Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Who is Vetellano Acosta?

No one ever heard of him before and no one knows anything more about him since but the hitherto unknown Vetellano Acosta is the first name that close to 55 million Filipino voters will see on their ballots in the May 10 elections.

Prior to January 15, 2010, the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) had only approved eight presidential candidates whose names would be listed alphabetically on the official ballot in groups of three with “Aquino, Benigno” topping the list on the first column and “Villar, Manny” posted at the bottom of the third column.

On January 15, 2010, however, the Comelec added two more names to the list. The first one, Nick Perlas, was not a surprise because the environmentalists’ candidate had obtained a Supreme Court order for the Comelec to place his name on the ballot. But even with the Supreme Court’s order, only 5 of the 7 Comelec commissioners voted to do so.

In contrast, all 7 commissioners voted unanimously to include Vetellano Acosta’s name on the list even if none of them had ever heard of him before he applied. In his Comelec application, Acosta listed his residence to be in the Salcedo Village commercial district of Makati but his voting precinct in Santa Ana , Manila , a clear electoral violation that the Comelec ignored.

Acosta also did not sign his Comelec application which was filed after the filing deadline had passed.

Acosta listed his job as a “financial consultant” and his party affiliation as the “KBL” which is the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan that the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos founded in 1978 and which had not fielded a presidential candidate in the two previous presidential elections.

When the Comelec announced Acosta’s surprise inclusion in the January 15, 2010 meeting, there were gasps of disbelief in the audience which included a number of would-be presidentiables whose candidacies had been rejected by the Comelec. Among them was Atty. Ely Pamatong whose previous 2003 presidential bid had also been rejected by the Comelec. After the announcement was made, Pamatong stood up and yelled “Magnanakaw!” (thieves!) at the Commissioners, accusing them of receiving 5 million pesos each to approve Acosta’s application.

The Liberal Party immediately challenged the qualifications of Acosta as LP leaders smelled a foul plot to include Acosta’s name on the ballot simply to list him at the top of the first column to dislodge Noynoy Aquino’s name from that top slot and to put Manny Villar’s name alone in a column all by himself.

Because of the LP’s protest, the Comelec commissioners conducted a hearing on January 28, 2010 to determine Acosta’s qualifications after they had already listed his name on the ballot. At the hearing, Acosta appeared “accompanied by a battery of lawyers that included former election commissioners” (Philippine Daily Inquirer). Acosta claimed to be the president of a bank in Palau which the Comelec then asked for verification. (What was he doing in the Philippines then?)

In reply to a question, Acosta said that he couldn’t recall when he joined the KBL. He said that it was “only an accident” that made him the KBL nominee. In an interview after the hearing, he said that he will no longer campaign and join presidential debates, and that he would leave his candidacy to God.

When interviewed about Acosta, former national KBL president and son of the KBL founder Rep. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. said “I don't know him. I don't even know what he looks like. It seems that his running is a big joke.” The KBL vice-presidential candidate, Jay Sonza, said he never heard of Acosta.

It turned out Acosta wasn’t even a registered voter in Manila or anywhere else and was never connected with a Palau bank or any other company. With no visible means of support, who provided Acosta with the funds to hire an impressive battery of expensive lawyers?

Though Acosta failed to provide any documentation to support his qualifications, the Comelec still waited until March 5, 2010 to officially disqualify him from the presidential race. By then, the Comelec had already printed 9 million ballots with Acosta’s name on it. Because it did not want to “waste money” by reprinting those ballots just to remove Acosta’s name, the Comelec decided to proceed with printing the rest of the 55 million ballots with Acosta’s name still on it.

These series of events raise a lot of disturbing questions:

Was Pamatong right? Did the Comelec commissioners accept 5 million pesos each to include Acosta’s name on the official ballot?

Was Bongbong right? Was Acosta’s candidacy just “a big joke”? Who was the “big joke” on?

What did Acosta mean when he said that his candidacy was just an “accident”? Was it just by “accident” of birth that his surname Acosta happened to be alphabetically ahead of Aquino?

Did a conversation occur in an alternate universe where Bongbong Marcos, upon accepting a senate slot in Manny Villar’s Nacionalista Party, suggest to Villar as a big joke fielding a KBL candidate with a name that would be listed ahead of Aquino?

Why wasn’t there anyone in the Comelec with an ounce of integrity to reject this obvious ploy against Noynoy?

How can the Comelec be trusted to conduct fair and honest elections on May 10 when it hasn’t shown any desire or willingness to do so thus far?

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