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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Strange and suspicious

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While the nation was fixated, in the past weeks, on the kidnapping and strangling of a Korean businessman by members of the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group of the Philippine National Police, right inside Camp Crame, a strange and suspicious event took place at the Commission on Elections warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna where Smartmatic automated machines were stored.

The ceiling of the Memory Configuration Room of the warehouse collapsed, affecting the servers of the machines used during the May 9, 2016 national and local elections. These servers contain sensitive information—vital data that are the subject of election protests by former Senator Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo, and former Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino against no. 12 Liberal Party Senator Leila de Lima. Tolentino placed 13th.

Given the allegations that the Liberal Party and the “Yellowtards” conducted massive cheating in the last poll to make their candidates win, the collapse of the ceiling of that warehouse must be investigated.

Tolentino, in an urgent motion to the Senate Electoral Tribunal, expressed dismay that the Comelec informed the SET about the incident only last Jan. 16. The poll body asked the tribunal “to reboot, conduct diagnostics and shut down the servers covered by the election protests to determine the extent of damage to the data in the servers” when the incident occurred.

Knowing full well that there are claims by Marcos and Tolentino that both the Comelec and Smartmatic machine officials connived to make Robredo win over Marcos, and De Lima over Tolentino, the SET and the National Bureau of Investigation should dig deeper.

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A report to Comelec chairman Andres Bautista on the incident said technical people of the commission went to the warehouse and investigated the incident. They found out the dangerous condition of the servers (and the data they contain) because the air-conditioning system was not working.

I am sure there are CCTV footages of the Smartmatic warehouse.

* * *

When President Duterte appointed heiress Gina Lopez to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan said that “it is like putting an elephant in a room.”

Now Lopez has closed 23 mining firms and suspended five more for allegedly violating the law for polluting the environment with dangerous tailings.

These actions on mining firms put 67,000 direct jobs at risk with P66.6 billion worth of annual production expected to be lost. No less than Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez expressed concern that P16.7 billion would be lost in taxes, my gulay!

Dominguez did not mince words when he said that his next concern is the impact on local governments to which mining firms pay taxes.

Dominguez is also concerned about the effects of Lopez’s action on the Gross Domestic Product. The mining industry represents .05 percent of the country’s total production. And most of all, the country will lose its dominance in nickel exports. The country controls 20 percent of the world market, with most of the mining firms producing nickel closed.

Perhaps, that’s the reason why up to now, the affected mining firms have not been shown the audit reports. This violates the Transparency Act. My gulay, Lopez claimed, “it’s too complicated.” It’s complicated because there was no due process, and the audit report was totally baseless.

President Duterte should instruct Lopez to make her audit report public. The mining firms affected have a contract with government. As such, their investors both foreign and local are guaranteed due process.

I can almost foresee multiple lawsuits filed by the affected firms against government. Is the Duterte administration sending the message that foreign investments in the mining industry are not welcome?

Representatives of the mining industry sought a meeting with Dominguez together with the Interagency Minerals Coordinating Council. This is to assess the impact of the Lopez audit report and likewise, its impact on the national economy.

It’s bad enough that President Duterte has turned the country into “killing fields” with his bloody war on illegal drugs. More than 7,000 have already been killed. And now, this audit report. My gulay, Mister President, don’t you realize that with Gina Lopez as DENR secretary, your problems of poverty and joblessness can only get worse?

* * *

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has finally broken its self-imposed silence on the President’s war on illegal drugs. This was contained in a pastoral letter read by Catholic priests nationwide during Mass last Sunday.

I agree with the CBCP which has a moral duty to tell its faithful what the situation is and what should be done about it.

In the same pastoral letter, the CBCP also told the faithful that keeping silent about all the killings, which have somehow become the “new normal,” would be conniving in the killings.

The CBCP is not “out of touch.” The bishops and priests are committed to lead the faithful in realizing that they should act to stop the killings. How and to what extent, it remains to be seen.

Perhaps it’s for fear that they will be next targets that many Filipinos have not taken to the streets to protest the killings. This has been validated by a recent survey that eight out of 10 Filipinos fear they will be next in the war against illegal drugs. They are also mostly poor.

The CBCP has gotten out of its shell with that pastoral letter. Its impact should not be underestimated. The country is still predominantly Roman Catholic.

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