Saturday, April 4, 2015

The specter of no-el

By Alejandro Del Rosario
We may not realize it but the prospect of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s term being extended if no elections are held in 2016 is staring us in the face.
This would be the consequence if the legal issues on the contract between the Commission on Elections and the Venezuelan firm Smartmatic is not resolved by the Supreme Court. Extension of Aquino’s term by force majeure cannot be discounted.
Comelec acting chairman Christian Lim said reverting to manual counting in place of automated voting provided by Smartmatic and its 82,000 precinct count optical scan machines is better than no election at all. Lim’s statement raised the specter of a no-el scenario for the first time if electronic voting using the PCOS machines is shelved.
Not implementing automated voting also raises a constitutional issue since automated voting is mandated by law. Congress has to pass a law allowing manual counting for it to be implemented in 2016. The clock is ticking and Congress has yet to address the key issue in time for the May 2016 polls. Is the deliberate stalemate the end game planned all along by Aquino and his congressional allies?
Smartmatic must be such a favored contractor that Comelec unanimously overturned a decision disqualifying the IT provider from participating in the bidding for the supply of the optical mark reader machines.
In pushing for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, President Aquino painted a grim scenario if Congress does not act favorably on the BBL presently under review.
This is the crossroads we face: We take pains to forge peace today, or count body bags tomorrow,” said the President who invited Church and community leaders to a peace summit to improve the BBL. It has become patently clear the framework agreement drafted by Aquino negotiators Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Teresita Deles with the MILF is terribly flawed. Otherwise, why would Aquino concede it needs improvement?  
To some, Aquino’s graphic “peace or body bags” remarks seem to toe the MILF line that more bloodshed will follow if Congress revises a BBL that is not to its liking. This posture can only harden the position of many legislators whose constituents in the proposed Bangsamoro region include the Christian communities who are alarmed about their own security and future under a Muslim sub-state.
Foremost of their fears include the Bangsamoro either seceding from the Republic or opting to be a federal state of Malaysia. Why did the Arroyo and Aquino administrations allow Malaysia to be a third-party broker when it has a conflict of interest involving Manila’s territorial dispute with Kuala Lumpur over Sabah?
Malacanang denied President Aquino was in Zamboanga expecting to receive the head of Malaysian terrorist Marwan from the PNP-SAF team.(Just a figure of speech; unlike ISIS or Abu Sayyaf, SAF commandos don’t decapitate their captives). Marwan’s index finger cut off by the raiders was all Aquino got. It was good enough for US forensic experts to do DNA testing and confirm the commandos did take down Marwan.
Somehow the Palace explanation that the President was in Zamboanga to look into a car bombing in the city doesn’t wash. Why the President? Why not just assign DILG Secretary Mar Roxas or PNP OIC Gen. Leonardo Espina to handle a purely police matter?
Airline passengers now have to worry not only about terrorists in their midst but also a madman in the cockpit--the pilot who’s supposed to fly them safely to their destinations.
A report by an official of Germanwings said the Airbus A320 was deliberately smashed into the side of a mountain in the French Alps. Based on its initial findings, crash probers said the chief pilot was locked out despite his efforts to have the co-pilot open the cockpit door. The German co-pilot , Andreas Lubitz, was reportedly depressed over the breakup with his girl friend and decided to end his life and that of the 149 passengers on board.
Lubitz, according to crash investigators, put the plane on auto pilot from 36, 000 feet to a steep descent of less than 300 feet to send it crashing onto a mountain wall.
This latest case involving a pilot’s mental state brings to mind what really happened last year to Malaysian Air flight 370. Debris of the Malaysian  airliner have yet to be sighted to this day and could be lying at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
Questions as to why the Malaysian plane headed for Singapore from Indonesia made a sudden turn westward to India is still a puzzle. The mental health of the Malaysian pilot or his probable link to a terrorist organization is suspected behind the bizarre disappearance of the jetliner.

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