Poll chief: Korina Sanchez won't hear me out

MANILA, Philippines – Three years ago, her husband lost the vice presidential elections allegedly because of problematic vote counting machines. Now, broadcaster Korina Sanchez still won't hear the government's top election official say otherwise about Smartmatic's precinct count optical scan (PCOS). 

This is according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Sixto Brillantes Jr, who complains that the ABS-CBN News anchor does not get his side of issues about the PCOS, while devoting lengthy airtime to critics of the automated polls.

Hindi ako mainit ang ulo, okay lang. Kaya lang nagtatampo ako,” Brillantes said, referring to Sanchez, wife of former vice presidential candidate and now Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II. (I am not hot-headed about it, but I feel bad.)

In an interview with reporters, Brillantes complained that Sanchez keeps criticizing the Comelec without getting his side. He noted that on Monday, April 15, she had as guests critics from the group Kontra Daya on her radio show, Rated Korina, but did not bother to let him respond.

Hindi ko alam kung bakit si Madame Korina keeps on inviting the critics. But she has never invited me anymore, and I'm making a call na kung gusto niya, haharapin ko sila. Any time. Give us two hours, two programs niya na one hour, pupunta ako roon. Iharap niya lahat ng tao,” Brillantes said.

(I don't know why Madame Korina keeps on inviting the critics. But she has never invited me anymore, and I'm making a call, if she wants, I will face them all. Any time. Give us two hours, two programs of one hour each, I will go there. Let all the others face me.)

Not the first complaint

In a statement, dzMM and ABS-CBN's Integrated News and Current Affairs Department said they gave Comelec director James Jimenez "ample time" to comment on Kontra Daya's questions on Monday. "We ended the show thanking Dir Jimenez for balancing off the discussion," ABS-CBN News said in the statement relayed by Sanchez to Rappler.

"In past instances, we have tried on air to contact Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes and on air we would announce his unavailability and call Dir Jimenez instead. The program is open to Chairman Brillantes for an interview," ABS-CBN News said.

This is not the first time a public official complained about Sanchez's supposed biases.

In 2012, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who defeated Roxas in the 2010 polls, said Sanchez committed a "breach of broadcasting standards and ethics" in making a remark supposedly against Binay.

In a commentary, Sanchez referred to "dark, little monsters" ("mga maiitim at maliliit na maligno") that eyed her husband's post as interior secretary – a remark taken as an allusion to Binay.

Questioning Sanchez's choice of guests, Brillantes said: “If she wants to know what's really happening, all that she has to do is talk to her husband, who is one of the higher officials of the Liberal Party. Did the Liberal Party have any problem with PCOS? I've not heard any, so far.” Roxas is president-on-leave of the ruling party.

In an ongoing protest, Roxas, who ran for vice president under LP, has questioned the victory of Binay in 2010. Roxas' complaint stems from the performance of PCOS machines, particularly the allegedly improbable vote shares between him and Binay in certain provinces. The Philippines used the PCOS machines for the first time then. (Read: Politicians show why PCOS doesn't work.)

Roxas wants the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, which is also the Supreme Court, to consider 3 million null votes and to order the forensic examination of 26,000 compact flash cards. 

Roxas got 13.4 million votes while Binay got 14 million, based on the official Comelec tally. 

Objection from Roxas

Two years ago, when President Benigno Aquino III was considering Brillantes for the top Comelec post, Roxas reportedly objected to the appointment.

In an interview with the Inquirer in 2010, Brillantes said Roxas was the only one who objected to his appointment. He got this information from President Aquino himself.

"He (Roxas) supposedly told the President: 'If you choose him, you'd be handing over the presidency to Chiz or Binay in 2016,'" Brillantes said. Brillantes used to lawyer for Sen Francis Escudero and Vice President Jejomar Binay.

The veteran election lawyer reportedly told the President, also his former client: "I think this is not important because you are the one who will appoint and not him." 

Brillantes later had lunch with Roxas, who was later "satisfied" with his intentions to be non-partisan in running the poll body. He reportedly spoke to Brillantes in his capacity as LP president.

The Comelec chair will end his term in 2015, a year before the 2016 presidential elections that will likely pit Roxas with Binay again. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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