Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has promised to expedite the resolution of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas’s five-year-old electoral protest against Vice President Jejomar C. Binay before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, i.e. the Supreme Court en banc. This has caught many, mostly non-lawyers, by surprise. We had thought all along that Roxas had given up his electoral protest when he accepted a position in the Aquino Cabinet, just as Miriam Defensor Santiago gave up her 1992 electoral protest against the election of President Fidel V. Ramos when she ran and won in the succeeding election for the Senate. It can be argued that if Roxas had been a Cabinet member when he ran for Vice President, the law would have required him to resign upon filing his certificate of candidacy; for that reason, he cannot and should not be sitting in the Cabinet now, while sill technically “running” for Vice-President, which is the equivalent of his electoral protest.
I am not quoting any law here, simply appealing to logic, and it is for the High Court to decide. Under the Constitution, “the Supreme Court sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President, and may promulgate its rules for the purpose.” The Court should have disposed of this protest years ago, but since it has failed to do so, it should terminate it now, before the disputed six-year term expires. We have seen too many electoral protests, involving members of Congress and other officials, which were resolved, hilariously, only on the last day of the disputed term of office, and the winning protestant did not even have a single day to sit.
In good weather, the PET proceedings could be terminated perhaps in just a couple of months. Independent of the Court’s just motive, this is apparently what Malacañang wants. More than that Malacañang wants to unseat Binay, if it can, and Roxas’ propagandists are already trumpeting in the grapevine that the PET will do to Binay what the unrelenting accusations against him and his family by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and company before the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee and in the conscript media had failed to do— namely, drive him out of the presidential race and force him to go back to fight for the mayorship of Makati. There’s no denying that, but it’s just the beginning of a far graver scandal.
With Binay out, Roxas will be in. If Mar’s extraordinary luck holds, President B.S. Aquino 3rd could take a leave of absence until the end of his term, or actually resign and leave Roxas fully in charge. This would put Roxas in exactly the same position which the framers of the 1987 Constitution had wanted to avoid when they decided that no sitting president should be allowed to run again, for he would have the unfair advantage of using the powers and resources of his office to win a new mandate.
With a war chest that is said to run close to a trillion pesos, mainly from the regime’s corrupt dealings since 2010, and the present illegal lump sums in the 2015 General Appropriations Act amounting to P424,144,763 under the care of nine major departments and two agencies, and with full command and control of the PCOS, or its new version—the OMR, or Optical Mark Reader, naughtily translated by some into “Operation Mar Roxas,”— under Smartmatic, Roxas would be free to write his own ticket.
At the wake of a former classmate and friend, the writer-movie director Leonardo (Nardz) Belen, at the Loyola Chapel in Quezon City on Sunday, I met the Vice President, and he seemed unfazed by the relentless battering he’s getting from the attack dogs at the Senate and the Roxas camp. He seems confident of holding his own in the propaganda ratings game through sheer visibility at the hustings and in almost every wake. His recent appearance before businessmen at the Wallace Business Forum in Makati has earned him some mixed reviews for his statement in support of mining (a controversial issue), and on the exclusion of politicians from his Cabinet, should he win. I asked his senator-daughter Nancy how that anti-politician jibe ever crept into his speech; it was like saying the Binays would be opening a fine dining restaurant without employing a chef or anyone who knew how to cook. She said somebody had inserted it into the VP’s draft, but that he specifically discarded it when he read it, except that some unthinking functionary released the discarded text as though it had been read.
These problems are infinitesimal compared to what could happen should Roxas succeed in unseating him as Vice President. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City apparently saw this coming when he finally announced on Monday that he is not running for president, despite the prodigious propaganda effort by native supporters to project him as the guy who will let those who fail to observe the anti-smoking law eat their cigarette butts in his presence.
The election will be a complete farce, there will be no real contest at all. If Roxas picks up Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano as his vice presidential candidate, as reported in the conscript press, then it would further guarantee the end of all fairness and decency in our national politics. Alan Peter is likely to see to it.
