Meddling in Court
With less than four months left in office, President B. S. Aquino 3rd seems bent on provoking a massive public protest that could throw out the results, if not preempt and preclude altogether the holding, of the May 9 presidential elections. By meddling in the Grace Llamanzares case, he is undermining the integrity of the Supreme Court and subverting the Constitution and the rule of law, while his minions at the Commission on Elections and its foreign partner Smartmatic try to reduce into one big lie the entire electoral process. All this could push the nation to the brink at a time when peaceful and meaningful change is most needed.
Aquino wants the Court to rule that Mrs. Llamanzares is eligible to run for President, despite the Comelec disqualifying her and cancelling her Certificate of Candidacy for President, for misrepresenting herself as a natural-born citizen and a resident of the country for more than the required ten years. This executive interference is grossly immoral, unconstitutional and provocative to Filipinos who believe that decisions of the Court must always be its own, based on the Justices’ faithful reading of the Constitution and the law, and not the product of intervention by any outsider, whether a meddlesome chief executive, a non-accountable plutocrat, or agent of a foreign power.
The Constitution and the nation must be protected from all enemies, whether covert or out in the open, including those who proclaim, in the service of their own political, financial and economic interests, that a non-natural born former American citizen of unknown parentage has an inborn right to become President of the Philippines.
I pray that Aquino would be sorely disappointed in his unabashed attempt to destroy the integrity of our highest Court and overthrow the fundamental law of the land. But the record has not been in our favor.
At the beginning of his term, Aquino paid off members of Congress to impeach and remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, months after the Corona Court ruled with finality that the 6,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita, which was owned by the Cojuangco family, and which then President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino had earlier exempted from the coverage of land reform, be redistributed among its farmers.
One hundred eighty-eight congressmen signed the eight Articles of Impeachment against Corona without reading the document, and 20 out of 23 senator-judges at the Senate impeachment trial voted to convict the respondent on one ‘non-impeachable’ offense, after the prosecution formally dropped five of the original charges for lack of evidence, and eventually abandoned two of the remaining three for the same reason.
Of the 20 who voted for conviction, 19 received P50 million or more each from the constitutionally outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), with then Senate Finance Committee Chair and now Senate President Franklin Drilon receiving P100 million and Sen. Francis Escudero, now a vice presidential candidate, receiving P98 million.
Aside from Escudero, three other senators who got DAP “incentives” for convicting Corona at Aquino’s behest——Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Gringo Honasan—- are now running for Vice President.
Of the three senator-judges who had voted to acquit Corona and did not get any DAP ‘incentives,’ Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago is now running for President, and Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr, is leading the vice-presidential race. The third senator-judge, Joker Arroyo, 88, died last year a couple of years after leaving the Senate.
In the second presidential bribery scandal, Aquino paid off the members of Congress to pass the patently unconstitutional and anti-Catholic Reproductive Health Law over the massive Church and public opposition to it. Having promised to ram through the highly divisive measure after receiving a grant of $454 million from President Obama’s Millennium Challenge Fund, Aquino suborned and strong-armed members of Congress for their votes.
Four senior members of his Cabinet, led by then DILG Secretary and now LP presidential candidate Mar Roxas and Budget Secretary and DAP author Florencio “Butch” Abad, never left the premises of the House of Representatives until they got what they wanted.
The Supreme Court later declared the law “not unconstitutional,” despite the fact that it violates the basic provision of the Constitution, which says that the State is the equal protector of the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception, and cannot therefore be the preventer of conception or the source of contraception.
Given this frightening record, the Justices will need all the moral courage to resist. Aquino is now a lameduck, and can no longer threaten any independent Justice with impeachment and removal from the Court, a la CJ Corona. Moreover, the House, which has the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment, is in recess, and after Aquino steps down on June 30, there will be a new Congress. But between now and then, Aquino remains in control of the government’s enormous resources. That makes him “armed and dangerous.”
