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Benjamin Abalos: The Sacrificial Beast

October 1, 2007

The man “who should not stay in the Comelec any minute longer” finally heeded the mounting public demand that he relinquish his already disgraced post as chair of the Commission on Elections.

Benjamin Abalos Sr., who was set to retire in February next year, decided to put an end to his turbulent and controversy-riddled stint as head of the commission on October 1, but hurled a stern warning at his detractors that “the war isn’t yet over.”

In an emotional statement he issued at his posh residence in Mandaluyong City, Abalos pointed to the “unfair treatment” of the Senate, which is conducting an ongoing investigation on the NBN (National Broadband Network) deal controversy, as the reason of his resignation. “I was not treated fairly. My declarations were limited to only those that my interrogators wanted to hear,” he said. Abalos, who is not stranger to corruption controversy, told the press that the ongoing Senate inquiry into the NBN deal has been “affecting not only his work as Comelec chairman but also the privacy, peace and quite rights of my family.” Abalos’ resignation is unexpected considering that he had repeatedly shunned previous public demands to vacate his already ‘disgraced’ office.

They say resignation is an implied admission of guilt, but Abalos has a different interpretation. Indeed, he has his own way of seeing things in a different light. “Let not my detractors feast on my declarations,” he said, although I don’t know the detractors he was talking about. It includes the opposition of course, including those affected by his actions and decisions during the last elections like Kiko Pimentel who lost to Miguel Zubiri via purported election irregularities in Maguindanao.

Perhaps, his list of enemies also includes Jose “Joey” De Venecia III, who accused him as both a briber and a broker, and former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Sec. Romulo Neri, who revealed in a Senate probe that the former Comelec chair offered him P200 (thousand/million) to support China’s ZTE bid.

But if the former disgraced and disgraceful Comelec chair classifies the aforementioned group or individuals as his detractors, I think he forgot to include the already tired and angry public as his strongest enemy and ever hounding heckler. As stubborn as he always is, Abalos said: “I am not admitting guilt for any wrongdoing. Neither am I giving up on my crusade to clear my name and reputation. I made this decision to spare the Comelec from the vicious, maliciously concocted attacks on my person.”

I was extremely bowled over by Abalos’s resignation statement, more so when he mentioned the words “to clear my name and reputation.” His crusade to clear his already tainted name by his own wrongdoings is something beyond imagination. History will not be so kind to those who try to distort it. And reputation, this is something that you can’t buy, something that you can’t pay for, even if you bribe somebody for 200 million or 200 billion to grant you good reputation.

What is funny is that the crooked and the corrupt speak of reputation and clean name like any other commodity available in the market.

Like any contract, reputation also has value, but the former refers to monetary value, while the latter speaks of a moral value. One can buy a contract, one can bribe another to enter into (or work for somebody to enter into) a contract, and this is a situation that shows the power of money, that it makes things possible.

But there’s something that can never be bought even by a rich politician who amassed so much wealth from public coffers, or by a wealthy taipan who gained so much profit by using his connection in the government. It is but reputation, which is priceless and inalienable like any other rights found in the bill of rights. Abalos may have all the riches of this world, but he can never have or buy reputation. It is something that makes him half-human.

No, he didn’t make such a decision to “spare the Comelec from the vicious, maliciously concocted attacks on my person.” He did that because an impeachment charge is coming to devour him, his person or the lack of it. He has to resign because a government official who is believed to be close to the president and telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth (well, only on bribery issue) dropped him like a hot potato, or like a stinking shit (I think the latter is better).

Some people call him the sacrificial lamb. A minority leader at the House of Representative said that Gloria Arroyo “loyalists felt that he should be impeached to take the heat off GMA in the ZTE-NBN scandal.” Whether sacrificial lamb or sacrificial beast, Abalos should have resigned a long time ago when he was implicated in the automation election deal that cost the Filipino taxpayers billion of pesos. Or, the President should have not appointed him to the position in the first place, because the Comelec chair post must be given only to a person of proven integrity, good reputation and probity, or at least to a man who knows how to count votes.

