Nine justices vs the Constitution
I was with Christian and Muslim leaders of the National Transformation Council in Mindanao on Tuesday when nine of the 15 Justices of the Supreme Court voted to reverse the ruling of the Commission on Elections En Banc disqualifying Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares as a presidential candidate and cancelling her Certificate of Candidacy, for misrepresenting herself as a natural-born citizen and a resident of the country for 10 years and 11 months (counted backwards from the day before the May 9 election). This has electrified the Llamanzares camp, but it may have destabilized and endangered the peace of the nation.
The Court spokesman announced the nine to six voting, without revealing its constitutional basis. So the nation does not know how the Justices arrived at their decision, and the original petitioners before the Comelec, like myself, have nothing upon which to base their Motion for Reconsideration, should they feel like filing one. Should they simply assume that the Justices had been bought, as reported, and would remain bought, and that it would be pointless to file an MR?
Only the problematic Comelec chair Andres Bautista was quick to declare that he would respect the vote of the nine, even without reading the text of the majority ruling or waiting for the seven-man Comelec en banc to decide what to do under the circumstances.
A bosom friend of mine who shares my position on the case to the last detail texted me to say “condolences” as soon as he heard of the voting. He said he was saddened more for the nation than for myself or any of the petitioners. That was exactly what I also felt. It is a complete breakdown of the constitutional and moral order.
Although I was convinced I was right that no power on earth could declare a foundling of no known parentage a natural-born Filipino and therefore qualified to run for President, I was nevertheless prepared to be proved wrong. But nothing ever prepared me to lose the case simply because of the suggestion, unproved but hardly disproved either, that the Justices had been coerced and bought to subvert and wage treason on the Constitution.
As one of the four original petitioners,(the others being Estrella Elamparo, Antonio Contreras and Amado Valdez,) I have been asked by the media to react to the decision of the nine. I have also begun getting abusive mail from ignorant and uncouth partisans who seem to believe that the destruction of the Constitution by the nine Justices is a triumph for Mrs. Llamanzares and her political bosses and financiers. It is nobody’s triumph, but a defeat for everyone. The Constitution is now an absolute wreck, and I cannot see where on earth she gets the nerve to still want to become the President.
Since Tuesday, I have been getting all sorts of requests for media interviews. But I have avoided doing so, for at least three reasons. First, I was out of Manila when the story broke; second, I have not read the ruling nor sat down with my lawyer, Atty. Manuelito Luna, to discuss the next step to take; and third, the vote of the nine is now a matter of extreme concern to the National Transformation Council, to which I belong, and I wanted the NTC moral and political leadership to take a position on it before I issue any statement.
The moral and political leaders of the NTC met in Butuan on Monday and Tuesday, and then in Cebu yesterday, and decided to issue a formal statement on the national situation after Easter. But I can now make a preliminary response to what happened.
As I reported in my column on Wednesday, I nearly bumped into Mrs. Llamanzares at the Butuan airport on Monday morning, and at Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos’ residence later that day. She flew out on her private plane before sundown, but left her local campaigners behind. Some informants noticed that as early as then, they were already talking of her SC “victory” the next day. This became clearer on Tuesday when she held a rally at Liwasang Bonifacio, a short distance from the Supreme Court, ready to receive the news of her “victory.”
Lobbying the Justices
A few days before that, SC sources leaked reports to The Manila Times that Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo had been assigned to draft the ponencia, permanently disqualifying Llamanzares. Court sources at the time counted at least 10 Justices in support of disqualification, but the Times leak succeeded in merely provoking the anti-Mar Roxas wing of Malacañang to intensify its efforts to work on the Justices, in collaboration with the well-advertised corporate executive who has been reputedly bankrolling the candidate’s campaign from Day One.
Apparently alarmed by the leak about its effort to procure support for Mrs. Llamanzares among the Justices, the anti-Roxas wing of Malacañang planted an absurd story, also in the Times, that some people were also trying to buy some Justices in order to “disqualify” Mrs. Llamanzares. They tried to make a big production of this patently bogus story by having the Malacañang spokesman Sonny Coloma issue a statement strongly condemning the “irresponsible statement.” This failed to dispel persistent talk within and outside the premises of the Court of the intense lobbying among the Justices.
Early Tuesday, it was initially reported that the Justices were having a hard time deciding, and might have to meet in a special session the next day. But by mid-afternoon, the Court spokesman announced the result of the voting without releasing the summary of any agreed text.
What the nation knows
So we do not know how Mrs. Llamanzares became a natural-born citizen, and a resident of the country for at least ten years immediately preceding the May 9 elections. The Constitution is clear, and the facts of the case are undisputed——she is not a natural-born citizen, as required by the Constitution, and from her own sworn statements, her total continuous residence in the country is less than 10 years, far short of the 10 years and 11 months she claims in her COC.
This is what the nation knows, and the nine Justices have offered nothing to show that it has erred in its knowledge. Thus many tend to believe, even without irresistible proof, that the votes in her favor have been bought.
Many were quick to conclude that the decision to make her a bona fide presidential candidate despite her constitutional disabilities is but the execution of a grand design that may have been crafted even before she entered the Senate in 2013. Making this former American citizen “the next President of the Philippines” appears to be a longterm project conceived and worked on by Malacañang, big business and some external forces. It is now about to be accomplished, thanks to the unrestrained activism of the nine Justices.
Not a valid vote
We in the NTC doubt that the votes of the nine Justices can be taken as a valid and legitimate decision of the Supreme Court. For us they represent a total betrayal and breakdown of our constitutional, political and moral order. By their votes, the nine Justices made themselves unelected, unaccountable, adventurous and arrogant legislators who usurped a power they did not have, but from which there is no appeal to a higher court, to rewrite the letter and spirit of the Constitution, the law and jurisprudence.
This is raw power without authority, a prerogative exercised by despots throughout the ages. It makes the nine Justices the most dangerous men and women in our midst. Not even the despotic Aquino, who is part of this abomination, could be any more dangerous.
For his crimes against the Constitution and the law remain repugnant and punishable crimes, but they never mature into law or jurisprudence, clothed with unimpeachability and permanence, which is what happens even to the most outrageous rulings of our highest Court.
The decision of the nine cannot bind and should not bind anyone, least of all the entire citizenry. For it lacks justice, and justice alone, not any majority vote by men and women acting in direct opposition to the Constitution, can make any law binding, whether in a democracy or in an autocracy. An unjust law, which is what the nine Justices now seek to create, cannot bind in either jurisdiction. Their votes must be rejected by our sovereign people, who alone have the authority to change or revise the Constitution.
All are impeachable
The nine Justices have made themselves, each one of them, clearly and inexorably impeachable. They should be impeached and removed as soon as the constitutional order is restored and returns to normalcy. For now, our people must reject the lawlessness imposed by their decision, and deal with its authors promptly and adequately.