As the election fever rises, the nation seems to lose much of its hold on common sense. Led blindly by the usual propaganda fraudsters, even supposedly educated individuals—including some former Supreme Court justices and self-proclaimed political pundits—are talking of the potential candidacy of some politicians who are expressly disqualified by the Constitution from seeking the highest office. My Times colleague Yen Makabenta correctly calls it a “political striptease.”
No single party is solely to blame for it, but President B. S. Aquino 3rd and the ruling Liberal Party have much to account for it.
No one has done so much to abolish the public role of the intellect and intelligence in our politics. Under the rubric of “daang matuwid,” PNoy and the LP, after five years of uninterrupted “fund-raising” at the Department of Transportation and Communications, the Department of Agriculture, and the Bureau of Customs, not to mention the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), are believed to have amassed billions of pesos for their 2016 war chest. But until now, they have neither found a suitable presidential “candidate” nor an acceptable manner of choosing one. They seem to think they have solved the problem just by submitting everything to the dictates of an irrational president.
Instead of allowing the LP members, through a democratic and universally recognized process, to choose the “party candidate,” PNoy insists on doing it, all by himself. He has made a public show of an inane six-hour dinner to gauge the capability of the Senate’s political love-team, with their various constitutional and functional disabilities, and then suggested that they go to the hustings, well before the campaign season, to test their acceptability to the electorate.
To eliminate any risk of losing power to a successor who might send him to jail for his unpunished crimes, he also wants to control the automated voting system through Smartmatic, the foreign firm responsible for our widely assailed two previous elections and whose legal authority to do business in the Philippines is now being questioned before the Commission on Elections, the Supreme Court and the press.
(Mr. Cesar Flores Zavarce, who identifies himself as the president of Asia-Pacific Smartmatic, wrote in the Times yesterday to deny an item I had written in a previous column, quoting usually reliable sources as saying that Smartmatic international chairman, Baron Mark Malloch-Brown, who once worked for Cory Aquino in 1986, met with PNoy when he came to Manila last month. This denial was not unexpected, but since the story tends to reflect more adversely on PNoy than on Malloch-Brown, I expected the denial to come from Malacañang. None has come until now. So Flores had to do it.
(My sources stand by their story. They insist that PNoy met with Malloch-Brown at the Bahay Pangarap. That’s the old guesthouse across the Pasig. So I cannot walk away from the story, by apologizing to Malloch-Brown or Flores. It may be useful for Flores to commission a “survey” to find out which does the public believe— my column or Flores? While he is at it, Flores could also start denying the KPMG LLP Report to the British House of Commons saying that Smartmatic TIM Corporation, which supplied us 81,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, and now wants us to lease/purchase 93,977 units more, is a 100-percent foreign subsidiary and therefore has no legal authority to do business in the Philippines. )
The real tragedy is that none of the LP leaders have raised any objection to PNoy acting as though he were the entire party and the entire government. This has produced such a mess that, if we fail to check PNoy and fix what he has broken, the 2016 election could only make matters worse, instead of bringing relief to the nation. There could be real trouble during and after the election, something similar to what happened during and after the 1986 snap presidential elections.
It all began in 2010. Upon the death of his mother from natural causes, PNoy, then a virtually invisible member of the Senate, and his backers persuaded Senator Mar Roxas to drop his long-announced presidential ambition and become the former’s running mate instead. Before that, leading LP senators laughed at it as a joke when somebody suggested that Roxas take PNoy in as his vice president. Cory’s death gave him the qualification he needed. In return for Roxas’ giving way, PNoy promised to let him run the day-to-day affairs of the government, and to support him in the next presidential race, should they both make it. We are now seeing the rotten fruits of that shameful commerce.
Cory made the same deal with her running mate Salvador “Doy” Laurel in 1986. They lost the election to Marcos and Sen. Arturo Tolentino, but they took power after the EDSA bloodless uprising by declaring a revolutionary government. She never got to fulfill that promise. In PNoy’s case, although Roxas lost to his rival, the former Makati mayor Jejomar C. Binay, he nonetheless gave the loser a major say in running his government, even during his first year in office when the law barred him from appointing anyone who had lost in the previous election.
