MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - The former chief of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) law department believes a mafia inside the poll body is behind his removal from the poll body's law department and the joint Department of Justice-Comelec committee tasked to investigate fraud in the 2004 and 2007 polls.
Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan said some Comelec insiders want him out of the commission after he implemented reforms and helped expose wrongdoing inside the poll body such as the P690-million ballot secrecy folder scam.
"Ito yung gumagawa ng katiwalian sa Comelec katulad nung ballot secrecy folder scam. Meron din mafia behind na gumagawa ng extra ballots for the election return. It's true that poll fraud cannot happen without the help of insiders from the Comelec," he told abs-cbnNEWS.com.
Rafanan investigated the P690-million ballot secrecy folder contract with OTC paper supply, which led to the preventive suspension of 5 members of the Comelec bids and awards committee.
The Office of the Ombudsman, meanwhile, ordered 3 of the 5 Comelec employees suspended for another 6 months for violation of the code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees; and dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Rafanan said the ballot secrecy folder scam made a lot of people angry, including some "with links to a top Comelec official."
He said he also made enemies when he was assigned to Comelec bids and awards committee for automation. He said the BAC saved P4.1 billion for the automation project.
"We also saved up to P292 million for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections through cost-cutting," he said.
Rafanan said it is not the first time that he has been involved in some controversy in the poll body.
In 2005, he called on Comelec to investigate allegations that some poll officials were involved in fraud during the 2004 presidential elections.
In 2007, he was removed as head of the Comelec-National Capital Region office and reassigned to the office of then Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos after allegedly challenging moves to amend the Constitution through a people's initiative.
Rafanan returned to the Comelec-NCR post on July 12, 2007, a few months after the election. He applied for the position of law department chief after the murders of its former chiefs Alioden Dalaig and Wynne Asdala just months apart.
He said then Comelec Chairman Jose Melo backed his appointment to the post because "I don't compromise with kalokohan."
Earlier this month, Rafanan was removed temporarily from the law department and reassigned to the joint DOJ-Comelec probe on poll fraud and irregularities in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
Atty. Allen Francis Abaya, one of those suspended for the secrecy folder scam, was assigned to the law department.
Rafanan publicly questioned his re-assignment, saying that the DOJ-Comelec committee was not an office with equal rank within Comelec. "It was a form of constructive dismissal," he said.
He also noted that Abaya was meted another 6-month suspension order by the Ombudsman.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez confirmed Abaya's suspension, saying that it will take effect today.
Last week, the Comelec en banc said it will also remove Rafanan from the joint DOJ-Comelec committee tasked to conduct preliminary investigation on possible poll fraud cases.
Not corrupt, but with attitude problem
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the commission en banc decided to remove Rafanan from the law department and the DOJ-Comelec joint probe because he has an attitude problem.
"Tuwing lalabas siya sa aking kuwarto iba ang sinasabi. Kung ano ano na ang lumalabas at may mga memo siya ng sunod-sunod," he said.
He also said Rafanan was never involved in any corruption case.
"No corruption case against him, He is very clean. All I am saying that he has an attitude problem. Every time he wants to say something, instead of talking to us or the commissioners, he goes to the public. We discuss it but we don't understand one another," he told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."
"I don't have anything against him. He is a clean guy but he just has an attitude," he added.
Rafanan still inside Comelec
Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said Rafanan has not been removed from the poll body but will be reassigned to a different department.
He said there has been talk that the former law department chief will be assigned to the Comelec planning department "but we should wait for the Comelec resolution for the official announcement."
Jimenez said the law department is an important office that investigates election offenses including violations of the Omnibus Election Code. He noted that anyone assigned to the law department should have a "harmonious relationship" with the commission en banc.
For his part, Rafanan said he will just wait for the Comelec resolution before making his next move.
He also gave the following message to Chairman Brillantes: "Reforms should happen not just outside Comelec but within. There are good people inside who can help. Only God can help us, not the Mafia."