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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Brillantes Jr. vows to eradicate election fraud as new COMELEC chairman

Sixto Brillantes Jr takes oath
Newly sworn in Commission on Elections chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Sunday said he aims to “perfect" automated elections during his term to totally eradicate election fraud in the country.

The veteran election lawyer took his oath of office at 4:19 p.m. Sunday before Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura at the Supreme Court.

“During the first national automated elections, the Comelec resolved a number of election problems.  We just need to perfect the automated election system to see that election fraud is absolutely obliterated," Brillantes said in an interview Sunday.

At a press briefing after his oath-taking, Brillantes said he will implement "structural and organizational" changes within the Comelec.  He said the Comelec needs to improve its internal functions.


"
Ang bagal gumawa ng desisyon ng Comelec," Brillantes said, citing some setbacks in terms of accrediting political parties during last year's automated elections.

He is confident he can wipe out electoral fraud and corruption as he is "familiar with various poll problems" plaguing the country, he said in the interview.





He will report to the Comelec office in Intramuros, Manila, on Monday to meet with the poll body's commissioners and employees.  "I will go around the office [Monday] to talk with them individually."


Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that Brillantes opted to take his oath as the new Comelec chief before Nachura because "they worked in the same law office, went to the same school, and are good friends."

Both of them were with the Brillantes Nachura Navarro Jumamil Arcilla Escolin Martinez Law Offices.


Alam ko ang mga problema at ang mga tao sa Comelec.  Change of status lang ito," Brillantes said, referring to his experience as an election lawyer, which he intends to bring into his post.

With Brillantes at the helm, the poll body can reach "full and permanent modernization" and be transformed into a more competent institution, De Lima, for her part, said in a text message to reporters.


"He is already well versed with its problems and has established personal and professional linkages with its senior staff.  He has moral ascendancy over them," De Lima said.


He will give Comelec a "fresh infusion of energy and perspective," added De Lima, herself an election lawyer.


Brillantes' expertise in election law will make Comelec running without any need for introductions or warm ups.  "He had been warming up for this post since he started his election law practice," De Lima said.


Automated polls, ‘new problems’


On Sunday, militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said that as the new Comelec chair, Brillantes should look into the ghosts of election fraud over the past decade.


“For the longest time, Comelec has been perceived as one of the most corrupt government agencies because of the conduct of its officials.  Now is a good time to begin the process of cleaning up Comelec," Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.


According to Reyes, the new Comelec chairman should look into the involvement of the poll body's officials in the rigging of the 2004 elections, as well as various irregularities and anomalies in the approval of contracts for election paraphernalia.


The problems that beleaguered last year's automated polls and the questionable groups and nominees that participated in the party-list elections should also be looked into, he added.


Reyes pointed out that the automated polls have not stamped out election problems.  "New problems arose even as many old problems persisted," he said.


"Attorney Brillantes is known for his expertise on election laws.  Malaking bagay para sa Comelec ang knowledge niya.  We will guide him how to work in the government," Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, the most senior official in the poll body, said in a separate interview.


To assume post Monday


On Saturday night, Brillantes disclosed that he was named as Comelec's new chief. Brillantes expects to formally assume his new post Monday replacing
Jose Melo, who resigned from his post effective Saturday.

Radio dzBB reported that his apparent closest rival to the post had even backed out of the race; Romulo Macalintal, had asked to remove his name from the list of prospects.


Macalintal wrote President Benigno Aquino III a letter, saying he decided not to seek the top Comelec post because of his family, dzBB said.


But Macalintal stressed he is still ready to help in election-related matters.


Last week, Macalintal and Brillantes both expressed readiness to take the post, even as they downplayed speculations they are pawns of two factions in MalacaƱang.


Macalintal was perceived to have the backing of the "Balay" group of former Sen. Manuel Roxas II while Brillantes was said to be backed by the rival "Samar" group.


Still, presidential deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte pointed out in a separate interview on dzBB that MalacaƱang has not made any formal announcement on the new Comelec chair's appointment.


A
Philippine Daily Inquirer report quoted Brillantes as saying that President Benigno Aquino III signed his appointment papers Saturday night.– With Sophia Dedace/MRT/VS/KBK, GMANews.TV

Monday, January 10, 2011

Poll employees appeal to Chairman Melo and Commissioners

Press Statement
December 28, 2010

APPEAL TO CHAIRMAN JOSE MELO AND COMMISSIONERS THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON 2010

While we join the entire nation in celebrating the success of the first automated national elections in Philippine history this year; we, the rank and file employees of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) under the Alliance of COMELEC Employees in Service (ACES), can not help but express our deep concern over the COMELEC’s state of finances for this year, 2010.

