CORRUPTION is now the system, as the National Transformation Council famously put it, so the honest man has become a grave danger to everyone else, and a clean and honest election as well as a faithful reading of the Constitution a grave danger to the nation.
This is the conclusion one could draw from the Aquino regime’s determined bid to ensure a repeat of the questionable 2010 and 2013 elections, and the Supreme Court Chief Justice’s and Solicitor General’s proposed dogma that what is written in the Constitution should be interpreted to mean the exact opposite of what it clearly says.
We shall look at these two issues to see if there is a way out of the unspeakable mess we are in. First, the official preparations for the May 9 elections. The Commission on Elections, which alone has the constitutional mandate to conduct elections, and its foreign partner Smartmatic, which a London-based international auditing firm says is a wholly-owned British company, perform a central role, are the primary players.
What happened before
In the last two elections, they illegally removed four security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine to achieve the desired results. Criminal complaints have been lodged with the Ombudsman against one former Comelec chairman and others responsible for this illegal act, but these have failed to move.
Through all of last year, Tanggulang Demokrasya (Tandem), Automated Election System (AES) Watch and other concerned organizations and citizens have tried to convince the Comelec to terminate its dealings with Smartmatic, and replace the PCOS with a less expensive and more transparent voting machine, with all the security features mandated by the Automated Election Law or Republic Act 9369.
But they were given the runaround in favor of Smartmatic whose new international chairman, Lord Mark Malloch Brown, a recent partner of the political operator George Soros, worked for the late President Cory Aquino in 1986 and had a private meeting with President B. S. Aquino 3rd at Malacanang in June of last year.
What should happen now
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, has weighed in to call for the restoration of the security features to ensure the credibility of the elections. These include the ultra violet scan, the digital signature, the voter verification paper audit trail (VVPAT), and the source code review by all the interested parties.
All these are important. But the VVPAT is critical because the “receipt” which the voter will receive upon voting will show the names of the candidates he has voted for. This assures voters that their votes are correctly read and recorded by the machine.
What Comelec wants to do
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, however, has informed the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election System that the poll body had decided not to activate the VVPAT for fear that the voters might use their “receipts” to sell their votes.
This is most inane. Vote-buying is rampant at the precinct level, and this does not seem to bother the Comelec. In the last two elections, vote buyers and vote sellers operated close to voting centers undisturbed by any law enforcer. In some rural barangays, vote-sellers openly put up signs which read: “No money, no vote.”
Paper audit trail
Indeed, the machine-generated receipt might be misused. That is a distinct possibility, if the Comelec does nothing to prevent it. But that’s only a possibility, not even a probability. The Comelec can quickly prevent it by making sure that the receipt is deposited in an appropriate box after the voter has read it, before he leaves the polling place. In fact, one watchdog organization has already proposed it. But for reasons of his own Bautista does not want it.
Cancelling the VVPAT is a continued violation of the law which exposes the election to the
threat of wholesale cheating by corrupt Comelec and Smarmatic officials as presumably happened in the last two elections. What happens then if the voters reject the results of the voting this time? There could be a failure of election or worse.
Many were hoping Bautista would take the lead in trying to make the next election slightly more credible than the last two. But these hopes appear to have been misplaced. The new chair does not appear to be more determined to do the right thing for the people than his two immediate predecessors, so the May elections could be far messier than the last two.
The Llamanzares menace
This is not simply because of the ongoing ill-disguised efforts to rig the voting process. But also because of the reported big businessman’s lobby, combined with the unabashed efforts by certain “servants” of the Constitution and the law to perverse the letter and spirit of the Constitution, to save Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares from the Comelec’s otherwise “final and non-reviewable” ruling, disqualifying her as a presidential candidate and cancelling her Certificate of Candidacy, for having misrepresented herself as a natural-born citizen, and as a resident of the country for at least ten years prior to the election.
My view on foundlings
As lead petitioner for Mrs. Llamanzares’s disqualification, I share the view that foundlings of unknown parentage, like Mary Grace, who was found abandoned inside the parish church in Jaro, Iloilo on Sept. 3, 1968, should not only have the right to a nationality upon birth, as stated in some international documents, but should also be recognized as citizens, by law. As Associate Justice Marivic Leonen put it in his interpellation, they have not committed any crime against their parents to deserve being abandoned at birth. In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I would like to see that written in the law.
