Drilon blasts Bulay for threatening to arrest Comelec critics

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 24 2022 06:44 PM | Updated as of Apr 25 2022 12:40 AM

Commissioner Rey Bulay speaks during the Comelec briefing at their headquarters on April 22, 2022 as they announced of the postponement of their latest 2022 Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News.
Commissioner Rey Bulay speaks during the Comelec briefing at their headquarters on April 22, 2022 as they announced of the postponement of their latest 2022 Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News.

ILOILO CITY (UPDATE) — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday blasted Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Rey Bulay for threatening to arrest individuals criticizing the poll body’s preparations for the May 9 elections. 

Drilon said that Bulay should not be "onion-skinned" because people are only expressing their concerns about the polls approaching in 2 weeks.

"Tayo po ay public servants, huwag po nating takutin ang taumbayan. The plea for a fair and honest election is a plea in every election, there's nothing wrong with that," Drilon said.

(We are public servants. We should not scare the public.)
 
"The citizenry is calling on the Comelec to exercise its constitutional duty, and that is expected from them," he added.

Arresting critics for expressing their opinions about the Comelec’s performance has no legal basis, the opposition senator pointed out, as the 1987 Constitution underlines every Filipino’s right to free speech and expression.

Bulay, Drilon surmised, may not be used to criticisms, being a newcomer to his job and his working environment.

He also advised Bulay not to be oversensitive while performing his duty as a public servant.
 
"A threat like that has no place in our system. You must not be onion-skinned, especially when the citizenry is simply asking you to perform your duty to assure a fair, orderly and honest election. So why should you threaten them with a suit?" Drilon said.

Meanwhile, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leah Tanodra-Armamento also reminded Bulay that criticism is part of freedom of expression, and that he should instead file a case before the law if he feels his rights violated.

"Criticism is part of freedom of expression, a basic human rights. If the good Commissioner feels that his rights are violated or a crime has been committed, then he will file a case before the prosecutor. Due process must be followed as it is only the judge who can issue a warrant of arrest after a case has been filed by the prosecutor finding probable cause that a crime has been committed," she said in a statement.

Bulay earlier warned on Friday that those who accuse Comelec of favoring a candidate will be arrested and detained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“We will not hesitate to call upon the AFP na ngayon sa panahong ito ay nasa ilalim ng control ng Comelec na patulan at ipahuli kayo ‘yong nanggugulo sa eleksyon na ito,” he said.

(We will not hesitate to call upon the AFP, which is now under Comelec control, and have those undermining this election arrested.)

“I am personally issuing this warning…. Ako po ay dating hepe ng piskalya ng Maynila. Di ako magdadalawang-isip na kasuhan kayo ng panggugulo,” the commissioner added.

(I was a former chief prosecutor in Manila. I will not hesitate to file charges against you.)

Bulay made the warning despite the writ of habeas corpus still in effect during elections, allowing citizens recourse against detention without formal charges.

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