This was a year-long ban. After it expired, PNoy named Roxas as DOTC Secretary in charge of such big-ticket items as the MRT, which has since become the death of urban commuters. Upon the death of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo in a mysterious plane crash, PNoy shifted Roxas to the DILG to give him full access to the local government units and the police. Roxas became the real “de facto” president on behalf of the laidback president.
As PNoy’s ultimate “alter ego,” he was made to appear as the commander of the military operation in the infamous siege of Zamboanga, even though PNoy himself was reported to have issued orders from the naval headquarters of Western Mindanao Command to wipe out the Moro National Liberation Front fighters who had earlier asked for a ceasefire so that they could withdraw without any incident. Roxas was “credited” for the slaughter and the burning of 10,000 civilian homes. He also became the most visible personality in the aftermath of the Yolanda/Haiyan disaster.
Roxas’s political fortunes began to decline as the propaganda “surveys” pulled down his popularity rating against Binay. This was the exact opposite of the situation during the 2010 campaign. At that time Roxas led Binay all the way in the same propaganda“surveys,” until at the very end the first became last and the last became first, and Roxas was left wondering what had gone wrong. From then onward, Binay managed to sustain his rating as “the most trusted” public official. The propaganda fraudsters found it easy to stoke the perception that Roxas’ popularity had sunk to the ocean floor, and refused to let him rise therefrom. This happened to former Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro and former Senator Richard Gordon, the two most intelligent presidential candidates in 2010. Their ratings were fixed at a permanently low score, and never moved.
Hoping or believing that by bringing down Binay, they could raise Roxas’ rating, Malacañang and its attack dogs launched their vicious demolition campaign against the VP at the Senate blue ribbon committee. Three young senators who had previously received bribes of P50 million each from PNoy to convict and remove Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial were allowed to turn a supposed Senate “inquiry in aid of legislation” into an inquisitorial fishing expedition. The inquisition has not abated even after Binay has resigned from the Cabinet, and politicians who have done everything to prevent Aquino from being impeached are now planning to impeach Binay on some alleged charges not related to his work as the nation’s second highest official.
To prevent Binay from getting near the presidency, and ensure his continued control of the next government, Aquino has cast his eyes on Sen. Grace Poe as his possible savior, even though Poe is not merely unqualified, but rather expressly disqualified under the Constitution, from running for president, or vice president, or even senator. She is not a natural-born Filipino citizen, which is the first absolute requirement of any person seeking the office.
The letter and spirit of the Constitution are clear, and the facts about her personal history are clear. There is no way one could read the law and the facts any differently. The constitutional provision itself is written in the negative—“No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines…” Every judge or law professor will tell us the gravity and import of this negative form. But Aquino seems to believe that he could do whatever he wants, and there is nothing and no one to stop him. Ms. Poe herself does not have the humility or the courage to examine herself, and admit her unfitness. Not because she may have any addictions related to smoking, drinking, lying, or sex, but simply because the highest law of the land forbids it.
She lied about her citizenship when she accepted her position as Chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board while she was still an American citizen; she lied about her citizenship and her residence in the Philippines when she ran for the Senate in 2013. Now she seems to believe her previous lying would save her from finally telling the truth, just because an irresponsible president, business cronies and alien interlopers would like to use her to save their pecuniary and political interests. How much lying can we put up with?
Sucked into this game of political exploitation, mendacity and deceit, many of our people have sunk into the deepest mire of gullibility and ignorance, and have stopped asking the right questions about their country and themselves. They want elections all right, but they do not want to be ignored or laughed at by asking whether the elections are going to be clean and honest. Nor whether those being mentioned by the fraudsters as the people’s “popular choices”are fit for the office they seek.
For five long years, now going on six, we have borne the pain and anguish from PNoy’s insane rule and our own stupid mistakes. Now that we have the opportunity to correct the past, shall we finally stand on our own or allow ourselves to be bullied once more by the predatory and exploitative elite? The moment of truth has come, but we should be eager to do what we can to save ourselves, and give God a damn good reason to help us out of this pit.