Alan Peter first ran for the Senate in 2007 to join his sister Pia Cayetano, who was already sitting there, in utter disregard of the constitutional prohibition on political dynasties, just because it lacks an enabling law, even though the public thoroughly disdains it. The siblings have since stayed on with no apparent remorse. He capitalized on the “Hello, Garci” controversy against then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which exploded in the headlines in 2005 after I exposed it, even though his sister Pia also benefited from it.
A lawyer-friend of mine remembers until now Pia’s lachrymose words after the 2004 election: she thanked everyone for their support, and consoled them for their loss, saying that even if they had lost the election, they had gained so much experience which would be useful to them in the future. A few days after conceding her loss, Pia surprisingly “won.” It was an electoral “miracle.” Of course, many winners lost in that election.
At the Corona impeachment trial, Alan Peter tried to use his legal and telegenic skills to score points win his TV audience. But he was eventually exposed as one of the 19 senator-judges who had each received P50 million or more from the constitutionally outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to convict former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona at his Senate impeachment trial. Alan Peter did not get as much as Senate President Frank Drilon’s P100 million or Sen. Francis Escudero’s P98 million, but he got enough to confirm his yet unconfirmed reputation.
Since then he has not hesitated to use the Senate blue ribbon committee to throw all sorts of accusations against Vice President Binay and his family in a bogus inquiry “in aid of legislation,” even without first having himself investigated and cleared of the Senate bribery scandal. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules—this is the most important Senate committee and his chairmanship makes him the Senate majority floor leader—he ought to be the first one to know that what Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Trillanes were doing to the Blue Ribbon committee or subcommittee was without precedent in the abuse of parliamentary procedure. His foremost duty is to preserve, defend and enhance the integrity of the institution, not join those who seek to bring it down.
It was clearly a mistake to give the man his present office. Would the LP now like to raise him to a higher position?
Many are genuinely relieved that Duterte has finally counted himself out of the race. For in the space of so short a time Duterte managed to create, fairly or unfairly, the image of a gangster-politician who will provide instant extra-legal cures to all our maladies. But despite all this, he alone in his “15 minutes of fame,” had the courage to talk of a constitutional shift to federalism and parliamentary government, as though this was within the power of the next president to implement. He alone had the spunk to announce that if elected president, he would declare a “revolutionary government.” That declaration was laughable at best, because nobody participates in and wins an election in order to proclaim a revolutionary government; one wages a revolution and wins in order to proclaim a revolutionary government.
But behind the absurdity of that declaration lies a fundamental truth, one which Duterte alone among our politicians, outside of the National Transformation Council, has dared to articulate, namely that the elections will not solve or change anything, and that a real revolution is what we need. This is Duterte’s real contribution to our present politics. This is his accidental legacy.
Thus, since Roxas cannot possibly represent the call for change, the candidate we must propose and support against him need not be a particular person but rather an idea or a movement that goes by the name of revolutionary or systems change. Since we cannot stop the electoral farce, we should nominate and support this particular candidate, so that at the end of the bogus electoral process, the Filipino people, in whom sovereignty resides and from whom all government authority emanates, not just the NTC or any group, should be able to proclaim a revolutionary government.
TODAY IN PH HISTORY. In Abra and in various parts of the country, the Paredes family, which has for generations produced statesmen, patriots, intellectuals, writers and artists of note, is celebrating today the 131st birth anniversary of Sen. Quintin Paredes, one of the grand old men of Philippine politics. Not all the achievements of this giant from Abra have been documented. But a book written by his own daughter, Justice Lourdes Paredes-San Diego, in 1985 tries to fill the void, and a more recent book, “Escape to Manila,” by Frank Ephraim, with a foreword by the distinguished journalist Stanley Karnow, reveals for the first time Paredes’ key role in facilitating the migration to the Philippines of German Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany during the war. Credit for this has long been given to President Quezon alone, but Paredes turns out to be a major but unacknowledged actor.