02 March 2010

Exercise in Futility

Ballot Box
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has just reminded everyone that betting on the results of the 10 May 2010 elections is strictly prohibited under the Omnibus Election Code.

"To those who love to place bets, do not gamble or bet on your candidate or else you can be penalized if you’re caught," COMELEC Commissioner Rene Sarmiento told reporters in a recent interview.

Big deal. If these 'responsible' officials in government are really working on behalf of the public then they would have conducted simple discussions that will reveal that this is an exercise in futility. If authorities in other regulatory agencies are having a hard time cracking the syndicate handling sports betting in the country even with their years of experience, then what made these officials think that they can do more in just 3 months before the national election.

Sarmiento further stressed that betting is prohibited not only if money is wagered but also 'anything of value.' But who will determine if anything of value changed hand under the threat that whoever will admit to it will go to jail? On the other hand, maybe some of those who will initiate the betting are also those who were tasked to deal with them. In this case, everything becomes complicated and given the meager salary of government regulators, dealing with complicity is not worth their while.

But even if COMELEC really are serious in pursuing this haphazard policy, would this make them technically competent to handle any glitches that will come from the computerization of elections? Or is this just diversion to make the public not think about the problems encountered when the new system is being piloted in selected areas? Despite conducting mock polls in controlled environment, COMELEC still found it hard to operate smoothly because of intermittent signals.

Sarmiento also said that just like other election offenses, there should be persons who will file complaints before the COMELEC as part of the due process. Here we go again. Why will anybody file a complaint if they are in danger of also being charged as an accessory to the crime itself, unless the complainant is not a party to the transaction or has a solid basis for filing the case. And as many Filipinos know, eyewitness accounts can be easily bought like cheap imitations in Divisoria. In this respect it seems at least that the election agency has managed to maintain the naivety of some of its officials.

Instead of spending government resources in policies that has good chances of failing, COMELEC is better served if they work on exempting the recruitment of new teachers and policemen from the election-related hiring ban. This will partly address the concern of the Department of Education (DepED) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) that they cannot service the needs of the student populace and the safety of communities.