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​ The banana republic of Aimee Ferolino

I had tried very much to understand where Aimee Ferolino Ampoloquio was coming from.

Feb 12, 2022

Antonio J. Montalvan II

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I had tried very much to understand where Aimee Ferolino Ampoloquio was coming from. There would have been no need to do that had she just played by the rules. As the designated writer (ponente) of the Comelec First Division resolution on the disqualification cases filed against Bongbong Marcos, she had no scruples in immediately rocking the boat: deliberately failing to accord respect to a senior colleague who was due to retire.

By refusing to release her ponencia before Rowena Guanzon’s retirement day (February 2), she knew of course that it would entirely invalidate Guanzon’s dissenting opinion. Her reasons were flimsy. Of course she had a choice. Within the long waiting period she held us hostage to, Ferolino wrote five pages of memoranda (two to Guanzon, three to the “Chair”). She had the facility of five lawyers at her discretion. In the end, she chose to be cruel by canceling out the Guanzon opinion.

Right from the start when Rodrigo Duterte began filling out the Comelec vacancies either with fraternity brothers (Antonio Kho, Rey Bulay) or Davao region natives (Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo, Aimee Ferolino, and Michael Peloton who failed to get the nod of the Commission on Appointments), the red flags were apparent. Election watchdog Kontra Daya had warned us that fraternity brothers and fellow Davawenyos can be “yes people.” Those red flags would have motivated an appointee with the purest of hearts to decline the appointment. Comelec, after all, is a constitutional body tasked with some of the most sacrosanct duties in a democracy: impartiality, independence, fairness, honesty.

References on Aimee Ferolino are customary, that she was election supervisor of Davao del Norte. That lowdown omits other essential information. But first, there are two sordid rumors going the rounds alluding to Ferolino’s credibility and partiality. The first rumor says she is the girlfriend of Sen. Bato Dela Rosa. I have seen the meme to that effect circulating in social media.

A human rights lawyer of the Davao region refuted that rumor. The lawyer and his wife are very close family friends of Ferolino, who stood as baptismal godmother to the couple’s eldest son. He attests that there is no truth to that rumor. I must disclose, however, that this lawyer’s political stand tends to sway towards Leni Robredo.

But here are some essential facts on Ferolino. She is a native not of Davao del Norte but of Davao del Sur. When she was appointed to the Comelec, her “backer” was Dela Rosa, also a native of the same province. How did those rumors originate then? It allegedly started from a contending provincial election supervisor who spread those nasty rumors to stain Ferolino’s possible appointment.

Ferolino’s younger sister, Donnabel Joy Ferolino Mejia, is vice mayor of Maysaysay town, Davao del Sur. She is the family member closely associated with dela Rosa who was once police director of the province (2009-2011).

The second rumor circulating claims that Dela Rosa interfered with the First Division through Ferolino. Dela Rosa, so the story goes, was sent on an errand by President Duterte to interfere in the Comelec disqualification cases. It is said that Duterte wants the Supreme Court to disqualify Bongbong Marcos if he and his running mate win in the May elections. If this happens, Duterte’s daughter would take over as president of the Philippines.

We are not in the business of vetting baseless rumors. However, this second rumor involves a serious charge. If proven true, it signifies the prostitution of the Comelec. It also constitutes a grave manipulation of power, and a subversion of the sovereign will of the people even before the elections could be held. It should merit a senate investigation no less.

If both Marcos Jr. and the Duterte juniorette lose the election, this subterfuge will be a big slap on the faces of those who conspired to plot and execute the plan. But was the dela Rosa interference the reason why Ferolino arrived at her ruling that does not even make sense? “The failure to file tax returns is not inherently wrong in the absence of a law punishing it,” she wrote.

Today we reel from epileptic seizures at Ferolino’s bizarre new norm. She has effectively installed what is known as legalistic lawlessness, that particular distinction that characterizes banana republics. And for that, she has nobody to blame but herself.

There is of course a law that penalizes us when we don’t pay taxes. For many of us who may not be lawyers, it is manifestly important that lay people like ourselves have a good working grasp of the law if we are to uphold it. This is provided in Section 253-C of the Tax Code. With her decision, Ferolino turned the Comelec, a quasi-judicial body, into a Supreme Court by overturning the Court of Appeals conviction of Marcos Jr. for failing to pay his taxes.

Should we now stop paying income taxes as the Ferolino opinion signals us? We can try resorting to civil disobedience. But let us not forget that in a banana republic, the high and the mighty like Bongbong Marcos can get away with breaking the law. With us ordinary mortals, prosecution, punishment and jail await us.

Mediocre election commissioners are the kind that best suit tin-pot dictators.This was the kind of Comelec that we last saw under the Marcos dictatorship, a sleazy, unethical agency in a government that was simply full of such s__t.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.

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