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‘Hello Boy’: JPE call worries poll workers

/ 12:36 AM November 10, 2012

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Election employees said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had set the tone for a tension-filled poll next year in Cagayan, when he lashed out at an election officer on October 31.

Enrile had confirmed in media interviews that he had confronted Edna Tacazon, Santa Ana election officer, following reports that she had been refusing to release registration forms to about 200 aspiring voters who trooped to the Commission on Elections office on Oct. 31, the last day of voter registration.

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Enrile had called Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, and was allegedly heard to have said, “Boy (Brillantes’ nickname), I want this girl out of my district.”

“That call haunts us all over again [right after] the ‘Hello Garci’ scandal, which badly damaged the Comelec’s reputation. This time, it’s ‘Hello Boy,’” said an election official, who asked for anonymity for security reasons.

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The “Hello Garci” scandal refers to wiretapped telephone calls supposedly made by former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, which critics describe as proof that the results of the 2004 presidential elections could have been manipulated in her favor.

“We are still trying to heal our wounds from that tragic scandal which affected Comelec personnel down to its rank-and-file, and now, this,” the official said.

Election employees in Cagayan, as well as the Comelec Employees’ Union that is based at the Comelec office in Manila, have expressed support to Tacazon, 61, saying “harassment and bullying” have become a way of life for election workers.

“We expect more of this kind as the election season draws nearer. But we just do our work,” said lawyer Catherine Allas, Cagayan election supervisor.

Election workers deal with thousands of irate late registrants, but they are still subjected to harassment by “big-headed and influential people who demand that their supporters be registered at the last minute,” Armando Mallorca, Comelec-EU vice president for external affairs, said in a statement.

“It’s as if [the delays were] our fault, when in fact, voters had more than 16 months to visit us to register,” he said.

Enrile had said that Tacazon had been delaying the enlistment of more than 200 voters, majority of who were employees of locators operating within the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZF) in Santa Ana.

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Enrile’s grandson, Board Member Jean Alphonse “AJ” Ponce, is running for Santa Ana mayor under the United Nationalist Alliance. Ponce’s father is Jose Mari Ponce, administrator of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza), which operates the CSEZF.

In an interview, Ponce defended the Ceza workers’ last-day registration, and denied that he was interfering with the politics of Santa Ana.

“I was told that they were too busy with work, so they had only (Oct. 31) as their chance to register. I do not see anything wrong with that because (to be registered as a voter) is their right, as long as they meet the required length of residency in the place,” he said. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: 2013 elections, Comelec, Juan Ponce Enrile, Nueva Vizcaya, Politics, Sixto Brillantes Jr.
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