Recent statements from COMELEC higher-ups reveal a seemingly healthy financial situation. COMELEC Law Department Director and Bids and Awards Committee Chairman Ferdinand Rafanan has declared recently that the COMELEC was able to save a whopping P943 Million from the recent bidding processes. He even boasted that the COMELEC has enough savings to provide a monthly bonus of P20, 000 to each COMELEC employee nationwide for a period of nine (9) months! [See attached Rafanan’s statement]

Rafanan’s pronouncement was further reinforced when the majority of COMELEC Commissioners agreed (by affixing their signatures to the Petition circulated by the ACES addressed to the COMELEC en banc on December 20, 2010) to provide a CHRISTMAS INCENTIVE to COMELEC employees who labored hard to ensure the success of the May 10, 2010 Automated Elections and the October 25, 2010 Barangay and SK elections.

But despite the millions, if not billions of savings accumulated; COMELEC employees NEVER received any Christmas Incentive from the COMELEC for two (2) consecutive years already! For this year, we were only provided with Anniversary Bonus (equivalent to one month salary but not less than P10,000) and Rice Subsidy (P2,000). [Note that these incentives are traditionally given to us employees and that only the Directors and Commissioners benefit from them because of their high salaries!] The COMELEC only added another P3,000 to the P7,000 Bonus allocated by the Department of Budget Management (DBM) to government workers last December 15, 2010.

The absence of Christmas Incentive for two (2) consecutive years and other surprising developments, such as Chairman Jose Melo’s early retirement (effective January 31, 2011) and Finance Department Director Eduardo Mejos’ reported resignation (effective December 31, 2010); leads us, all employees, to WORRY AS TO THE FINANCIAL STATUS OF THE COMELEC.

We must take into account that the COMELEC was allotted P11.3 billion supplementary budget for the May 10 Automated National and Local Elections and another P3.2 billion for the October 25 Barangay and SK elections.

Also, we must bear in mind that government employees who contributed either in productivity or cost savings of the agency are entitled to financial incentives, in whatever form. According to Public Sector Labor Management Council (PSLMC) Resolutions, 80% of savings generated by the agency from the adoption and implementation of cost-cutting measures can be the source of these incentives.

Lastly, we APPEAL TO CHAIRMAN MElO AND COMMISSIONERS THAT The benefits and privileges TRADITIONALLY GIVEN TO COMELEC employees FOR CHRISTMAS FROM CONSTITUTIONAL FISCAL AUTONOMY GROUP (CFAG) SAVINGS BE GIVEN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

COMELEC accused of granting "selective" incentives

An association of rank and file employees of the Commission on Elections on Monday accused the poll body of supposedly granting "selective" incentives when it gave bonuses to Comelec chairman Jose Melo and other officials last Christmas.

Alliance of Comelec Employees in Service (ACES) president Luallah Pama said that while the Comelec employees did not receive any Christmas incentives, Melo supposedly received P77,653 while his staff and regional election directors got bonuses equivalent to one month of their salaries for their role in the 2010 automated elections.


Pama specifically cited poll body finance department director Eduardo Mejos and Comelec's resident Commission on Audit (COA) auditor Resurreccion Quieta, who supposedly received P51,623 and P45,971 respectively.


"We are baffled as to where they find the gall to reward themselves with bonuses last Christmas when the rest of the rank and file got nothing. Do they mean they were the only ones that did their jobs last May 10? Were it not that all the Election Day glitches and snags happened only because of the bad decisions that came from them?" Pama said in a statement released Monday.


Pama explained that Comelec employees have not been getting Christmas incentives for the past two years despite the supposed millions in savings accumulated by the poll body, which is allegedly causing a "creeping demoralization" among their ranks.


Since December 28, several rank and file employees of the poll body have been staging protests during their lunch breaks, demanding the release of their Christmas incentives which Pama says is traditionally given to them by the Comelec.


"We shall continue with our protests until the Comelec en banc heeds the legitimate cries of the rank and file," she said.


In an e-mail to GMANews.TV, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said he has yet to see the original payroll documents indicating the supposed Christmas incentives that were given to Melo, his staff, and other officials.


He noted, however, that it is "inaccurate" to say that only those mentioned by Pama received bonuses last Christmas.


"The truth of the matter is that for FY 2010, the Commission actually granted eight separate bonuses to its employees, on top of the regular benefits granted to government employees," Jimenez said.


Jimenez said that among the eight bonuses were:

  • rice subsidy - P8,000
  • special financial aid - P7,000
  • incentive bonus - one month salary, but not less than P10,000
  • across the board allowance - P5,000
  • anniversary bonus - P10,000
  • special economic amelioration assistance - P10,000
  • financial assistance for Comelec Employees - one month salary, but not less than P10,000
  • performance enhancement incentive - P10,000 

Jimenez likewise explained that the granting of "additional benefits" is subject to the availability of funds.  

"This year the savings will be used to defray the expenses for the conduct of the ARMM elections in August 2011.  This is in conformity with the directive of the Department of Budget and Management, with the concurrence of Congress," he said.

  • "The Comelec has given all the benefits it can give," Jimenez added.
    — RSJ, GMANews.TV



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