Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano strongly opposed yesterday the nomination of Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento as Chief Justice (CJ), saying Sarmiento “allowed if not abetted” the perpetration of fraud in the 2007 and 2010 elections.
“We have just undergone the painful impeachment of the head of the judiciary. What the judiciary needs now is a CJ who will not only heal the wounds of impeachment, but, more importantly, restore the people’s faith and confidence in the Supreme Court,” said Cayetano in his letter to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
“We cannot afford to commit another mistake in the appointment of a CJ. We cannot appoint somebody like Commissioner Sarmiento whose competence, integrity, probity, and independence are not beyond suspicion,” he stressed.
Cayetano accused Sarmiento and other members of the Comelec of not deciding with dispatch his nuisance candidate complaint against one Joselito Pepito Cayetano in the 2007 senatorial elections, leading to confusion among voters and the sabotaging of his chances of winning.
The senator said the Comelec only disqualified Joselito Pepito three days before the election and, worse, declared on election day that since their decision was not yet final and executory, any vote for “Cayetano” would not be counted in his (Alan Peter’s) favor.
“Furthermore, in an unprecedented move, both COMELEC and the Department of Education launched a campaign to call schools and Board of Election Inspectors members to order them not to count ‘Cayetano’ votes in my favor,” Cayetano told the JBC.
This was happening while the former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo was openly campaining against him and telling politicians that he should not win at all cost, said the senator.
The former First Gentleman is the husband of Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who appointed Commissioner Sarmiento.
Cayetano pointed out that the decision only accomplished what the handlers of Joselito Pepito sought to do, which was to sow confusion among the electorate.
“Many voters thought that Joselito Pepito had already been disqualified so they just wrote ‘Cayetano’ on the ballots to vote for me. Millions of these votes were considered stray by order of the COMELEC, resulting in substantial reduction of my total votes,” the senator said.
Cayetano said Sarmiento did not protest this “machination” and that “no angry denunciation, no stinging dissent – not even a whimper” was heard from the Comelec official.
“Later on during the counting of the votes, he (Sarmiento) would also inexplicably turn a blind eye to the statistically impossible results of zero (0) vote for candidates Noynoy Aquino, Ping Lacson and myself in some areas.”
Cayetano also charged Sarmiento, as one of those who took charge of the elections in Mindanao in 2007, which resulted in the orchestrated defeat of then senatorial candidate Koko Pimentel.
“During an interview with a news anchor, Commissioner Sarmiento denied having in their custody blank election returns. But when shown a video of COMELEC personnel bringing into Maria Cristina Hotel in Iligan City copies of blank election returns, Commissioner Sarmiento took back his denial and explained that the blank election returns were brought to the hotel for safekeeping,” the senator said.
“Witnesses would later come out claiming that Commissioner Sarmiento was involved in the grand conspiracy to rig the 2007 Senatorial election to try to defeat then candidates Noynoy Aquino, Ping Lacson and myself,” he added.
And despite the issues regarding the operations of the so-called “Garci Boys” in the 2004 elections, Sarmiento has not stood up, initiated or moved for an investigation of said individuals. In fact, instead of investigating and punishing these people, many of the said “Garci Boys” were promoted, said Cayetano.
“If fraud can be perpetrated to a member of Congress, and in a much-publicized case, imagine how it can be done easily to other citizens. Commissioner Sarmiento had the obligation to uphold the integrity of the ballots and protect the people’s will and not protect the machinations and schemes of powerful traditional politicians,” the solon said.
Cayetano added that even after the Senate started investigating the cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections, where testimonies showed machinations of said “Garci Boys”, Sarmiento did nothing.
“His inclusion in the list of aspirants for the position of Chief Justice to the Supreme Court may prove to be an embarrassment if I do not bring these events, facts, and matters to the attention of the Honorable members of this Council. I will be as guilty as Commissioner Sarmiento if I remain silent. While Commissioner Sarmiento styles himself as an election reformist, his actions–and inactions–show otherwise,” said Cayetano.
Sarmiento’s actions and inactions were not only evident during the 2007 and 2010 elections, but even in his voting record, which is far from exemplary, said Cayetano, citing Nila G. Aguillo v. Isidro L. Hemedes, Jr.
and Benjamin C. Del Rosario v. Rommel A. Gecolea
“The above-described conduct of Commissioner Sarmiento in the performance of his duties as a high ranking official of the COMELEC puts under heavy cloud of doubt his integrity, impartiality and propriety, which are all required from a member of the judiciary, much more from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
“All of the above-mentioned events, facts and matters can be easily verified as they are of public knowledge and borne out by public and official records. Moreover, since most of these were reported in the national media, a simple search in the internet will show the factual background of my statements.
Under the rules, the JBC may conduct a discreet investigation with Cayetano expressing readiness to “provide more information and assist in any way to get the truth, the whole truth.”