I’m no Palace puppet–Brillantes
Commission on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Wednesday brushed aside accusations by the camp of ex-President Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband that the poll body was acting like a “puppet” of Malacañang in pursuing charges against them.
Brillantes said Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer of the former president’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, should “read the law” first before making allegations that the Comelec sacrificed its independence and integrity as a constitutional body when it formed a joint panel with the Department of Justice to investigate the Arroyos for alleged irregularities in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
“I know Attorney Topacio and he’s a good lawyer. But the problem with him is that he probably didn’t read the law. What is stated under Republic Act No. 9369 is that the Comelec and DOJ have concurrent jurisdiction over election related offenses. Each can investigate on its own or both can conduct investigation at the same time,” Brillantes told reporters.
He was referring to Section of RA 9369, or the Amended Automated Election Systems Act of 2007, which states: “The Commission shall, through its duly authorized legal officers, have the power, concurrent with the other prosecuting arms of the government, to conduct preliminary investigation of all election offenses punishable under [the Omnibus Election Code], and prosecute the same.”
The Comelec and DOJ formed a joint investigating committee in July to investigate alleged cheating in the 2004 presidential and 2007 senatorial elections. The committee’s fact-finding panel recommended charges against the Arroyos and over 30 other respondents, mostly election officials.
The committee will now conduct a preliminary investigation to determine probably cause; after which cases may be filed before the regional trial court.
Under their agreement, the DOJ will prosecute nonelection cases such as falsification of documents and bribery while the Comelec will be in charge of filing and pursuing cases of electoral sabotage and other election offenses.
The Comelec en banc will have to approve all the recommendations of the committee before any case is filed. With a report from Cathy Yamsuan