But–and this is the biggest but there is–this is not what the law says. The only Filipino citizens of legal existence are those whom the Constitution names as citizens, and not anybody excluded from its enumeration. Under the 1935 Constitution, which was in force when Mary Grace was born, these include:
Who are citizens
1) Those who are citizens of the Philippines Islands at the time of the adoption of this Constitution;
2) Those born in the Philippines Islands of foreign parents who, before the adoption of this Constitution, had been elected to public office in the Philippines Islands;
3) Those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines;
4) Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and, upon reaching the age of majority, elect Philippine citizenship; and
5) Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.
Foundlings–no matter how much we love them–are not included in the enumeration.
They are natural-born human beings, but they are not citizens from birth or at birth.
Mrs. Llamanzares, by her own admission, is a foundling, and she wants to run for President. She is obviously more lookable-at than the bona fide male candidates. But why have I gone to the Comelec to seek her disqualification as a presidential candidate?
Mere citizenship not enough
Because under Article VII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, “No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election.”
It is not enough for one to be a citizen; one must be a natural-born citizen to run for President. And under Article IV, Section 2 of the present Constitution, “natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their citizenship.”
Under these provisions, Mrs. Llamanzares cannot lawfully claim “natural-born” status. Her parentage remains unknown, therefore their nationality remains unknown, and her first and last known citizenship was that of a naturalized American citizen, who renounced her allegiance to the US only in 2010 after President B.S. Aquino 3rd appointed her to a government job that requires Filipino citizenship.
But in last Tuesday’s final session of the Oral Arguments on this case, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, otherwise known as the chief government lawyer but speaking against the Comelec position as the so-called “Tribune of the People,” tried to blast to kingdom come all the relevant constitutional provisions, by proclaiming that “all foundlings are natural-born citizens.” He cited no constitutional provision, no statute or jurisprudence to back up his sweeping statement, but simply spoke ex cathedra, as if he were dispensing a revealed truth from Mount Sinai.
Referring to a proposal to include foundlings in the enumeration of citizens, which was voted down by the 1934 Constitutional Convention, Hilbay said it must be presumed that the Convention found no need to include it in the Constitution, but that it is actually there.
So what’s not there is actually there. This was music to the ears of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who had not avoided being seen as lawyering for Mrs. Llamanzares, and to Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, who did not hesitate to massage Hilbay’s ego by referring to his attempt to deconstruct the Constitution as a free exercise of “conscience.”
(Hilbay, who was aspiring to fill up the last vacancy in the High Court before it was filled up by the former Secretary of Justice, is reported to have written a book entitled “Unplugging the Constitution,” in which he advocates, among other things, the destabilization of time-honored institutions like marriage, and the legalization of “same-sex marriage.”)
Blunted by Carpio
But he could not get past Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, who showed him the fallacy of his claim that all foundlings are natural-born citizens by getting him to agree that some legal act of documentation is needed before an abandoned child may be formally declared a foundling. (Which destroys the claim of natural-born status.)
And he found found a sober and unflinching magistrate in Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro who bluntly told him, “You don’t come to this Court with this kind of argument.”
Hilbay tried to support his statement by claiming that there are 99.9 chances out of a hundred that Mrs. Llamanzares’s unknown parents could be Filipinos, but De Castro pointed out that the Court was not interested in probabilities, but in what the Constitution says and the undisputed facts.
In Iloilo City, where she had gone campaigning despite the uncertain future as a candidate, Mrs. Llamanzares denied published reports that a “big businessman” and an “influential politician” acting as “fixer” have been dangling “incentives” to certain Justices to vote for her, while Aquino has reportedly been talking to his own Court appointees to do the same.
Through counsel Manuelito Luna, I have filed an urgent manifestation in Court, inviting the Justices’ attention to the published (Daily Tribune) report, but I found it rather surprising that the story had to be denied by Mrs. Llamanzares, rather than by the Justices or the President.
In Roxas city, Mrs, Llamanzares continued to engage in political harlotry by saying that “if elected President,” she would name PNoy as her presidential adviser on anti-corruption activities. PNoy is the only Filipino President who has corrupted Congress by bribing its members to impeach and remove a sitting Chief Justice (Renato Corona), and siphoned off hundreds of billions of pesos into unauthorized appropriations under the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program, which the Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional.
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile is but one of those who have called Aquino “the worst president the country ever had.” But Mrs. Llamanzares obviously wants him to adopt her as his Manchurian candidate to ensure her victory at the Supreme Court and finally at the polls.
She will have much to contribute if the situation explodes into something the people never bargained for.