THE outpouring of statements and opinions on Senator Poe’s disqualification case from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has me totally confused.
First, the Comelec en banc (in full session) issued two resolutions junking Senator Poe’s motions for reconsideration on her disqualification by the Second and First Divisions of the poll body on Dec. 1 and 11, respectively.
The language of the resolutions said in no uncertain terms that Comelec was nullifying the certificate of candidacy for president of Senator Poe.
Second, before the nation could fully decipher the implications (whether Ms. Poe is henceforth scratched from the presidential race), Comelec chairman Andy Bautista emerged from his foxhole to announce that he had dissented from the majority opinion of his peers and written his own lengthy opinion in dissent.
Stepping on the Comelec’s decision
By press release, by statement and by broadcast interviews, Bautista stepped on the otherwise declarative message of the commission, and questioned the wisdom and finality of its decisions, to plead, of all things, the case for Senator Poe.
Knowing full well how dissenting opinions can be milked for publicity in this country, Bautista has not stopped talking ever since.
He released his labored 53-page opinion to the media, as though he were unveiling an opinion by a justice of the Supreme Court.
Then he opined that Ms. Poe committed an “honest mistake” when she stated in her COC (certificate of candidacy) that she was a natural-born-citizen of the Philippines, and that she had the ten-year residency required by the Constitution.
Finally, as a public demand developed for Ms. Poe’s removal from the election ballot, Bautista declared that Senator Poe should be allowed to run for President.
Then he turned the spotlight on himself by stating how he agonized over his decision.
He said: “It was hard. There were pressures from many sides but I just followed my conscience, what I think was right and I made some balancing.”
In making his decision, he said he took into consideration other Filipinos who have left to pursue opportunities abroad and have become foreign citizens, and may desire to come home.
A concurring and dissenting opinion
And yet in saying this mouthful, Bautista stressed that he was concurring with the majority decision, even while dissenting from it.
He billed his 53-page opinion as “a Concurring and Dissenting Opinion.”
He agreed with the majority decisions of the two Comelec Divisions that Poe lacked the 10-year residency requirement under the Constitution.
“By 2016 national and local elections, she will only have been a resident for nine years and 10 months at the most, and not 10 years and 11 months as what she claimed in her 2015 COC,” the opinion stated.
Bautista added that Ms. Poe is covered by the 1935 Constitution which does not state that foundlings like her should be considered natural-born citizens.
“It is common knowledge that the Philippines has adopted the principle of jus sanguinis – citizenship is determined by blood relationship,” he said. Hence, Senator Poe is not a nautral-born Filipino citizen.
Asking Congress to recognize all foundings
As if all this hemming and hawing were not enough, Bautista pointedly asked Congress to pass a law that would declare all foundlings as natural-born citizens of the Philippines.
He waxed sentimental about the plight of foundlings in the absence of a law, how they are consigned to the ranks of the stateless.
But the stark reality was plain. Bautista was dumping on the decisions that the Comelec commissioners had reached, deliberated, debated, and finally voted on collectively and unanimously.
He was publicly holding up under doubt the decision of the commission.
He was publicly sympathizing with Senator Poe on her predicament.
A Comelec with resolve, judgment and integrity
Did some people talk to Bautista to wring from him this agonizing act of abdication?
Does the man have no spine to lean on when he has to make a difficult decision?
Does the Comelec, with seven commissioners, not have enough members to interpret the Constitution and its mandate to Comelec properly?
I find these thoughts unpleasant to entertain because as a nation, we stand today on the verge of a watershed election in our nation’s history.
This is a time when we truly need an election commission that can effectively manage and administer national elections.
We need it to act with resolve and show its judgment, fairness and integrity.
It needs a chairman who not only can chair meetings, but can lead our principal institution for suffrage.