But the resignation of Abalos doesn’t mean he’s already off the hook, or the appointing power is already safe from the long arm of the law. Mrs. Arroyo, who appointed Abalos, should also not go unpunished, because it was the President who caused the controversy.

It is safe to assume now that Mrs. Arroyo gave Abalos, who was linked to a series of corruption cases in the past, the position that holds the key to public office for some sinister and impossible missions in the future. And the future was set during the May 2004 and 2007 elections.

It takes one to see one. Mrs. Arroyo should be held liable for giving a very important job to the least deserving man. Now that Abalos is of no use to her, the President has to let him go. But to the Filipino people, letting Abalos go doesn’t mean he and his cohorts are off the hook.

History will not be so kind to half-humans like them.

Here’s Abalos’ resignation speech:

[Good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for coming to this press conference that I have called so that I may air to you, my countrymen, what I feel regarding the issues and controversies that I have been involved in, and is now affecting not only my work as Comelec chairman but also the privacy, peace and quiet and rights of my family]It has been almost a week since I appeared at the Senate committees investigating the NBN [National Broadband Network] project. I did so against the advice of my counsel and closest of friends, driven by what I expected would be the inherent fairness of a Senate inquiry and the statemanship of our senators.I was sorely mistaken. I was not treated fairly. My declarations were limited to only those that my interrogators wanted to hear.In these few days of reflection and consultation I’ve had with my family and closest friends, I have come to the painful determination that the time has come to separate my person from the office I now occupy, and the institution I head.I am resigning the chairmanship of the Comelec effective immediately.Let not my detractors feast on this declaration. I am not admitting guilt for any wrongdoing. Neither am I giving up on my crusade to clear my name and reputation. I made this decision to spare the Comelec from the vicious, maliciously concocted attacks on my person.On the 29th of this month, we will have another election. It is my intention that with my resignation today I shall have detached the Comelec from the controversy in which my person is currently embroiled.In the same way, my resignation should dispel the claims of my detractors that I am dangling so-called “political debts” dispensed when I was supposedly “king” during election period as a shield to fend off moves to oust me from office.And finally, my resignation negates the accusation that this administration is out to protect me and my incumbency.Forty years ago, I entered public service fired with the ideals of promoting the welfare of our people and placing the public interest above mine at all times. It is for this very reason that I have resigned, subordinating my personal interest in completing the last few months of my term to the higher public interest of saving Congress from engaging in a complicated and long-drawn out impeachment process that would inevitably take its toll on the nation.I take this opportunity to thank my colleagues in the government for the mentoring, the assistance and the comfort they have given me in my years in public service. Their thoughts and goodwill have become the founding elements of the wisdom that I bear as I return to private life.I wish to thank likewise, my family, my friends, and most especially the people of Mandaluyong. I thank them for bearing with me, for the aid and comfort they have given me through all these years, particularly during these trying times.I must repeat, however, that I have not given up the fight. Having rid myself of the impression of using my office for personal ends and the burden of keeping my office and the Comelec away from the vicious attacks on my person, I am all the more determined to carry on my crusade to clear my name and reputation and exposing the lies and malicious claims thrown at me.Sa aking pamamaalam sa serbisyo publiko, ay naroon ang aking pananalig na anumang haba ng gabi, ay mayroong bukang liwayway. Sa patnubay at gabay ng ating Maykapal, malaki ang aking pananalig na tayo’y muling magkikita, taas noo, sa bagong umaga.[Abalos restates the above paragraph in English in the next paragraph-ed.]As I bow out of public service, I find comfort in the thought that at the end of even the longest of night, the dawn will break. With the grace of the Almighty, I am confident that I shall see you once again, head unbowed, at daybreak.Maraming salamat po. [I thank you all.]

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