BENJAMIN Abalos Sr.’s decision to resign from the Commission on Elections, many believe, can only herald auspicious times for the constitutionally mandated guardian of the ballot. After all, the poll body’s credibility, integrity and independence had suffered the most under his leadership.

In the words of an election official who has seen poll commissioners come and go since 1998, Abalos “came and took away everything: word of honor, integrity, independence, credibility. He left no legacy except resignation to free the Comelec from the stigma of his name and fight his accusers with his own face.”

That may be a harsh assessment, but to begin with, Abalos, a former Mandaluyong judge and mayor, and head of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, came to the Comelec in the most unusual of circumstances. He was appointed its chairman despite being a politician with acknowledged ties to the First Family, and no less a card-carrying member of the dominant political party, Lakas, at the time.

To be fair though, Abalos was not the only controversial Comelec official appointed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There were, of course, her two ad interim commissioners who did not get congressional confirmation: Manuel Barcelona Jr. and Virgilio Garcillano, the Marcos-era election director accused of masterminding dagdag-bawas operations in Mindanao and eventual presidential phone pal of the “Hello, Garci” tapes infamy.

Yet while the Comelec in the post-Edsa years has been no stranger to adverse public perception owing to allegations of corruption, incompetence, and partisanship, it was during Abalos’s watch that the poll body’s credibility had suffered a sharp decline. Under Abalos, the Comelec registered -17 (March 2006) and -10 (September 2006) net trust ratings from a high of +49 (February 2004) in surveys done by the Social Weather Stations.

It was also Abalos who had the lowest net trust rating among the post-Marcos Comelec chiefs: -7 in January 2004 and -10 in April 2004. Bernardo Pardo and Alfredo Benipayo only had -4 trust ratings during their terms.

Pulse Asia‘s survey this August put Abalos’s net trust rating at -10 (24 percent trust and 34 percent distrust ratings). Prior to the 2007 midterm elections, he had a -1 net trust rating (39 percent trust and 40 percent distrust ratings) in the April 2007 survey. As MMDA chairman, he had a better net approval rating of +17 in Pulse Asia’s 2001 survey of Cabinet officials.

The public’s low regard and distrust of the Abalos Comelec can only be attributed to the scandals that tainted his incumbency. In the aftermath of the “Hello, Garci” scandal, a PCIJ report cited the glaring “mistakes” of the poll body that have run into billions of taxpayers’ money. The list includes the election modernization program that the Abalos Comelec bungled, resulting in P2.3 billion going to waste — P1.3 billion for the contract to purchase vote-counting machines that the Supreme Court invalidated, and another P1 billion for the voters validation system which was suspended in December 2003 in the absence of any budgetary allocation.

While the Comelec even during Christian Monsod’s time has been unable to insulate itself from the politics of accommodation, it got worse under Abalos. Some election officials rue how their professionalism and their being career officials suffered with the promotion of politicos and the corrupt during Abalos’s term. An obvious case in point, of course, is the present line-up of regional directors and assistant directors, which is a virtual who’s who of those who were implicated in the 2004 electoral fraud allegedly engineered by Malacañang to ensure Arroyo’s victory in the presidential polls.

The Comelec did not even bother to conduct a thorough investigation of the serious allegations, and even promoted these poll officials. So to no one’s surprise, the results of the 2007 midterm polls were, to a large extent, a repeat of the 2004 elections with the same officials implicated in voting results manipulation, particularly in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. (see the PCIJ’s reports on the 2007 elections)

That is why electoral reform advocates have understandably expressed optimism that the Comelec will be able to start rebuilding its credibility with Abalos finally gone.

But there is a catch there, one that Monsod is correct to remind the ecstatic public. The former Comelec chief, who served during the Aquino administration and enjoyed consistent high satisfaction ratings, has always blamed the appointing power and Congress for contributing to the Comelec’s fall from grace — by appointing and confirming commissioners who serve their own agenda.

Any rebuilding of the Comelec, Monsod says, will only be as good as the appointments to be made by the President. “Now it is up to (her) to help in that rebuilding with quality appointments.”

That, however, begs this crucial question: Can Arroyo be trusted not to politicize the appointments of Comelec commissioners?

10 Responses to The Abalos Comelec: A legacy of scandals and eroded credibility


Office of the Citizen

October 3rd, 2007 at 5:11 pm

I subscribe to the idea that the appointment of members of constitutional bodies and the judiciary should be taken out of the President’s hands.

In the case of judges and jutices, the candidate who gets the most votes among those shortlisted by the Judicial and Bar Council should automatically be elevated to the position. For constitutional offices, a similar body and mechanism for seletion could also be established.

In such a way, we can limit the instances of appointments in payment of political favors or as efforts to control those bodies tasked with oversight over the executive department


Ambuot Saimo

October 4th, 2007 at 5:36 am

Abalos resigned because he was “caught with is hands dipping inside the cookie jar” or in flagrante delicto upon the order of the “Godfather or Godmother of the Philippine’s largest rakeetering enterprise. In other words, he was just a “capo” or a foot soldier. We need unmask the mastermind and and jail her/him also.



