Comelec’s wise move in Zambo Norte row

"The poll body saw through a ploy."


In our last column, we shared the view expressed by political observers  that the results of the  elections in certain parts of Mindanao might end up  being decided by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) rather than by the electorate themselves.

Well, recent developments may have fueled hopes that such may not be the case. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) just last week proved once more that it aims to uphold the sanctity of the election process and will leave the power of choice in the hands of voters.

The development pertains to an issue which hounded the contest for the governorship of Zamboanga del Norte. The incumbent, Governor Roberto “Berto” Uy, is running for reelection against two contenders. One is a member of the Jalosjos clan—Zamboanga del Norte Congressman Seth Frederick “Bullet,” son of former Representative Romeo Jalosjos.

That a Jalosjos is challenging the incumbent Uy for the post comes as no surprise. The Uys and the Jalosjoses have been locked in a political battle royale for the past two or so elections.

The more interesting challenger is the third one—an unknown aspirant who some say is a utility man  who is in the payroll of a local government in that province. What makes him even more interesting is that his name is also “Roberto Uy.” Even more interesting is that he sports the same nickname—“Berto”—as that of the incumbent governor.

The only difference is their respective middle names. The incumbent’s is “Yu”; the challenger’s is “Escobido.” But then, middle names do not matter in political campaigns. They were both talked about and referred to as “Berto Uy.”

The Comelec must have seen through this brilliant ploy.

In its resolution, the Comelec ruled that the utility man is nothing more than a “nuisance” candidate and nullified his certificate of candidacy.

Reports say the Comelec went under much pressure to let the utility man stay on the ballot. It appears the only way his nemeses thought the original Berto Uy could be defeated was to confuse voters. It appears the Comelec decided to stand its ground and deal with the confusion that the presence of a second “Berto Uy” creates.

This is a good move by the Comelec.

By standing its ground, the Commission has raised hopes that the voters of Zamboanga del Norte will be voting for the candidate who they actually have in their mind as their choice. Theirs will be votes based on a decision which, in turn, is based on accurate information.

Fielding a namesake of a candidate has been an overused tool in local elections in this country. As the Comelec resolution noted, the intention is nothing more than to confuse voters. The Comelec knows that confusion is the enemy of wise decisions.

Whoever fielded and funded the short-lived run of the other “Berto Uy” must have believed that the only way the original Berto Uy could be defeated was to confuse the people of Zamboanga del Norte. Based on reports, whoever these parties may be are still capitalizing on the earlier confusion. They are reportedly plastering the province with posters showing the face of the incumbent and alongside his face is the number of the disqualified challenger.

The Comelec is reportedly expected to rule that all votes cast in favor of any of the two Berto Uys will be counted in favor of the legitimate candidate.

Once the Comelec does this, it will be sending a strong signal to these self-styled election strategists whose default mode is to sow confusion and deception.

The Comelec believes that by confusing and deceiving voters, these shadowy characters are depriving voters of their right to informed choices.

While we congratulate the Comelec for its quick and wise move in this particular case, we also commiserate with it. It is still facing one more issue in that part of Mindanao where the fate of the exercise of voter’s choice hangs in the balance.

We mentioned in another column that the Jalosjoses are facing a major challenge in what many say is their original—and last remaining— political stronghold: historic Dapitan City.

Incumbent Mayor Rosalina “Nene” Jalosjos-Johnson is facing former Dipolog City Mayor Evelyn Uy in this year’s race for the top post at the Dapitan City Hall. The latter is the wife of Berto Uy—the governor, not the utility man.

It appears some personalities in Dapitan City believe that the only way to prevent Evelyn Uy from winning the seat is to have her disqualified from the race by getting the Comelec to strike her name off the list of the city’s registered voters.

They raised the residency issue against Evelyn Uy. The Regional Trial Court had earlier ruled that Uy has met the residency requirement and that her bid for the mayoralty seat of Dapitan City is a valid one.

The issue is now in the hands of the Comelec en banc. As we said earlier, the Comelec here is in a very difficult situation. The body can end up making it hard for the Jalosjoses to keep their last bastion. Or, it can end up depriving the people of the city a better range of choices by removing a serious challenger.

It will not an easy one for the Comelec. However, it has already proven that it has what it takes to make a bold decision that favors the power of informed choices on the part of the electorate.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Commission on Elections , Comelec , Zamboanga del Norte
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