UNA hits Padaca appointment as poll commissioner, questions political independenceBy Fat Reyes
MANILA, Philippines – The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) on Friday hit the appointment of former Isabela governor Grace Padaca as the new Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner, saying that her ties with the Liberal Party (LP) did not assure the public of her political independence.
“We are saddened that newly-appointed Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca failed her first test of independence when she posted her bail before the Sandiganbayan last Thursday accompanied by LP President on leave and DILG Secretary [Manuel] Mar Roxas,” UNA secretary-general Toby Tiangco said in a statement Friday.
On Thursday, Padaca posted a P70,000 bail bond at the Sandiganbayan. She was accompanied by Roxas, her lawyer Rogelio Vinluan. It was revealed that the money was provided by President Benigno Aquino III using his “personal funds.”
In his statement, Tiangco likened to a campaign pitch Padaca’s remarks “extolling the personal qualities” of Roxas, saying that her actions and her political ties with him and the LP hardly reassured the public of her independence.
“In a subsequent interview, Commissioner Padaca admitted that she still needs to learn how to be independent. With all due respect to the Madam Commissioner, political independence is not learned,” Tiangco said.
Tiangco also urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to explain their failure to serve the warrant of arrest to Padaca in May, saying that ”moral governance demands equal application of the law, and political allies are not exempt.”
“She confirmed that she did not go into hiding, and likewise admitted that she did not want to post bail. Indeed, she was very visible in the past few months. Why did the DILG and PNP fail to exert any effort to serve the warrant?” Tiangco said.
Padaca is facing graft charges for allegedly awarding a P25-million rice project to a non-government organization in 2006 without public bidding.
It had been reported that the Palace maintained the position of standing by Padaca, saying she is a woman of integrity. However, it has yet to fully explain why the authorities failed to serve her warrant of arrest.
Tiangco, in his statement, accused the LP of employing “Arroyo tactics,” saying that legal issues hounding Padaca’s appointment should be addressed.
Tiangco said he believed that Padaca was not exempt from the rule that public officials who have been charged before the Sandiganbayan were subjected to an automatic 90-day suspension “to prevent them from using their position to obstruct justice.”
“Commissioner Padaca, we believe, is not exempt from this rule, unless the LP wants to show that their members and allies are above the law,” he said.
Tiangco also questioned whether the moves of the LP were a repeat of the abuse of power during the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, when he said people “decried the abuse of government powers for political ends.”
“The law enforcement agencies were either reluctant or given orders to go easy on members of the Arroyo party and officials of the Arroyo administration facing charges in court. Are we seeing a repeat of this abuse of power under the DILG?” he said.
“The LP is starting to employ Arroyo tactics, which is not surprising since it is now dominated by former Arroyo allies. Kaya nga sabi nila na ang LP ay Lakas Pala.
Ito ba ang tuwid na daan? O sinisimulan nang baluktutin para sa halalan?,” he said.