability of the power wielders in having the Comelec reduced to being their surrogate."

At the same time, Pimentel demanded transparency in the selection process for a new chairman and commissioner of Comelec by making public the shortlist of nominees to be presented to the President by the search committee, chaired by Bernardino Abes.

He also said that a recommendee of the opposition should be given priority in the appointment.

Pimentel said in the face of public clamor only people of the highest caliber and unquestioned independence and integrity should be chosen.

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