It seems I wasn’t the only one surprised that the Supreme Court voted in favor of Grace Poe and her petition that she be allowed to run for president in May. Of course she’s been acting like she was going to win that case anyway, campaigning as she has, making grand proclamations as she has. Fighting spirit we like to say; ala FPJ as her PR machinery and spin doctors would say.
And now getting that vote (literally!) of confidence from the Supreme Court itself, well, they can now paint her the hero who didn’t give up, who faced her enemies, just like her father, fictional as his movie roles were.
Look at her! She is now fit to be President.
But is she?
On that honest mistake
I just didn’t buy that “honest mistake” that Poe was selling. She had written on her Certificate of Candidacy for Senator that by May 2013, she would have lived in the Philippines for six years and six months. We are now being told that she had counted residency from March 2006 up to September 2012.
And then when she filled up her COC for President, she wrote that she had been residing in the Philippines for 10 years and 11 months, counting from May 2005.
We have been made to believe that an official document such as one’s COC – the one that made Poe senator the past three years – is important enough to hold the basic truths about a candidate: her address, her name, her year of birth, her signature. And, in the case of Poe, the number of years she has lived in the Philippines.
It’s not even about her loyalty between two flags at this point. It’s only about a candidate who put wrong information on an official government document, the same one that allowed her to become Senator of the country.
It’s about the COC saying in its instructions that “This certificate shall be sworn before a notarized public or any official authorized to administer the oath.” <emphasis from original document>
This means that what Poe wrote on that document is presumed as true. The excuse of an “honest mistake” is just not acceptable because you did not only give false data here, you also swore to this false data’s truth.
The COC was a legal binding official serious document. That Poe made such a huge mistake on it is uncanny. That nine out of 15 Supreme Court Justices actually decided to believe Poe’s excuse, absolutely disconcerting.
That now she can say, Oh wait, I made an honest mistake on that! Just does not bode well for her leadership. Or for this election.
The question of identity
Because this is a matter of trust, isn’t it? And, oh, how big we are on trusting our candidates, aren’t we?
But also it’s a matter of how Poe has been selling herself, as the one who has the most integrity, as the one who is most honest, as the one who has love for nation the way her father had, the way her mother has.
And so this becomes larger than the COC. It is also about the fact that this is someone who had already renounced her Filipino citizenship, who had turned her back on nation – on paper! – and had said that she would only defend the US and no other country. This is the same woman who decided to use her US passport – even when she already had a Filipino one – because it was “more convenient.”
This is the same woman who, if we are to believe The Daily Tribune’s Ninez Cacho-Olivarez, has been caught using two different social security numbers in the US – one a dead man’s, the other her real number. Her camp has said that this was yet another honest mistake – not on Poe’s part, but on the part of the Tribune: what the paper has read as a dead man’s SSN, was actually Poe’s student ID number.
Of course one wonders how this could happen in a country like the US, that has very strict laws about SSN IDs, and explains how specific those SSN numbers are, how each of the three sets of numbers hold meaning.
And then there is just this: what does Poe have to show for the three years she has spent in the Senate? Go beyond the instances in which she has gotten media mileage, i.e., during MRT and Mamasapano hearings, and look at what she has actually done the past three years. What do we see, really?
This is a woman who held the Mamasapano Report up with pride, yet who decided to just let the report die a natural death, not pushing for any action on it at all.
What was that?
Say it with me: an honest mistake.
In real life, you do not get away with false data in official documents by saying that you made an honest mistake. Certainly it won’t work for the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), it won’t work for banks, it won’t work for many places that presume the personal data you put your signature on is true.
In fact, it does not even work for real life, beyond documents. You hit another car on the road? Honest mistake, you say, as you scratch your head. You unthinkingly decide to keep the wallet that you found in the cab, instead of returning to owner? Honest mistake, mamser. You arrive an hour late for a meeting? You thought it was at this hour … honest mistake.
Now that Poe has proven that the “honest mistake” excuse can and does work, even for documents that are of utmost importance such as one’s COC; now that the SC has declared “honest mistakes” to be acceptable under the law, we can all milk this all its worth.
If you’re a teacher, expect students to start saying: but it was an honest mistake, ma’am! when they submit requirements that don’t follow the required format and conventions. They can plagiarize whole paragraphs off the Internet and once caught, say: honest mistake lang po, ma’am!
If I were Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, every time someone raises the issues of sexual harassment, or the case of acts of lasciviousness against him, or his human rights violations, I would say: those were all honest mistakes! If I were Mar Roxas, every time his inefficiency and unkindness in Tacloban and Samar after Typhoon Haiyan is mentioned; every time someone says that it is his fault that the airports are a mess, and that the MRT is inefficient and dangerous, I would say: those are all honest mistakes! If I were Vice President Jejomar Binay, whenever those charges of graft and corruption are raised, I would reply: those were honest mistakes!
And if Poe wins, imagine how far she’ll get with her honest mistakes. And how much fun everyone will have using “honest mistake” as an excuse for everything. Legal loggers killing us all by denuding our forests? It was an honest mistake, ma’am! Cabinet officials failing to deliver on their promised outcomes? Honest mistakes, ma’am! The Lumad being displaced and killed by military and paramilitary forces: honest mistakes po!
And of course, Poe can still use this line! After all, this is a woman who has been able to sustain a candidacy by using her father’s fictional movie lines. At least “honest mistake” was all original.