I met Liberal Party presidential nominee Mar Roxas and his wife Korina at the wake of the late PDI columnist Neal Cruz at the Shrine of our Lady at Mount Carmel in Quezon City on Friday evening, and wished him luck on his nomination. Although I am no Roxas fan or supporter, I was pleased to see the ruling party free itself from the clutches of the propaganda fraudsters by declaring Roxas as its candidate despite his reputedly poor “survey” ratings.
It was a relief to see Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares fall off her perch, after contemptuously ignoring the constitutional provision that bars her from daydreaming about the presidency, for not being a natural-born Filipino. I also thought Mar’s anointing would end Malacañang’s relentless bid to force Vice President Jejomar C. Binay out of the race by throwing all sorts of dirt at him, first before the Senate blue ribbon committee, and now before the Ombudsman.
I surmised that after his anointing, Roxas could no longer afford to be seen as trying to become president by physically eliminating the competition. The original agenda was to send Binay to jail and force him to give up his thirst for the presidency at this time of the year. It has obviously failed. It would be intolerably vulgar to pursue it still, at this point. Thus, many people expected Binay to welcome Mar’s anointing rather than “sneer” at it, as reported in the Times.
Will PNoy and the LP have the courage to go for clean, honest and credible elections? This is what everyone is waiting for. PNoy needs to undo his unhappy record in the 2010 and 2013 elections, but it entails a virtual transformation of the man and what he believes in. Since August of last year, the National Transformation Council, in various assemblies from Lipa to Davao, has repeatedly called for urgent reforms to ensure clean, honest and credible elections. Not once have we heard any positive response from PNoy. Or from any known presidential aspirant, for that matter.
PNoy’s first announcement, after the anointing, is that he would campaign vigorously for Mar. This offers little hope and encouragement. The last time he got directly involved in an election in 2013, the result was the 60-30-10 across-the-board formula for all his senatorial winners. He now says he would campaign for Mar without costing the government anything. This is a contradiction in terms. Anytime and every time the President moves, it is at the people’s expense, even when it merely involves the use of tissue paper.
The only way PNoy can campaign for Mar without costing us anything is for him to go on leave during the election period, and personally fund his own campaign. But this would mean putting the presidency in the hands of Vice President Binay, who will also be running. PNoy’s best role is to take a completely neutral position. This alone will help ensure clean, honest and credible elections.
A great deal will depend on his latest rethink on the Commission on Elections. We are now witnessing the Comelec perform its old song and dance about wanting to keep the elections clean while doing everything to make sure that Smartmatic, the Venezuelan marketing firm, remains in control of the election, through its precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine, which was used to rig the 2010 and 2013 elections.
Various petitions have been filed by various groups before the Supreme Court in an effort to replace Smartmatic’s automated voting system with something infinitely more transparent, trustworthy and less expensive. At the same time, certain legal issues have arisen questioning Smartmatic’s eligibility to do business in the Philippines. A Smartmatic International audit report to the British House of Commons has stated that Smartmatic TIM (Philippines) is 100-percent foreign-owned and therefore has no legal personality to do business in the Philippines.
But the entry of British Baron Mark Malloch-Brown as chairman of Smartmatic International and his reported private meeting with PNoy last June appear to have made Smartmatic’s hold on Philippine elections unshakeable. Malloch-Brown is an international political operator who once worked for Cory Aquino before and after the 1986 presidential snap elections. He was once Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, and a close collaborator of the billionaire speculator George Soros in changing “unwanted governments” in the Balkans.
At this point, only PNoy’s absolute neutrality in favor of the Constitution and the law can ensure transparent and credible elections. He alone can reverse the Comelec’s position that “there’s no more time” for clean, honest and credible elections. As PNoy was able to stop Grace Poe Llamanzares from insinuating herself illegally into the presidential contest, he could do whatever is necessary to ensure credible elections, some advocates for transparent elections point out.
How did he handle Mrs. Llamanzares, in the first place?
This is one time I am not embarrassed to credit PNoy for his class act. According to a highly reliable source, before PNoy delivered his final State of the Nation Address on July 27, he asked to see Mrs. Llamanzares at the Batasan. He made sure no one else was around. There, with a minimum of conversation, he showed her a secret folder from Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, which made the color of her face change. It is not known (not yet anyway) what was in that folder, but it was obviously highly incriminating material.
There’s some speculation that the folder could contain an abbreviated record of Mrs. Llamanzares’s numerous misrepresentations about her personal circumstances, which not only disqualify her from pursuing the presidency or the vice-presidency, but even from retaining her seat in the Senate.
Thus far, Llamanzares and her supporters have chosen to ignore observations appearing in this space and other sections of the press that she is constitutionally disqualified from pursuing the presidency, the vice presidency, or even a seat in Congress. This because she is not “a natural-born citizen,” as required by the Constitution, defined as one who is a Philippine citizen from birth, who did not have to perform any act to acquire or perfect his/her citizenship.
Llamanzares is not “natural-born”, having been born stateless as a foundling of unknown parentage who was abandoned inside a church in Jaro, Iloilo on Sept. 3, 1968. She appears to have become a Filipino citizen through some legal process after she was adopted by the movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. and his wife Susan Roces. But she lost her Philippine citizenship after she moved to the US and became an American citizen. She returned to the Philippines in 2005, renounced her US citizenship in 2012, and tried to reacquire Philippine citizenship under RA 9225, otherwise known as “the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act.”
For a while, many thought she had in fact reacquired Philippine citizenship. Even though she did not become a natural-born Filipino, people thought she became a Filipino citizen all over again, at least. That was the implication of her claim to citizenship. But this turns out to be mistake. A closer rereading of RA 9225 shows that Mrs. Llamanzares never became, and could never have become, a Filipino citizen under RA 9225. Why? Because the law covers not every former Filipino citizen who wants to repatriate, but only “former natural-born Filipino citizens” who would like to reacquire their former citizenship. Section 3 of the law provides:
“Sec. 3. Retention of Philippine citizenship. Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, natural-born citizens by reason of their naturalization as citizens of a foreign country are hereby deemed to have reacquired Philippine citizenship upon taking the following oath of allegiance to the Republic.
“I ______________________solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines and obey the laws and legal orders promulgated by the duly constituted authorities of the Philippines, and I hereby declare that I recognize and accept the supreme authority of the Philippines and will maintain true faith and allegiance thereto; and that I impose this obligation upon myself voluntarily without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”
The law is clearly restated in its implementing rules (BID Memorandum Circular No. AFF-04-01. So Mrs. Llamanzares not being “natural-born” cannot, and did not, legally reacquire Philippine citizenship. Whatever process she has gone through that looked like a reacquisition of Philippine citizenship was clearly void ab initio. Having renounced her US citizenship in 2012, and having no valid Philippine citizenship either, she appears to be back to her original status as a founding—-stateless.
Now, if this is what the folder contained, and PNoy thrust it into the hands of Llamanzares without blinking, it means he could still do bigger things for clean and honest elections and Philippine democracy. Will he?