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Is COMELEC lawyer Ferdinand Rafanan being sidelined for speaking his mind?

Recently, there seems to be a concerted effort to sideline Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan within the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). He is the erstwhile head of the poll body’s legal department, which made him a favorite resource person for reporters during last year’s elections. He was also originally designated by COMELEC Chair Sixto Brillantes to be part of the COMELEC-DOJ joint body investigating the alleged massive cheatings during the 2004 and 2007 elections.

COMELEC Chair Sixto Brillantes: Rafanan has "a world of his own” and “has no friends in the commission.”

ABS-CBN’s Anthony Taberna reported yesterday () that the COMELEC en banc (meaning all its commissioners) “unanimously decided to fire Ferdinand Rafanan as law department head and as member of the COMELEC-DOJ panel. Rafanan will instead be transferred to the planning department. Brillantes was quoted as describing Rafanan as someone who “has a world of his own” and “has no friends in the commission.” Brillantes went as far as claiming that Rafanan was only bitter because he wasn’t appointed as a COMELEC commissioner. In retaliation, Rafanan said that “COMELEC insiders want him out of the commission after he implemented reforms and helped expose wrongdoing inside the poll body.”

Brillantes complained that Rafanan talks too much and that he is attacking the COMELEC as an institution. I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Rafanan two years ago for a news article about campaign finance. I found to be brutally honest especially on a sensitive topic like that. He described campaign overspending (said to be the root cause of corruption in our country) by Philippine candidates as a “reality.” Asked if the COMELEC double-checks the campaign receipts filed by the bets, he conceded that it is one function that the commission hasn’t really accomplished. During the interview, I can’t help but admire his honesty – something that is sorely lacking in our government right now. Here are excepts from my 2009 interview;

Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan: COMELEC officials "should not cater to the needs of those who placed them in their posts."

Campaign overspending in RP elections a “reality”, says Comelec official

by Mark Pere Madrona

With just seven months to go before the 2010 national and local polls a high-ranking Commission on Election (COMELEC) official said that campaign overspending among the candidates really happens.

“(Overspending) is not only a possibility. It is the reality,” COMELEC Legal Department head Ferdinand Rafanan said. And though all candidates are required to submit a statement of Expenditures and contributions to the poll body a month after the elections, “willful omissions of certain donations occur,” he said.

“Why will they (the candidates) submit something that will be incriminating?” Rafanan said. Asked if the COMELEC double-checks the campaign receipts filed by the bets, he conceded that it is one function that the commission hasn’t really accomplished.

“It hasn’t been performed because no one is interested in doing it. Our department is only taking orders from the higher-ups,” Rafanan said. “We don’t have the means and we are also lacking in manpower.”

The COMELEC’s hands are also tied as regards to the politicians’ infomercials. “They (the infomercials) are obviously intended to advance the aspirants’ acceptability to the public. This is not yet an election offense since no one has filed a certificate of candidacy (COC),” Rafanan said. The filing of COCs would be from November 20-30, 2009.

Premature campaigning can be committed by someone who has already filed his/her COC and has campaigned before the official campaign period, which begins on February 9, 2010 for national candidates. Parenthetically, the COMELEC is also powerless in monitoring how much has been spent by likely aspirants in their infomercials.


Even if campaign overspending and its links to corruption appears to be an overwhelming problem, Rafanan still thinks the COMELEC can address it. “Simply implement the law. The COMELEC should work hard to do it. They (COMELEC officials) should not cater to the needs of those who placed them in their posts,” Rafanan said, noting that in his 11 years at the poll body, he cannot recall anyone who has been penalized for violating the country’s campaign finance laws.

Guia stressed the importance of updating the country’s campaign finance laws “to make them more relevant in the present context.” “One important aspect of campaign finance law that needs to be looked at is putting a cap on donations. Our laws fixes spending limits but do not provide for a campaign contribution limits. Moreover, compliance and disclosure requirements should be strengthened to force candidates to comply with the laws,” he said.

PS: That kind of honesty may be too hot to handle for some of his colleagues within the COMELEC.


News links:

Comelec en banc decided to transfer Rafanan – Brillantes

By Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News

Comelec ‘mafia’ behind law dep’t chief’s dismissal?

By David Dizon,



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