The deception intensifies
Sen. Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares and her camp are now busy trying to make the nation believe that the former American citizen of no known biological parentage is leading the Philippine presidential race, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has yet to rule clearly and competently whether or not she has the “right to run” for the highest office. The Constitution requires, among other things, that a candidate be a natural-born citizen and a resident of the country for at least 10 years immediately preceding the election. She is neither. But natural-born citizen or not, 10-year resident or not, Poe and her backers are prepared to make her the first American woman President outside the United States.
Using the conscript media and the propaganda fraudsters, her corporate backers have come up with junk surveys claiming 66-percent public support for the SC “majority ruling” that “qualifies” her as a candidate, without a majority vote in support of her citizenship and residency claims. The alleged survey was taken on March 8 to 11, before anyone had a chance to read a single page of the more than 650 pages of materials from the justices, released only on March 11.
More false surveys
Her campaigners have intensified the use of misleading propaganda surveys to create the impression that she is the preferred choice of many voters, who do not care about national sovereignty or national honor, or whether she is fowl or beast. The deepest pockets behind her presidential run do not seem to mind that everything about her is now built on a lie, so there is nothing she and they will not do to wrest control or power. That makes them the most dangerous persons in the world.
So far they seem to be having their way. But they could miscalculate the limits of what the voters would allow, and society could blow up just when they thought the people’s sense of outrage is gone. I pray this fear is exaggerated, and the analysis completely mistaken, but as I travel around the country, I hear the same thing from others.
What happened, so far
For background, the Commission on Elections has disqualified Mrs. Llamanzares as a candidate and cancelled her Certificate of Candidacy, for making false representations about her citizenship and residency. A decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Perez says the Comelec has no authority to pass upon the constitutional qualifications of presidential candidates. Therefore, the Comelec committed a “grave abuse of discretion” when it ruled favorably on the petitions of Atty. Estrella Elamparo, former Senator Francisco Tatad, Prof. Antonio Contreras and Dean of Law Amado Valdez against Mary Grace.
The Perez ponencia has shocked and scandalized the nation. Contrary to what it says, the Court has long and repeatedly upheld the Comelec’s jurisdiction in various disqualification cases, some of them through the ponencia of the same Justice Perez. In fact, the Comelec summarily disqualified some 130 or so “nuisance” presidential candidates at the start of the campaign, without a word of reproach from the High Court. None of the 130 or so had citizenship or residency problems; their only problem was that they did not have the oligarchic backing of Mrs. Llamanzares.
No majority vote
The Perez ponencia declares Mrs. Llamanzares “qualified” to run for President, despite the lack of a Court majority supporting her citizenship and residency claims. Eight votes are needed to constitute a majority of the 15 justices. This number was not attained, as revealed by Senior Associate Antonio Carpio in his dissent. Seven Justices voted to support the claim that she is natural-born, not according to the Constitution, but solely by statistical probability, disputable presumption, and the equal protection of the law and social justice interpretation. Five rejected the claim, and three did not vote. Seven supported her claim of being a qualified resident; six rejected it; and two did not vote.
The real majority
Since an abstention is not a recusal, it is also a vote; it is, therefore, clear that on the two core issues of citizenship and residency, the majority did not support the ponencia’s conclusion that Mrs. Llamanzares is qualified to run for President. Nine signed the same document. But of the nine, three justices — Diosdado Peralta, Francis Jardeleza and Benjamin Caguioa — agreed that the Comelec had jurisdiction, except that it failed to prove that Mrs. Llamanzares’s false representations about her citizenship and residence status were “meant to deceive.”
Six justices said the Comelec had no jurisdiction — Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Lucas Bersamin, Jose Mendoza, Marvic Leonen and Perez.
In a carefully worded Motion for Reconsideration (MR), the Commission on Elections asked the High Court last week to deliberate and vote anew on Mrs. Llamanzares’ petition for certiorari. “With due respect,” said the MR, “the Court should reexamine its majority decision, for its legal and constitutional infirmities and, more importantly, for having heightened political passions in the country that could ignite civil strife. There is no factual or legal basis for the ruling that the petitioner is a qualified candidate in the May 9, 2016 national elections. There is, therefore, a need for the court to redeliberate and revote on the issue of citizenship to avoid the dire repercussions that the majority decision has brought in its wake.”
Section 2, Rule 12 of the SC Internal Rules of Procedure provides that the Court shall deliberate anew whenever it fails to attain the necessary majority vote. “Such action of redeliberating and revoting will serve as a shining example to the Bar and Bench that in deciding a case, especially one involving the fundamental law, nothing but the Constitution, law and jurisprudence should be the overriding factors and considerations,” the Comelec said.
Our own MR
Preceding the Comelec action was that of the four original petitioners Elamparo, Tatad, Contreras and Valdez, assisted by my legal counsel Manuelito Luna. In our MR, we asked the Court to reverse the Perez ponencia and save the election from being thoroughly debased by the participation of a “true nuisance candidate.”