At the same time a leading business crony, who runs a powerful conglomerate, and claims a line to some of the Justices through one former Chief Justice, is said to be working in tandem with Aquino, determined to make Mrs. Llamanzares not just a bona fide candidate but in the end the next President of the Philippines. He is said to be almost entirely bankrolling her campaign, and neither he nor the “non-candidate” is embarrassed by it.
Additionally, one former Chief Justice and one or two Justices who are openly batting for Mrs. Llamanzares have reportedly tried sounding out others to join them in the name of “fellowship.” The classic reply to such invitation in “A Man for All Seasons” comes from Sir Thomas More to the Duke of Norfolk: “And when we die, and you are sent to Heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to Hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?” It is not known, however, how such reported overtures, if true, have been received.
Will anyone sell out?
The SC is a court of believers—-the only self-confessed non-believer (atheist) on the Llamanzares case is Solicitor General Florin Hilbay who stood as “Tribune of the People” during the Oral Arguments, but spoke more accurately as “Tribune for Mrs. Llamanzares.” In this season of Lent, I am confident no member of the Court will want to follow the example of the Iscariot who sold Jesus to his executioners for 30 pieces of silver. Nevertheless, we all have feet of clay, and we do not know how much 30 silver pieces, at the present rate of inflation, would fetch today.
What happens then if some believers succumb, just because they have feet of clay? And what if that unfortunate act of perfidy swings the vote for the former American Mrs. Llamanzares? Would the people simply repeat the crucified Christ’s prayer, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing?” Or, would they not take to the streets, or the hills, or storm the High Court or Malacañang or both? And what if they choose the latter course, and violent conflagration erupts within the nation, would Aquino for once take the responsibility for it? Would he at least apologize to the Court, and tell an enraged public to direct its anger at him and not at any of the Justices?
Even if none of the Justices should sell out, just because Aquino has tried to pressure them to support Llamanzares, there is every possibility that the people could conclude that even a gratuitous and honest vote in her favor is nothing but the result of political coercion by the Executive or the fruit of a particularly corrupt political commerce.
As lead petitioner against Mrs. Llamanzares, I cannot predict how I will react to any unexpected turn of events in this case. But I fear how other Filipinos would react. A formal declaration that the former American citizen of no known parentage, who has lied under oath about the circumstances of her birth and domicile, is eligible to run for President, despite her well-known and widely discussed constitutional disabilities, could push the nation to an uprising, whether peaceful or not.
Especially if it becomes clear that such savaging of the Constitution is but part of a grand design on the part of powerful political, financial and external entities to control every aspect of our sovereignty. Such an uprising could preclude the holding of the May 9 elections, and even some of the major players in the present campaign could become part of it.
Even if the people should first fail to react sufficiently, and allow a duck to compete in a national cockfight (pintakasi), if nothing is done to ensure that the contest would be clean, honest, and transparent, popular uprising could still erupt when the pre-determined results are announced and various parties complain that they have been cheated. Of course all of them would have been cheated, for it was never the plan to stage a clean, honest and credible cockfight. This is evident even now, in the stern refusal of the Comelec and Smartmatic to restore to the voting machine all the security provisions that had been illegally removed from it in 2010 and 2013.
All voters are victims
However, there is a new way of looking at it. In the past, candidates cheated one another to gain electoral advantage, or launched their own individual operations to overwhelm the entire process. This still happens at the local level, but no longer at the national. At this level, the operators at the Comelec and Smartmatic have taken over—- they do everything to carry out a Plan whose ultimate objective is to own and control all aspects of government. No particular candidate gets cheated alone anymore; it’s the entire electorate, the entire nation, that gets cheated. This happened in 2010, it happened again in 2013, it is set to happen yet again in May.
The incredible thing is that none of the players seem interested in preventing the fraud and the farce. They all seem more interested in trying to buy into the cheating operations. They all want to control Smartmatic, and end up being controlled by Smartmatic instead. Our election-as-usual attitude can only perpetuate this; a massive explosion of nationalist sentiment and a determined assertion of sovereign will are needed to end it. A people’s revolt against the status quo could become the first step. And Aquino, by his recklessness, is the one pushing us to it.