October 4th, 2007 at 3:48 pm

Abalos was about to retire already anyway in a few months. At most all he would have lost where the benefits. But I think the bigger gain was putting one over his noisy detractors. Given the extrem viciouness of our shameful politics, Abalos would have not had any justice anyway in an impeachment. At least now things will be in the hands of the Ombudsman where evidence is what counts & not noise or perception or partisanship.



October 5th, 2007 at 2:41 am

i was already satisfied then with the expose and the imminent cancellation of the NBN deal sparing the country of another heavy burden. abalos resignation is a bonus but to even think that anyone much more the “mastermind” will be found guilty in court and put to jail, it will be a cold day in hell for that to happen specially now that the contract is already negated.



October 8th, 2007 at 9:40 am

The ABALOS name will forever be associated with corruption, kickbacks, A MAN WHO STOLE AND STOLE AGAIN FROM EVERY FILIPINO.

It’s a shame that Ben Abalos had to drag his grandkids into his shithole. These children will forever bear the shame that their grandfather left them. They are the innocent ones who had to blindly stand up for their grandpop who is as corrupt as they come. If Ben Abalos wanted to give his name and these kids a legacy of honesty, he needs to tell the TRUTH. He has stolen from us. We now know about the ZTE and the Mega Pacific computer machine fiascos. What other deals, kickbacks did he make money from that we are not aware of? How does he sleep at night? How does he chew and swallow the food that he eats and slurp the soup that he buys from Shangrila, knowing that the money he bought them with was stolen from all of us. How does he make all this bungisngis hyena during his media interviews with a straight face? How can his wife and his grandkids be driven around in luxury cars with their personal drivers? How much have you really sold your soul to Lucifer Mr. Abalos? Maawa ka sa mga apo mo. Wala silang kasalanan. Sabihin mo ang totoo. And the truth shall set you free.



October 8th, 2007 at 9:46 am

In exchange for railroading the elections in behalf of the Arroyos, Ben Abalos was given access to kickbacks for various government projects, the full extent of which is yet to unfold. We are barely scratching the surface with ZTE. Ben Abalos was the head lapdog of the mammoth machinery that included Garcilliano and Bedol, who have openly cheated in order for their masters – the Arroyos to gain more power, money and access to more money that belongs to us – THE FILIPINO PEOPLE. Why do you think Garcilliano and Bedol are still scot-free, laughing at us the FILIPINO PEOPLE, mocking and taunting us with their entertaining accents? ABALOS HOLDS THE KEY. HE IS THE GATEKEEPER. HE IS MASTER MAGICIAN. HE MAKES THINGS APPEAR AND DISAPPEAR.



October 8th, 2007 at 10:50 am

philippine politics…tsk tsk tsk

i think abalos is just a scapegoat to stop the investigation. and just like other arroyo allies the case will just disappear and forgotten. if we analyze the situation…same characters and story…arroyos men and money..poor abalos he was the one under fire just to keep the issue out of the bigger fish



October 25th, 2007 at 6:40 pm

The last questioned posed by PCIJ is very easy to answer – No! How could we trust Pres. GMA to appoint a credible, tainted-free COMELEC Commissioner when history points to her as appointed officials who could contribute to her staying in power, not as mandated by that institution, i.e. COMELEC – for free, honest and efficient election. We know for a fact that Pres. GMA was not honest enough to unravel the mystery of the bribery scandal simply because she appointed an agency which is not independent and directly under her control. I’m referring to the Presidential Commission Against Corruption (could not remember the damm name). For delicadeza sake why assign a body which is not independent and the bribery scandal pointing to Malacanang! The more people doubts her sincerity!

Going back to this Mr. Abalos, who was appointed by Pres. GMA, the sickening election fraud scandals were never seriously investigated anyway. What credibility that is left of the Comelec is almost naught. It was incomprehensible that as a Comelec Chairman, Mr. Abalos would be involved in a project such as the NBN that was even under his mandate or scope of his office. Blatantly, he appeared to have been assisted or joined by the President’s husband. Funny ha! What are these people really up to? No worry, they will be investigated by – no one else but a body that directly report to the President. Masyado namang pinaikot ng gobyernong ito ang ulo ni Juan dela Cruz! Kawawa naman tayong mga taong kumakayod ng malinis na kabuhayan! Ewan bakit di naman tayo madala!Lagi naman tayong nagtiwala sa mga “kumag” na nasa gobyernong ito!


The Horrors of COMELEC « Foolish Ranting of a Deluded Soul

January 19th, 2009 at 7:36 pm

[…] taxpayers of the nation fuming and murderous. Here are some examples  of their corruption:  1 2 3 4 5 6 but these are only the tip of the proverbial  iceberg. If we would list all the dubious […]


Your Honor, Your Horror? A parade of Comelec chairs « The PCIJ Blog

February 5th, 2015 at 10:39 am

[…] The apolitical Benipayo was replaced by politician Benjamin S. Abalos, who was appointed by Arroyo on June 17, 2002. Abalos would head Comelec for nearly five years – the longest period served by a Comelec head since 1986 – and leave a legacy of scandals and eroded credibility. […]

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