We said that the Court erred in declaring Mrs. Llamanzares a “qualified candidate;” in declaring that the Comelec had no jurisdiction; in declaring that Mrs. Llamanzares is a natural-born citizen by statistical probability, presumption, and under the equal protection of the law and social justice clause; in ruling that foundlings are citizens under the 1935 Constitution; in ruling that foundlings are natural-born citizens under international law; in declaring that the “reacquisition” of citizenship under Republic Act 9225 vested natural-born status upon Mrs. Llamanzares; in holding that she complied with the 10-year residence requirement; and in declaring that her false representation about her citizenship and residency did not intend to mislead.
The IBP speaks up
Aside from one former chief justice who has been speaking for Mrs. Llamanzares from the very beginning, not a single legal luminary has spoken in defense of the widely attacked Perez ponencia. In an unprecedented act, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, which normally supports even the most controversial decisions of the Court, declared in a formal statement that the Court has failed to make a valid ruling on the Comelec decision against Mrs. Llamanzares.
This means that if the SC ruling is not reversed, and Mrs. Llamanzares gets elected in any kind of election, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal will have to decide her case in a quo warranto petition. But the PET would be made up of the same justices, some of whom did not have the courage to defend the Constitution. The farce would continue, wouldn’t it? One could imagine Chief Justice Sereno proclaiming, “the people have spoken,” despite the long established jurisprudence which holds that the people’s votes do not and can never qualify anyone for any office for which he is not constitutionally eligible from the very beginning.
Real unrest could explode, if it had not yet exploded by then.
So high are the passions unleashed by the Perez ponencia that a lawyer in his 80s, who has spent the better part of his professional life in the ministry of public opinion, has vowed to return his professional license to the Supreme Court should it fail to correct its patently diseased decision. A much younger reader has threatened to revive Bartolome Cabangbang’s long discredited “Philippine US-Statehood Movement” if Mrs. Llamanzares is not prevented from running.
Nor is this the only thing that disturbs patriots and plain citizens. Some observers have noticed that Mrs. Llamanzares has not been particularly shy in advertising herself as the candidate of a well known politically connected conglomerate. During the presidential debate in Cebu, while Mayor Rodrigo Duterte spoke of “leadership,” Vice President Jejomar C. Binay spoke of “experience,” and Mar Roxas promised more of B. S. Aquino 3rd’s failed “daang matuwid” (straight path), Mrs. Llamanzares promised to build more prisons and make one retired Marine Colonel — Ariel Querubin — the “crime czar” of her hypothetical government.
Blowing RSA’s cover
Querubin is a bemedalled Marine colonel, who had figured in some attempts to unseat then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and was detained. While under detention, he ran for the Senate in 2010. Querubin now works as the internal security consultant to San Miguel Corporation’s Ramon S. Ang (RSA), whom my Times colleague,Yen Makabenta, has identified as Mrs. Llamanzares’s principal funder. He is also said to be her husband’s current employer.
Reader Francis Paolo Tioplanco is particularly concerned about the legal and ethical implications of this “candidate’s” ties with SMC or RSA, which could run afoul of the Omnibus Election Code. Section 95 of the OEC enumerates the various entities that cannot contribute to a candidate or a political party, and makes receiving money from these sources a ground for disqualifying a candidate.
Tioplanco points out that San Miguel (referred to as “Ang Miguel” in some circles) controls, or is, otherwise, affiliated with companies that are prohibited by law from making political contributions to candidates or political parties, namely, Bank of Commerce, Petron Corporation, SMC Global Power Holdings (administers Sual, San Roque, and Iligan power plants among others), San Miguel Holdings Corp. (TPLEX, Skyway Stage 3, NAIAEX, etc.)
Mrs. Llamanzares has admitted using Mr. Ang’s or SMC’s private planes on her sorties, but neither party has revealed the exact extent of financial contributions she has received from this particular donor. Unlike in the US, where immediate public disclosure is required for any contribution in excess of $200, all contributions in the Philippines are reported only after the elections. There is no requirement for contributions to be audited by a reputable firm, nor to be published in a newspaper of general circulation.
The general impression is that no candidate or political party ever files an honest report of contributions and expenditures, and that it takes an unusually unlucky pol like the last governor-elect of Laguna, E. R. Ejercito, to be found guilty of overspending.
In promising to create a non-existent job for RSA’s internal security consultant, should she prevail against the Constitution, Mary Grace, who is supposed to be “the fresh face of the presidential race,” showed too much eagerness to play “patronage politics,” Tioplanco complains. Well, this is not just patronage politics, sir.
This shows, rather, the real rules of serfdom. She simply wants to assure her backers that she is ready and willing to be owned by people who, because of their money, have come to believe they can own everyone and everything.