Stop the Senate ‘Witch Hunt’ | Inquirer Opinion
Sharp Edges

Stop the Senate ‘Witch Hunt’

/ 05:00 AM May 14, 2024

The recent senate testimony of former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agent John Morales, which implicated President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in illegal drug activities, has again thrust the Senate and its proceedings into the spotlight. This comes at a time when rumors of destabilization are already rife, questioning the timing and intentions behind these allegations.

Morales, a figure with a controversial past, was dishonorably discharged from the police service before his tenure at PDEA. His credibility was further tarnished when he concealed this dismissal during his application to PDEA. This backdrop casts a long shadow over his accusations and the documents he presented, which PDEA Director General Moro Virgilio Lazo and other officials have declared non-existent and fabricated.

In a recent Senate hearing, Morales claimed the authenticity of leaked 2012 documents allegedly linking then-Senator Bongbong Marcos and actress Maricel Soriano to illegal drug use. These assertions have been vehemently denied by authoritative figures within PDEA, who emphasize that such documents, including a supposed pre-operation report and authority to operate, simply do not exist. The leadership of PDEA has pointed out the ease with which documents can be fabricated in today’s technology-driven environment.`  It’s therefore disappointing to hear Senate President Migz Zubiri supporting dela Rosa’s inquiry and other similar ‘fishing expeditions’. A Senate veteran and self-professed pro-administration senator, Zubiri – of all people – should know the difference between a legitimate inquiry and a witch hunt whose clear intent is to embarrass the president.

The questionable nature of Morales’ allegations is compounded by his association with individuals of dubious repute, making his testimony appear less like a revelation of truth and more like a strategic move in a larger scheme to destabilize government. This perspective is supported by House of Representatives Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Jude Acidre, who suggests that these events are part of a concerted effort to discredit and destabilize the Marcos administration.


The senate inquiry, initially intended to investigate a significant drug haul in Batangas, has been overshadowed by these accusations, turning the proceedings into what many view as a fishing expedition. Senators, including Senator Bato Dela Rosa, who chairs the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, are now in a precarious position. They must tread carefully to avoid the inquiry devolving into a platform for unfounded claims, which could potentially embarrass and discredit the president and his administration.

This situation raises significant concerns about the integrity of our political processes. When Senate hearings, which are meant to address and resolve critical issues, are hijacked by politically charged narratives, the real issues at stake—such as the massive drug haul in question—are sidelined. This not only detracts from the urgent matters that need addressing but also erodes public trust in political institutions.

The involvement of politicians like Rep. Faustino “Inno” Dy and Assistant Majority Leader Amparo Maria “Pammy” Zamora in questioning the credibility of the documents and the rationale behind Morales’ inclusion in the hearings illustrates a broader skepticism towards the unfolding of this inquiry. Their interventions suggest a need to refocus the Senate’s efforts on substantive issues rather than being bogged down by politically motivated testimonies.

As the inquiry progresses, it is paramount for the Senate and its members to critically assess the validity and relevance of testimonies like that of John Morales. They should ensure that the proceedings do not deviate from their true purpose and become a tool for political manipulation. For the sake of transparency, accountability, and the preservation of democratic integrity, it is essential that the inquiry remains focused on factual and relevant issues, steering clear of becoming an arena for settling political scores.


Risking it all for unproven voting techology for 2025

As the country braces for the 2025 national elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) finds itself entangled in yet another legal dispute—one that strikes at the heart of the nation’s electoral integrity. It has come to light that Miru Systems, the company selected by Comelec, provided an untested, unproven, and as yet unmanufactured voting machine, rather than a tried-and-tested instrument.

The aberration has caught attention and ire of Former Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, who has escalated the matter to the Supreme Court. His petition for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction raises an alarm over potential violations of RA 9369, the Election Automation Law of 2007. The law is clear, defining an Automated Election System (AES) as one that encompasses proven technology verified through actual usage in various stages of the election process. The law meticulously outlines that the AES is “a system using appropriate technology which has been demonstrated in the voting, counting, consolidating, canvassing, and transmission of election result, and other electoral processes.” This provision is not merely prescriptive but serves as a safeguard against hasty and unproven technological exploits.


Both Comelec and Miru have attempted to quell the rising tide of critique; however, their rebuttals fall short of dispelling the deep-seated concerns and convincingly assuring the public and stakeholders of the system’s readiness and compliance.

Comelec’s argument hinges on separating the machine from the overarching Automated Election System (AES). “It’s not the machines that the law refers to as having been successfully used in an election but the Automated Election System,” it claims. However, this perspective overlooks a crucial point: the machine, an integration of both hardware and software, is not merely a component but the linchpin of the AES, vital to executing three of the five fundamental processes identified in election law – voting, counting, and transmission of results. Without it, the integrity of the canvassing and consolidating of election results would be fundamentally compromised.

Miru has also claimed that its system has already has a prior deployment —as an Optical Mark Recognition technology in one country and as a Direct Recording Electronic system in another. But far from proving compliance, Miru’s admission that it has deployed components proves the opposite. In fact, the amalgamation of distinct and separate technologies inherently multiplies deployment risks. If at all, it underscores the necessity for exhaustive testing.

Beyond the byzantine discussion over whether the law intends to ban untested systems or machines, the essence of the legislation lies in shielding our nation from the ignominy of being lab rats. The law aims to protect democracy by ensuring that the technology employed in our electoral processes has been subjected to the crucible of real-world electoral conditions.

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To wager the integrity of our elections on an unproven machine is a humongous folly that could endanger our political, social, and economic equilibrium. Filipino voters should shake off their complacency and  start holding Comelec official’s feet to the fire. Our votes are the currency of our democracy, and we cannot afford to cast them into the chasm of uncertainty.

TAGS: opinion, Sharp Edges

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