(Note: This statement was released April 25, 2022 by the National Movement for Free Elections or NAMFREL. The statement came in the wake of a warning made by COMELEC Commissioner Rey Bulay last April 23 against the commission’s critics. Bulay was quoted as saying he would not hesitate to call upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines, deputized during elections by the COMELEC, to deal with and even detain such critics.)
Power and authority should not be weaponized against the people
The discharge of the Commission on Elections’ duty under Section 2(1), Article IX-C of the Constitution and under the law to enforce and administer all laws relative to the conduct of elections for the purpose of ensuring free, orderly and honest elections does not escape public observation.
The absence or lack of transparency of the processes of the Commission, whether in relation to cases or petitions before it, or in relation to its preparations of the automated election system that will be used for the 2022 National and Local Elections, has been a concern.
Any action or series of actions taken by the Commission may be perceived differently by citizens and citizen groups, and may lead them to express their perceptions and opinions, in agreement with the Commission or otherwise.
While the Commission is authorized under Section 2(4), Article IX-C of the Constitution to “deputize, with the concurrence of the President, law enforcement agencies and instrumentalities of the Government, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, for the exclusive purpose of ensuring free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections,” the limits of exercising this authority is clear. It should not be weaponized against the people. After all, under the same Constitution, “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them” (Section 1, Article II).
There are election laws and processes in place to investigate and penalize election offenses, as well as to address election-related concerns. The focus ought to be on educating the public of these mechanisms, instead of resorting to warnings.
With less than two weeks before the elections, we urge the Commission to be more transparent in its actions, encourage the promotion of inclusivity and participation by initiating conversations with stakeholders, and provide clear information in response to any issues or concerns raised by citizens and/or citizen groups.
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