A lot of the frustration with the COMELEC – can’t the COMELEC disqualify this candidate? can’t the COMELEC arrest this person for vote-buying? can’t the COMELEC just do this or that? – has to do with the perception that the COMELEC is the most powerful entity around during elections.
That’s cute. But it’s wrong!
While it is true that the COMELEC is given a lot of authority during elections – more authority that most agencies get to exercise – it is not the most powerful force around. At the end of the day, the supposedly all mighty COMELEC still has to bow to the dictates of the law and established principles of jurisprudence. This means, for instance, that the COMELEC can’t just drop the ax on someone’s candidacy without going through due process. And that means going through the process of investigating the alleged wrong-doing, giving the accused the opportunity to defend himself, and if found guilty, the opportunity to appeal. And all that takes time – time that the public doesn’t seem inclined to concede to the process that must be undergone. Coupled with the mistaken belief that the COMELEC is some sort of superpower, this impatience translates to a whole boatload of frustration; frustration that is vented on – surprise, surprise – the COMELEC.
The funny thing is when you explain this to people, they go off the deep end – in the opposite direction. From parroting lines like “COMELEC is the most powerful body during elections!” they do a 180-degree turn and complain “the COMELEC is powerless!”
All this goes to show that, for many people, there is still alot to understand about how the COMELEC and the legal system work in this country. Now, ordinarily that wouldn’t be such a problem. Unfortunately, political players take advantage of that lack of understanding to pillory the COMELEC at every turn. They aggravate the ignorance by reducing complex legal situations to absurd black and white situations calculated to make the position contrary to theirs look stupid. Debaters do that all the time, and in the arena of dialectics that’s an acceptable tactic. But it ceases to be acceptable when used on a stage that affects the comprehension of the general public; when it is used to mislead the public and to whip them up into a frenzy. Tactics like that reduce citizens to cannon fodder for the battles waged by politicians, and that can’t be acceptable.
So, the next time someone says that the COMELEC is the most powerful body there is, slap him upside the head and tell him to wise up.