PRESIDENTIAL candidate Grace Poe-Llamanzares the other day added fuel to reports that because of Manuel Roxas 2nd’s low ratings in the presidential-preference polls three months to the May 9 elections, President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd has a secret agreement to support the balikbayan as his candidate, in exchange for her protection when she wins the presidency.
Llamanzares the other day confirmed reports that she was at Aquino’s birthday party in Malacañang on Feb. 8. While she claims she didn’t sit at Aquino’s table, sources say that Aquino walked her out as she left the party and appeared to have been in serious talk with her, pausing several times to lean over to hear what she was saying.
Who in her right political mind would attend, in the heat of a campaign period, the birthday party of a President who officially supports a rival candidate? Only if it was the only safe way to seal a crucial deal face-to-face.
Speculation that she may be Aquino’s secret candidate was bolstered by her statement at a press conference that she and Aquino are “friends,” even if they don’t agree on everything.
She certainly acted as a friend when Aquino needed her support at the Senate committee hearings last year on the Mamasapano massacre, making him unaccountable for the tragic deaths of government troopers even when nearly every evidence and testimony made in the hearings of the committee she headed proved otherwise.
She failed to follow up clear leads made in the hearings, such as summoning telephone company records to find out if sacked police general Alan Purisima and the President were in continuous communication the whole day of Jan. 25, which would belie Purisima’s fantastic claim that they stopped exchanging text messages at 8 a.m.
Llamanzares even obviously rushed to end the hearings called for by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to reinvestigate the Mamasapano massacre in a day’s time. Senate President Franklin Drilon, one of Aquino’s closest political advisers, sat beside Llamanzares during the whole proceeding and appeared to be advising her.
Sources explained that while Aquino’s support will be mainly financial, set to be unleashed late next month, Llamanzares wants the President to leave no stone unturned in getting the Supreme Court to overturn the Commission on Elections’ ruling, and allow her to run.
Aquino has already made a major step toward this project, and sent a strong signal to Poe of his support when he, through his operators, allegedly managed to get Associate Justice Martin Villarama, Jr. to retire Jan. 16, three months earlier than his mandatory retirement age of 70 on April 14, 2016.
Such retirement, unprecedented in the entire history of the Supreme Court, allowed Aquino to evade the ban on such appointments 60 days before an election. Less than a week later, on Jan. 21, Aquino appointed college classmate Benjamin Caguioa, who had hardly warmed his seat as secretary of justice, replacing Leila de Lima, in October last year.
That brought to six the justices Aquino appointed to the Supreme Court, who could follow Aquino’s wishes out of gratitude to him. Other than Caguioa, they are: Chief Justice Maria Sereno, an obscure legal academic who would not have become a judge in any court if not for Aquino; Marivic Leonen, another academic who had delivered to him the Basic Bangsamoro Law; Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and Court of Appeals Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
With the six Aquino appointees, being less than the other nine justices appointed by the previous President, Aquino obviously needs three more justices to get his way. This means that three justices, in effect, would wager that their cooperation with Aquino for Poe to win would give them a better post-Court future when they retire.
I think, though, that the nine remaining justices are very principled people who wouldn’t betray their oaths of office.
This is especially so since at least three recent unanimous decisions of the Supreme Court, if applied – as these should be – in Llamanzares’ case, would make her ineligible to run for President on two counts.
First is that she is not a natural-born Filipino, as she had “to perform an act to acquire or perfect (her) Philippine citizenship,” the latter being the Constitutional definition of a “naturalized Filipino” (Article IV, Section 2). She “performed” such acts when she renounced her American citizenship to become a Filipino citizen again.
Second is that the 10-year residency requirement in the Philippines for a presidential candidate could start only when she renounced her citizenship, even if she was physically in the country before then, as the Court unanimously decided so in the Caballero vs Comelec case decided only in September 2015.
That’s the kind of country we have become – that many Filipinos would vote for President somebody who had abandoned her country to pursue “the American dream” even if she was well off, and then decided to revert to being a Filipino citizen so she could conveniently run for a high office. In Poe’s case, she first ran for the Senate and – after relishing the taste of power – aimed high, as high as the presidency.
That’s the kind of candidate we have in Llamanzares, who would dare do so and even waste the Supreme Court’s time and ours on an issue that would solely involve her, and who would allegedly have an incumbent President interfere with the Supreme Court in her behalf, just to accommodate her ambitions.
And it is the height of hypocrisy for her to claim that she is only fighting for “foundlings’ rights.” Foundlings have as much right as anyone has, but we just have to respect the Constitution, which specifies that the President has to be a natural-born citizen, not a naturalized Filipino. If that is unfair, then we have to amend the Constitution, and not disregard one of its provisions.
If the court, by some miracle or whatever, rules that Llamanzares can run for President, Roxas should realize that he should stop wasting his time or his clan’s money and withdraw: Llamanzares is the Yellow horde’s candidate, as her father was in 2004.
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What astonishes me is that Llamanzares has refused Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s offer to provide samples of their DNAs so his and her samples could be evaluated to determine if they are, indeed, half-siblings, to put all such talk to rest. The speculation for decades has been that her biological parents were the strongman ruler Ferdinand Sr. and Rosemarie Sonora, her adoptive mother Susan Roces’ (Jesusa Purificación Sonora) sister.
I even remember, when she was elected Senator in 2013, Marcos’ former trusted officials Juan Ponce Enrile and Estelito Mendoza told me something to the effect that “everyone knew during those years of Marcos’ rule that he was her father.” “That was common knowledge,” they said.
A photo often posted by different people on Facebook, in fact, attempts to show similarities between their facial features. A ‘mashed’ face through a photoshop software of Marcos and Llamanzares could even pass for a natural face:
A DNA test would not only settle a historical question; it would also allow her to prove she is a natural-born citizen.
Why would you respect a presidential candidate, who since her adulthood, having the power and money to do so, didn’t care to find out who her parents were? Why does she continue to refuse to do so?