"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Friday, June 09, 2006

On the Automated Elections Bill

The Automated Elections Bill merely amends an existing law (Republic Act No. 8436) on automated elections. The policy to automate was already made years ago. We are merely improving the system. Our proposals are simple:

ONE, our proposed amendments will stop the wholesale cheating of dagdag-bawas by allowing for instantaneous electronic transmission of the results from the precinct to Congress. It will eliminate the people who delay the counting in order to pad or subtract the votes. We will know who our President is in less than 24 hours.

TWO, our proposed amendments will tighten up the COMELEC. Our bill proposes technology neutrality – which means that a private sector body of advisers will recommend that only the most efficient and effective technology will be used – unlike the old law, which was crafted by the COMELEC and practically sounded like a purchase order of particular equipment to favor a particular supplier.

THREE, our proposed amendments call for the testing of the system 6 months before the election, to make sure that the system works. That’s why we have a timeline. That’s why we have to stick to the timeline.

That’s why this bill was certified as urgent. We had been talking about this bill for the last ten months in 4 committee hearings, 4 technical working groups meetings, and 4 caucuses precisely called to address the concerns of other senators.

The debates have already ended. We are already in the period of amendments, and we have in fact already incorporated the proposals from other senators like Senators Enrile and Roxas. We have been in the period of amendments since April.

What really disheartens me, what really dismays me, is that after ten months of work, I have yet to hear concrete proposals from those who have reserved to make amendments. I have yet to see specific amendments from them as required by our rules.

Where are the priorities? People are preoccupied with Chacha, which is about giving more and more power to the politicians. But what I want to do through this bill is give the power back to the people.

What happened last night was a travesty for our people.

We are fighting a war on cheating in elections. In fighting a war, we have to act fast, and act decisively.

We want to end cheating in elections as soon as possible. We want to test out a system by 2007, so when we choose a president in 2010, it will be sure. It will be beyond doubt. If we don’t do this now, will we wait until 2013? Until 2016? How long will it take? If we don’t fix this now, people will always question the elections. We will never have a stable political system.

It is unfortunate that some of my colleagues did not see the urgency of fixing the problem of cheating.

I believe we are an honorable people. It is true that there will be people who will still try to cheat. No system can be perfect. But we have to try our hardest to beat the cheaters. We can do this by changing the technology. We have to show to ourselves and the world that the Filipino believes in and will fight for his right to choose his leaders.

We must remain vigilant and protect our rights. We must make the right laws and ensure they are properly enforced.

June 9, 2006.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Senate Abolishes Death Penalty

The Philippine Senate on Tuesday moved for the abolition of death penalty. Sixteen senators voted for the abolition and one abstained, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada because he is facing plunder charges along with his father, deposed leader Joseph Estrada. Plunder is punishable by death under existing laws. Those who were unable to vote because they were absent were Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Manuel Villar, Lito Lapid, Sergio Osmena III and Ramon Magsaysay Jr. who is out of the country.

The abolition of the death penalty was certified urgent by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Senator Joker P. Arroyo lauded the passage of the bill and said that death penalty is not deterrent to crimes."Our standing will be improved internationally," he said in an interview.

Even the proponents of death penalty such as Senators Panfilo Lacson and Alfredo Lim voted to scrap the measure. However, they did not explain their votes.

There is no counterpart bill yet in the House of Representatives abolishing the capital punishment.

Arroyo explained that convicts in the death row will be commuted to reclusion perpetua but they can still get the President's pardon.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said that the Death Penalty Law has no place in a Christian nation like as the Philippines.

Senator Sergio Osmena III stressed that the Death Penalty Law proved that it was not a successful deterrent against heinous crimes.

Earlier, in a co-sponsorship speech on the abolition of the death penalty, Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, declared that he supports "the abolition of the death penalty at the present time," but does so rather" haltingly and hesitatingly" and voted "to abolish the death penalty albeit temporarily."

Gordon stated that he is doing so "not just to be merciful but to be just." He said that before imposing the death penalty, the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt must be absolutely established first through exact forensic methods, like DNA testing.

"It is so easy to kill a person to bring him to justice, but the lifetime suffering of a nation when it finds out that it has made a mistake is indelible," he added.

Being a victim of grievous crimes himself when his father was assassinated, and his niece was brutally killed by a houseboy, Gordon said that justice must also be given to those who are victimized by the perpetrators of crimes, but we must be sure that these are the same people who perpetrated these offenses.

"I fear for those victims who may think that when the perpetrators of these crimes are captured, they might escape retributive justice. However, I would rather make sure that we indeed punish the guilty ones, rather than have them killed and find out that we have made a mistake later on," Gordon said.

In its interpellation in the Senate, Arroyo said that since the death capital punishment was restored, then presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos and incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, did not carry out the death penalty. Only then president Joseph Estrada there is no leader in the country from past president Corazon Aquino to incumbent President Arroyo that implemented the Death Penalty Law in all convicts in the death row. There was only one case on the time of Estrada that punished a rapist to death.