AES upheld

HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann LL. Reyes

With less than two years before the midterm elections, it seems that those who have been against the automated election system (AES) have found an unusual ally in Bongbong Marcos.

It will be recalled that following the 2016 elections, Marcos’s camp questioned the authenticity of all the certificates of canvass used by the electoral tribunal when they declared Leni Robredo as the winner of the vice-presidential race.  

Does this mean that we should go back to manual vote counting?

With automated elections having been already legislated, this does not seem to be possibility, unless the law is repealed.

Several surveys, including those of Pulse Asia, have already shown that majority seem to believe that automation is still the best option and that the recent election was peaceful and clean. 

The Supreme Court, in dismissing Marcos’ petition to void Robredo’s proclamation, effectively upheld the credibility and authenticity of the AES that was used in the 2016 elections.

According to the SC, it will be “meaningless and pointless” to nullify the integrity of the entire 2016 elections.

 One failed attempt to discredit the 2016 elections should not be allowed to be used as an excuse to return to manual counting, which in the past has resulted in massive cheating and election-related violence in connecting with ballot switching and stealing of ballot boxes.

We are not saying that our AES is perfect. But we are certain that manual counting is flawed and should never be resorted to again.

 Smokers have rights too

Just this weekend, I was at the UP Town Center owned by the Ayala group. A friend of mine wanted to smoke so I asked the security guards where the designated smoking area is. They said there is none.

A few weeks ago, I was at the San Antonio Plaza along McKinley Road in Forbes Park and there were these glaring signs that say it is a non-smoking establishment in compliance with Executive Order 26.

And then days later, I had this discussion with the general manager of one public golf club which prohibited smoking in the fairways, which is obviously an open area. I asked the GM why smoking was prohibited and he said it is in the EO. I then challenged him that if I can show him that it was not in the EO, he should lift the ban. He said he won’t.

To the point of being repetitive, EO 26 did not ban smoking. It clearly provided in Section 3 that smoking within enclosed public places and public conveyances is prohibited, except in designated smoking areas or DSAs. How on earth can the golf fairways be an enclosed public place?

A consumer advocacy group recently assailed the growing discrimination of smokers as they appealed to authorities for a more objective and fair enforcement of the new smoking rules under EO 26.

Anton Isreal, president of Pro-Yosi, stressed that the EO which is consistent with the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, only restricts smoking in indoor or enclosed places while still allows smoking in open or outdoor areas like sidewalks and parking lots.

Pro Yosi lauded the Department of Interior and Local Governments for clarifying that although business establishments must have designated smoking areas, smoking in open spaces is also allowed.

DILG Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing said the definition under EO 26 of public places where smoking is not allowed is very specific like hospitals, schools, markets whether open or close. He said sidewalks are open spaces and smoking should be allowed there.

The group also appealed to owners of malls, bars and restaurants not to declare their entire establishment as a non-smoking area, since the EO and the national law allow for the designation of smoking areas. They said smoking should still be allowed in al fresco areas or sidewalks outside bars or restaurants as these are open areas.

It said that smokers are shying away from establishments which do not have designated smoking areas and a wrong interpretation of the EO is bad for business.

A number of bar and club owners in Taguig have recently written Mayor Lani Cayetano, appealing that the city government refrain from imposing regulations that would go beyond the intention of both Congress and the President of limiting the prohibition on smoking to enclosed public places and public conveyances only.

They also pointed out that the prescribed standards for DSAs under the EO are too onerous and were crafted in such a way that only large establishments with adequate space and capital could comply.

Another group of store owners also sent Cayetano a letter complaining why their store signs which were previously given by certain cigarette manufacturers were being torn down just because these mention the cigarette brands.

Meanwhile, a group of small sari-sari owners wrote Makati Mayor Abigail Binay, questioning why barangay officials are arresting people smoking in the sidewalks and being fined between P500-P1000 per person, when the EO and the law only prohibit smoking in enclosed public places.

Legitimate business owners, and even small sari-sari store owners are being harassed because some over-eager beavers go beyond what the law provides. Malls and buildings which obviously have the financial means to establish a designated smoking room or place, take the easy and cheaper route by simply banning smoking even outside the mall and even in the parking area.

Clarification

Last Sept. 20, I wrote about the closure of Capitol Hills Gold & Country Club Inc. (CHGCCI) upon orders from the Quezon City Regional Trial Court that granted the petitions filed by stockholders Attys. Jose P.O. Aliling IV and Rainier Madrid and from the QC Business Permits and Licensing Office (BPLO).

Aliling took exception to certain statements given by CHGCCI general manager Joe Dagdagan, saying that contrary to Dagdagan’s claim, CHGCCI is being operated at a loss and that he has the financial statements to prove this.

He also pointed out that the QC BPLO issued a cease and desist order last May because CHGCCI’s is using an expired business permit that was issued 10 years ago.

The QC BPLO cannot issue a new business permit because CHGCCI’s corporate term already expired in 2010. Under the law, a corporation whose charter has expired has to be dissolved and can continue for another three years only for purposes of liquidation.

Aliling also revealed that the president of CHGCCI has been getting loans from Ayala Land to sustain the continuous operation of the golf club and securing them with real estate mortgages over the lands comprising the golf course. 

He said that the court directed them to cease and desist from contracting loans and/or mortgaging the properties of the dissolved corporation, and to render an accounting and to submit a detailed report of the proceeds of the loans from Ayala Land. 

 He also clarified that holes 5 and 6 of the golf course were sold at public auction by the QC government for non-payment of real estate taxes, and that these properties were not redeemed within one year as provided by law and their new owners were able to consolidate their titles.

Aliling likewise stressed that the stockholders/members whom Dagdagan said want to retain and reopen the golf course belong to their group, and that the CHGCCI president  has resigned although his resignation has not yet been approved by the court. 

 For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com

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