The Supreme Court verdict allowing Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares to run in the May election has cost her and her financiers a lot of treasure. It will cost the Court and the nation more by the time the reckoning is over.
In ignoring the constitutional provisions for certain qualifications for candidates for president, the Court sent the Constitution into exile, and suspended the rule of law. This will galvanize people into action.
The verdict’s impact on the presidential race could be seismic–causing major realignments, creating coalitions, perhaps effecting the withdrawal of some candidates.
Obsessed with retaining some power and influence after the elections, President BS. Aquino meddled in the Court’s voting by ordering SC justices he appointed to support Ms Poe. Money did the rest of the talking.
There’s talk that two former chief justices did the legwork for Ms. Poe’s camp in persuading and cajoling the justices to vote in Ms. Poe’s favor. She had money to burn.
A cowardly, hair-splitting decision
The score went 9 to 6 for Ms. Poe.
The majority decision, along with the concurring and dissenting opinions, has yet to be released by the high court. The ponencia still has to be written by the justice newly designated to write it — Justice Jose Perez.
In announcing the decision, court spokesman Theodore Te told the media:
“I am authorized to say that there will be four concurring opinions to the Majority Decision, and five dissenting opinions. Please note that since the Court has only authorized the release of the vote, it may not be safe to report which ground the Court ruled upon and used as basis for the vote, i.e., between citizenship and residence. Thus, it may be best to simply say, ‘the SC grants Senator Poe’s petitions, 9-6,’ allowing her to run for the presidency.”
The court was cowardly in refusing to rule declaratively on the citizenship and residency issues. This suggests that there will be a lot of hair-splitting in the justification of the ruling.
How the voting went
This is how the voting went:
Four appointees of President Aquino were among the nine who voted to allow Poe to be included in the May presidential election, namely: Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza and Benjamin Caguioa, Aquino’s latest appointee to the tribunal.
They were joined in the majority decision by senior Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez and Jose Mendoza.
The six in the minority included Senior Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo de Castro; and associate justices Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Bienvenido Reyes.
The six deserve the nation’s gratitude for squarely upholding the rule of law and the Constitution. They appear ready and willing to take a bullet for the nation, while the other nine ran to the arms of the oligarchs.
Significantly, a number of justices who were never heard from during the oral arguments on the petitions, got suddenly active during the voting.
The comparative integrity or dishonesty of the justices will be unveiled by their opinions, which will show their justifications for their vote. The rigors of reasoning and the test of legal erudition will measure them all.
The court spokesman could only promise the release of the decision in the next few days, which means nothing substantial can be written now because we don’t know yet whether the court has ruled on the citizenship and residency issues, or on only one of the two.
From my lay understanding of law and the Constitution, there’s one thing that must be said even at this point when we are still waiting for the decision and opinions.
The Court’s verdict deserves respect.
But the Constitution is supreme, paramount, and superior to any decision of the court.
The Supreme Court is only a creature created by the Constitution; it cannot trump its creator.
The public knows this, and will remember this.
Shock, dismay and anger
I share the shock and dismay of the private petitioners, who fully expected the High Court to uphold the Comelec decision to disqualify Ms. Poe.
On my part, I am greatly surprised that the Sereno court did not have the guts to shut down Ms. Poe’s scheme to lie and buy her way to the presidency. But for some new appointees, this is the same court that confidently defanged Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). I expected it to have a little more fortitude and integrity.
Certain questions press for answers.
What is the Court’s compelling argument of principle to justify its ruling?
With all his appointed justices voting for Ms. Poe, did President Aquino, therefore confirm that Grace Poe is his candidate for president? What happens now to Mar Roxas?
Will the President ride two horses in the May balloting?
Does this verdict reduce the May election into an auction of the Presidency to the one who is prepared to spend the most money? Is the Philippines about to formally become a plutocracy?
These unpleasant questions must wait until answers can be found and facts are established.
How the presidential race will change
With BS Aquino going to bed with Grace, does their pairing strengthen their respective political positions? I believe it will weaken them both.
By meddling and strong-arming the High Court, Aquino does not make himself more of a factor in the elections, but more of a curse. He has saddled himself with an awkward problem—how to announce formally his support for Grace Poe in place of Mar Roxas? He will face disobedience from his party’s ranks and his administration when he issues political and administrative orders. Disobedience is the thing that will erode and diminish his authority and political capital.
If Mar Roxas breaks away for being betrayed again by Aquino (Aquino betrayed him the first time in 2010), he could strengthen his hand by breaking free and becoming his own man. He could be fiercer as an enemy than as a friend.
With Abad and other top administration officials already working in his campaign and with much of the public financing already set, Roxas will continue to have access to the largesse of government. He has the local machinery to count on.
If Mar can change and sharpen his message, we may find a new Mar Roxas rising from the ruins. He will not talk about Daang Matuwid anymore.
Grace Poe on the other hand must brace herself for the blowback from this travesty decision of the SC. There will be public indignation. Most people will blame her for corrupting their Supreme Court.
Grace will face a sustained negative advertising campaign ahead – one that will play up all her issues, being a liar, a thief, a cheat, and a corruptor.
She will become what many feared (I was the first to say so) – a Manchurian candidate.
After recovering from the shock, the Binay and Duterte campaigns will regroup and sharpen their message and strategy.
Everyone will redouble their efforts. Only Miriam seems out of it because of her health and lack of organization.
Bongbong Marcos, after being specially targeted by Aquino and the administration, will find himself an object of courtship by several presidential candidates.
Most unexpected of all, some candidates may decide to coalesce for a united front against Grace Poe and BS Aquino.
This is not unlikely. The situation is fluid and volatile. Anything can happen.
The only thing certain now is that Aquino is a lame duck. His number is up. He will be gone from Malacañang on June 30. Then will begin the reckoning for this earthquake that he has caused in the Supreme Court and the election.