Enrile’s ‘Hello Boy’ call worries poll workers

Posted on November 9, 2012

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

Enrile confirmed in media interviews that he had confronted Edna Tacazon, Santa Ana election officer, following reports that she had refused 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.

Enrile called Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes, and was allegedly heard saying, “Boy (Brillantes’ nickname), I want this girl out of my district.”

“That call haunts us all over again [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. The “Hello Garci” scandal involved tape-recorded telephone believed to have been made by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, which critics describe as proof that the results of the 2004 presidential elections were 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 based in Manila, have expressed support for the 61-year-old Tacazon, 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 had to deal with thousands of irate late registrants, but they were 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 said that Tacazon had been delaying the enlistment of the more than 200 voters, majority of whom were employees of companies operating within the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZF) in Santa Ana.

Enrile’s grand nephew, 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 register as a voter] is their right, as long as they meet the required length of residency in the place,” he said./ INQUIRER

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