Public officials often forget that they are supposed to serve the public, not threaten those who disagree with them.
Certainly, this must have been the case of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rey Bulay, who threatened “to call upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines” to round up and jail anyone who suggested that the Comelec is biased or that it would cause election fraud.
Bulay, appointed to the Comelec in November 2021, said he and his fellow commissioners were determined to conduct credible, peaceful and clean elections.
“That’s why I am personally issuing this warning … and I will not think twice about filing cases against those of you who sow discord,” he said.
Bulay’s outburst came after his fellow commissioner, Socorro Inting, criticized the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Alumni for Leni over its “unnecessary” call for honest and credible elections in May.
“As commissioner of our poll body, I am ever conscious of this mandate. My colleagues in the commission en banc are likewise cognizant of this constitutional directive,” she said in a statement.
“The appeal of AIM Alumni for Leni calling for non-partisanship and for holding of orderly, peaceful, and credible elections on May 9, 2022 is therefore unnecessary as it tends to sow distrust on the integrity of the Comelec,” Inting said.
“Casting aspersions on the Commission on Elections and its deputized agencies, without sufficient basis, is the last thing we need now, more so that we are already in the homestretch of the campaign,” she said.
Then, reading words that were not in the document, she said the appeal “subtly conditions the minds of Filipinos that the upcoming elections is not credible should Vice President Leni Robredo lose in the presidential race.”
Oddly enough, we did not see Bulay or Inting complain when the chairman of the Senate committee on electoral reforms recently questioned the integrity of the Comelec’s computerized voting system and its information technology provider.
Certainly, these accusations were equally if not more damaging to the Comelec’s credibility, yet neither commissioner spoke out.
Would not the doubts cast on the computerized voting system not also be construed as “subtly conditioning the minds of Filipinos” that if the elections did not go a certain way, they were not credible?
To be truly unbiased, these commissioners should appreciate the notion that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Moreover, Commissioner Bulay needs to be reminded that Section 4 of our Bill of Rights reads: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
The Comelec may have control over the military during the election period, but the commissioner is sadly mistaken if he believes he also has the authority to suspend the Constitution and throw out our Bill of Rights.