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Comelec to critics: Don’t whine, sue us

Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. challenged his critics to file a formal complaint, instead of talking to members of the media on the commission’s alleged bias in implementing campaign rules. “The insinuation that Comelec is turning a blind eye to violations by those with big names and those close to the President is uncalled for,” Brillantes said. Officials of Anakpawis and Kabataan party list groups on Friday accused the Comelec of being strict with them but lenient towards the administration’s Liberal Party and members of its coalition. They complained that the commission did nothing after candidates of the LP coalition distributed PhilHealth cards during the campaign in Bohol, in violation of election laws. Brillantes, however, warned the party-list groups they could be disqualified for not following the rules. “Instead of talking, Kabataan Party-List should just remove its illegal posters scattered all over Mero Manila and comply with campaign rules. With all due respect to the Kabataan Party-List, Comelec will never be selective in implementing our campaign rules,” Brillantes said. The Comelec also dared the groups to file a complaint against President Benigno Aquino III in connection with reports that the administration was using government funds to campaign for his candidates. “I am challenging them. Come to us and we will hear [the case] based on evidence,” he said. At the same time, Brillantes defended the President, saying nobody could stop him from distributing the health cards since this is a government program. Doing so would be illegal only if they were used to entice voters, he said. “If somebody files a case, we will resolve it one way or another,” Brillantes said. Commissioner Lucenito Tagle said the commission did not issue any exemption allowing candidates to distribute PhilHealth cards to voters. “The commission en banc did not receive any request for that exemption. We have to look into this,” he said. United Nationalist Alliance officials led by Vice President Jejomar Binay asked the commission to investigate the administration party for allegedly distributing the PhilHealth cards to disrupt the opposition rallies in Cebu last Tuesday. On Friday, Binay challenged the administration to promote “new politics” by refraining from using government agencies, authorities and resources in subverting the will of the electorate. PhilHealth on Friday denied opposition charges that their cards were distributed in the towns of Loon and Balilihan in Bohol. “The allegation that the health cards distributed in the towns of Loon and Balilihan in Bohol were PhilHealth cards is grossly inaccurate. They were not PhilHealth cards and the activity was not sanctioned by PhilHealth. No PhilHealth employee was present in the said event,” the state-owned health insurance company said in a statement. “Upon verification with our regional office, it was reported that the cards distributed were local government-initiated health cards that offered additional discounts for medicines and possibly other health services for those they have given these cards to,” it said. “The said local government units decided to distribute these cards to existing PhilHealth members in those areas. These activities are not unique to Bohol as many other local government units also issue different types of colored health cards to their constituencies,” it added. PhilHealth OIC-President, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, has also ordered the agency to no such local government health cards be distributed during the campaign period, the statement said. PhilHealth also denied report that the resignation of former president and chief executive Eduardo P. Banzon from PhilHealth was due to his refusal to use PhilHealth funds to benefit the administration ticket. “There was never any government directive to this effect,” the statement said. “Let us not give political color to Dr. Banzon’s resignation and make a big issue out of it because the corporation has already respected his decision to quit due to personal and family reasons,” it said. Binay on Friday said UNA supporters who were supposed to join their rallies in Cebu and Bohol had been harassed by the police and barred from joining the opposition activities. He said Interior and Local Governments Secretary Manuel Roxas II should call the attention of the Philippine National Police, which falls under his jurisdiction. He dismissed police charges of traffic violations as “a flimsy excuse.” “The buses used by our supporters were blocked by the police of personnel from the Land Transportation Office because of numerous violations. But they had 365 days to check if there were violations. Why choose to take action on the day of the rally?” Binay said. “Is this what you call the straight path?” he said, twitting the administration. The opposition also urged the Liberal Party officials to heed President Benigno Aquino III’s call for a clean campaign after two party members, Rep. Miro Quimbo and Neptali Gonzales II urged the Commission on Audit to look into the travel by Binay and his family to the Vatican in 2012, insinuating that government funds were used in the travel. “The intent was clearly to smear the Vice President and his family. All we can say to LP is: ‘Nice try!’” Tiangco said. The Office of the Vice President has already said the trip was paid for by the Vice President’s children from their personal funds as a 40th wedding anniversary gift to the Vice President and Mrs. Elenita Binay. With Christine F. Herrera
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