FROM a scanty wheatfield of three announced presidential wannabes, we ended with a charlock-infested crop of 22 filing their certificates of candidacy for president on Monday. Vice President Jejomar C. Binay led the filers, but the pack failed to include the two other most frequently mentioned presidential wannabes—Liberal Party’s Mar Roxas, whom President B. S. Aquino 3rd has anointed as his candidate, and the “Independent” Grace Poe Llamanzares, whom the corporate elite and their external partners would like to impose on the electorate despite her known constitutional ineligibility. Their fengshui masters and soothsayers will decide their “luckiest day.” In any case, the Commission on Elections should receive the last COC by Friday; it could then start weeding out the “nuisance candidates.”
Perennial presidency candidates Pascual Racuyal and Lucio de Gala are no more, but they have been replaced by new “celebrities.” If Mrs. Llamanzares files a COC, more than one individual may want her classified as a nuisance candidate for being legally “stateless,” or at the very least not a natural-born Filipino. This question is already pending before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, where former senatorial candidate Rizalito David has filed a quo warranto suit against her. But David has since joined those who would like to become president and may no longer want to file a case against Mrs. Llamanzares at the Comelec. It may now be Mrs. Llamanzares’ turn to try to get David declared as a nuisance candidate.
Mrs. Llamanzares’ case has become so clear to discerning minds that even the normally pro-Grace Poe Llamanzares Philippine Daily Inquirer has been compelled to run a most lucid tract by lawyer Frank E. Lobrigo upholding our view. It is a breath of fresh air from this major daily which had hitherto tried to bamboozle its readers with legal mumbo jumbo from former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and some other ambulance-chasers about “international law.”
The Llamanzares camp has tried to bring in all sorts of argumentum ad hominem against her critics, and argumentum ad misericordiam in her favor (for being a foundling). But Lobrigo tries to squash all these by pointing out that “the debate is not about the persona, integrity or competence of Sen. Grace Poe to lead the country. It is about the Constitution, the fundamental law of the land to which all statutes, doctrines and principles of law, rules and regulations, ordinances, and acts of the state or government, including international conventions or treaties, yield in subservience.” From his analysis, Mrs. Llamanzares’ claim of being a natural-born Filipinos is pure legal fiction.
But we have all the time in the world to talk of Mrs. Llamanzares later. For now we have to talk of VP Binay. On no other personality has the administration expended so much time, energy and resources to prevent from running for president. But this appears to have failed. Binay is officially a candidate for president, whatever threats or declarations you hear from the LP camp or the Ombudsman. The political master plan —hatched and put into motion as early as last year—-to make sure he would be out of office and the presidential race by this time of year has been defeated.
On Monday, the Ombudsman ordered Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. dismissed as Mayor of Makati. The mayor will not take it sitting down. For his part, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, who is running as nobody’s vice-president, continues to announce he would send Binay to jail, as though he had any power to do so, before the elections. But it looks like Binay has weathered the worst part of the storm. I know of many people who never liked Binay before, but just because of the unrelenting political prosecution he has been subjected to, by hypocrites who are guilty of worse crimes, have decided to support him. Whatever his sins and imperfections, they cannot be as big and as unforgivable as those of Aquino, who has turned the country into one big brothel where everything, beginning with the nation’s sovereignty, is now for sale.
If the elections are to push through, regardless of the sordid situation at the Comelec with respect to Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) or Optical Mark Reader (OMR) machines, the voters would need Binay as the only alternative to Mar Roxas, after Mrs. Llamanzares is disqualified for not being a natural-born citizen. He would become not only the indispensable candidate —-indispensable to the crudest simulation, which is all we could afford, of democratic elections. He could also become ‘the stone rejected by the builders, which has become the cornerstone.”
I also hear strong rumors that my next-door neighbor, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, could spring a surprise before the filing of COCs ends on Friday. Miriam is capable of springing such surprise, not necessarily to win the race but simply to make a point. She and I did that in 1998, when we ran without any funds or political organization just to be able to tell the nation that it deserved better than its most popular candidate. That proved to be a lost cause. Despite our fantastic speeches, Erap won by a landslide just because the masa thought his publicly acknowledged vices were virtues.
But the real question now is, are we going to have honest to goodness elections? The unflinching effort to ensure Smartmatic’s stranglehold on the electoral process has not only intensified but also assumed far more dangerous proportions. The latest report from a London-based international auditing firm, filed with the British House of Commons, says that Smartmatic-TIM (Philippines), is wholly-owned by Smartmatic International, which has no legal right to do business in the Philippines. But this has failed to win the Comelec’s attention.
The more disturbing development is that new non-Venezuelan parties have reportedly taken over the firm. A new international board was appointed in 2013, to include one Sir Nigel Knowles. Not much later, the international political operator Lord Mark Malloch Brown became the international chair, allegedly largely because of his “special Philippine connection.” He came to Manila in June and had a private meeting with PNoy in Malacañang, while the Comelec was reportedly “studying” Smartmatic’s PCOS/OMR offer.
The firm is said to be controlled now by people believed to have a specific interest in the precise results of the 2016 Philippine presidential elections, exactly as Col. Edward Landsdale had a well-defined interest in the 1953 presidential elections that elected Ramon Magsaysay.
The director and general manager for the Philippine operations is Alastair J. J. Wells, but the project manager of the automation project is said to be Marlon Garcia whose last known public act was to change the script in the transparency server and install an intermediary server at the Pope Pius (PPCRV) Center during the 2013 elections. He was never made to account for that highly questionable act, but he will apparently be performing a much bigger role in 2016.
As in the previous two elections, all the cards are heavily stacked against sanity and common sense. Some of the rules are absolutely insane. The deadline for the filing of COCs is October 16, but the campaign period does not begin until February next year. Why can’t the deadline be extended until the beginning of the campaign period, to allow more qualified individuals, who had not thought earlier of running, to finally come on board? Then we wouldn’t have to put up with a barren desert or a scanty wheatfield.
There are other practical concerns. The minute you file a certificate of candidacy, you are officially a candidate, and everything you do from that moment on is the act of a candidate. But until the campaign period starts you are free to say you are not yet campaigning, and the money you spend on ads and political meetings cannot be charged against your official campaign expenses.
Even more insane is the fact that before you filed your COC, you had already sunk millions of pesos on TV ads; but the court has ruled that so long as you do not ask the TV viewers to vote for you, you are not yet campaigning. It is one cruel way of decreeing officially and infallibly that we are all morons. All right, if all our brains must yield to this absolutely insane hair-splitting, can the court or the Comelec not say that in the runup to an election you could bombard the public with all the TV and print ads, and billboards you want, without having to report their expenses to the Comelec, but that if you end up running for any public office then all those non-campaigning expenses shall be charged against your authorized campaign expenses? Why should E.R. Ejercito alone be singled out for overspending, when every one else does?
One final insanity for now (the list is endless), why do we say, as we did in 2010, in 2013, and even today, that we elected this president and these senators who are so full of themselves when we could never say we knew for a fact that our votes had been correctly read and counted by the PCOS machine?