Press Release
April 23, 2022

De Lima slams COMELEC Commissioner's threat to arrest critics

Re-electionist Senator Leila M. de Lima cried foul over recent threat by Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Rey Bulay to use the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against people who call out the poll body's handling of the elections.

De Lima, a former election lawyer, said the threat of Bulay to use the AFP to arrest those who criticize and complain about the handling of the elections by the COMELEC "is uncalled for and illegal."

"Under the Constitution, the only time the AFP is allowed to exercise the law enforcement powers of the PNP, like arresting people, is when the Commander-in-Chief calls out the AFP to suppress lawless violence," she said.

"Neither Bulay nor the COMELEC is the Commander-in-Chief. Not even during elections. The COMELEC's deputization power during elections certainly does not include the power to use the AFP in stifling criticisms and suppressing free speech," added the lady Senator from Bicol.

Based on media reports, Bulay warned that he would not tolerate insinuations or allegations of partisanship against the COMELEC from candidates in the May 9 national elections or their supporters.

"To those issuing public opinion that COMELEC is biased or that it would cause election fraud, I am warning you that we would not hesitate to call upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is now under COMELEC control, to round you up and have you jailed," he said.

De Lima questioned the need to arrest, or even threaten to arrest, people who are merely exercising their Constitutional right to freedom of speech and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

"Anong klaseng mga tao at abogado ba ang mga nasa poder ngayon? The lack of respect for the Constitution is disturbing, to say the least," she said.

De Lima further questioned the extent of the knowledge of Bulay of the COMELEC's power over the AFP.

"It is particularly worrisome that a sitting COMELEC Commissioner is entirely ignorant of the limits of the COMELEC's powers over the AFP during elections as to usurp even the CIC powers of the President and use the AFP to bully the people," she said.

"It is doubly worrisome that none of the Commissioners present with him at the COMELEC presscon yesterday even bothered to correct him," she added.

Bulay was appointed by Duterte to the COMELEC in November last year.

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