Sunday, November 29, 2009

A message to COMELEC: failure to act on election offenses in Maguindanao Massacre is grounds for impeachment

COMELEC commissioner Lucenito Tagle's statement that Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. has not yet been convicted of the crime of multiple murder and, therefore, is still qualified to seek an elective post sends a very disturbing signal to would-be election violators that the COMELEC chooses to be inutile rather than proactive.

With all due respect to the Commissioner, he has grossly misread Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code.

Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code provides that the COMELEC can disqualify candidates on grounds of acts of terrorism. The massacre was meant to prevent the Ampatuans’ political opponents from filing their Certificate of Candidacy. Clearly, the matter is election-related and, under the foregoing provision of law, the COMELEC has a strong case against the Ampatuans. A conviction by final judgment by the courts is not necessary.

The COMELEC itself can, in a disqualification proceeding, adjudicate a case against politicians involved in the massacre. For the longest time warlords have held sway over Maguindanao with impunity and utter disregard of the law.
It is high time that the government, especially the COMELEC, apply the full force of the law against political warlordism and refrain from any acts or statements which give the impression that the massacre in Maguindanao has a place in civilized society.
Also, in a 2001 COMELEC resolution, field officials of the COMELEC were allowed to hear and receive evidence of disqualification cases regarding a petition to disqualify a candidate engaged in gun running, using and transporting of firearms, or in organizing special strike forces. Accordingly, political warlords in Maguindanao who actually file their COCs can be subjected to disqualification proceedings for having committed acts of terrorism under sec Section 68.

We challenge the COMELEC to fulfill its mandate of ensuring peaceful elections. The “Maguindanano Massacre” is a test case for the COMELEC and its resolve to go after those who make a mockery of our election laws. Failure on the part of the COMELEC officials to pursue election-related offenses in the Maguindnao Massacre is grounds for impeachment.

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