The local Catholic Church has begun praying at Holy Mass that candidates in the May 9 elections would present programs of government instead of mere personal propaganda that entertains rather than educates. This comes several days after Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, issued a set of guidelines to Filipino voters, which appealed to the Commission on Elections to diligently implement all the security measures mandated by the Automated Election Law.
There is a point to the Church “prayer of the faithful,” but I believe there is need to give a higher emphasis to Archbishop Villegas’s call for ensuring the sanctity of the ballot and the credibility of the elections. This is the first thing we should all pray for. We need to pray that should we ever end up merely repeating our 2010 and 2013 electoral experience, honest, God-fearing and patriotic Filipinos should not simply take it sitting down. We should resist it with all our power.
The second prayer, I believe, should be that only constitutionally eligible candidates be allowed to run in the elections. There is a very serious effort to undermine the principle that candidates for high office should first meet the qualifications under the Constitution before they can ask to be voted upon by the people. We should expose and reject the attempt of dark and malignant forces to impose upon us a bogus presidential candidate, who has no right to run under the Constitution.
The third prayer, I believe, should be that the voters would have no false illusions about the candidates, and should see for themselves if they are at least men and women of good moral character, patriotism and competence.
Then we can talk about political and economic platforms. But we must first understand that a political platform is not a mere statement which every voter would like to hear. It is a statement of what a political party or candidate believes in, and by means of which that party or candidate intends to run the government, if elected. Because it takes a clear position on the basic issues, it will be supported by some, and opposed by others; it cannot be everything to every man.
Let us examine these issues.
No sign on the horizon
Between May 13, 2013 and May 9 this year, the Comelec and related government agencies had enough time to make sure the next election would be free of the infirmities of the last two elections. Unfortunately, they simply did nothing. In 2010 and 2013, the Venezuelan firm Smartmatic, with its precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine, conducted the election in collaboration with the Comelec, after illegally divesting the PCOS of all its security and security features and safety mechanisms.
Since the Comelec alone is constitutionally mandated to conduct elections, Smartmatic’s participation rendered the validity of the elections questionable. And because the PCOS machine was deprived of all its security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms, the results were rendered unacceptable. This statement is validated by empirical evidence collated by former Biliran congressman Glenn Chong, a CPA-lawyer, who has made the same available to the public, including certain dioceses in the Philippines.
De facto president
In 2010, the principal beneficiary was President B. S. Aquino 3rd. He obtained a plurality of five million votes over his closest rival, former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, after threatening to stage a “people power” uprising if he did not get his pre-determined five million vote-margin. Aquino succeeded in intimidating the outgoing president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, into cooperating with his political operators. Thus, he got his five million vote-margin, regardless of what his actual votes were. This prompted some bishops associated with the National Transformation Council to call Aquino a “de facto president.”
Grace Poe’s 20 million votes
In 2013, the PCOS operation fell under Aquino’s direct control. The principal beneficiaries were his senatorial candidates, led by Grace Poe Llamanzares, who won in almost every precinct all over the country by the statistically improbable ratio of 60-30-10 in their favor, even in established opposition bailiwicks where Llamanzares and the rest were hardly known. Not even the crooked propaganda pollsters had expected Mrs. Llamananzares to top the election; but she quickly posted 20 million votes from the first few thousand precincts whose total number of registered voters could not possibly explain that number. This so alarmed Aquino’s own political operators that they had to quickly bring down the figure to 16 million. They restored it to 20 million at the end of the counting.
Throughout the whole year, a community of dedicated scholars, computer scientists and engineers associated with Automated Election Systems (AES) Watch and Tanggulang Demokrasya (Tandem) tried to persuade the Comelec to discard Smartmatic and its PCOS machine in favor of an indigenous alternative system that is cheaper, more transparent and more dependable. Meanwhile, a well-known auditing firm in London, in a report to the House of Commons, revealed that Smartmatic (Philippines) is a wholly-owned foreign subsidiary that has no legal right to do business in the Philippines. But this report had no effect on Smartmatic’s standing before the Comelec.
Lord Malloch Brown
For a while, the Comelec tried to humor the proponents of an alternative voting system. But in the end, it locked them out in favor of Smartmatic, after its new international chairman Lord Mark Malloch Brown, a former political consultant of the late Corazon Aquino in 1986 and recently a close associate of the billionaire speculator George Soros who has figured in destabilizing certain governments during the “color revolutions,” had a secret meeting with Aquino in Malacañang last June.
For its part, the Ombudsman has exerted no effort to act on the various complaints that have been filed before it against former Comelec officials involved in sabotaging the 2010 and 2013 elections.
If elections were held today, Smartmatic would still be in control, using the same PCOS machine under a different name, without the security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms required by law to be part of the system. It would BE another farcical election.
Archbishop Villegas weighs in
The call for the restoration of these features and mechanisms has so intensified that it has caused the CBCP president to weigh in. But how the Comelec will respond remains to be seen. Since the Archbishop’s message, not being a full-fledged CBPC document, is not likely to be read in the churches, the CBCP would do well to compose an “Oratio Imperata” (Obligatory Prayer) to be read in all the churches, on the need to ensure clean, honest, transparent and credible elections.
Ineligible presidential candidate
For the better part of the second half of last year, I tried to show, almost single-handedly, that Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares was not qualified to seek the Presidency on constitutional grounds. She is not a natural-born Filipino and has not resided in the country for at least ten years before the May 9, 2016 elections. Therefore, she is not eligible for the office. So many others have since taken the same position, and the Comelec en banc has affirmed the ruling of the First and Second Divisions disqualifying her as a presidential candidate, and cancelling her Certificate of Candidacy.
However, the Comelec ruling, which was promulgated two days before Christmas, has been raised before the Supreme Court in a petition for certiorari, and the Chief Justice, acting while the Court is on recess, issued a provisional “Temporary Restraining Order” on its implementation. This is subject to confirmation by the Court en banc when it resumes on Jan. 10.
I did not want to entertain stray reports that a Cabinet official was allegedly involved in securing the provisional TRO from the Chief Justice through one “highly vulnerable” associate justice. But the situation has gotten “curiouser and curiouser” after Malacañang disowned any official intervention even without anyone publicly suggesting it. So what is Malacanang up to?
This has apparently emboldened Mrs. Llamanzares to believe that she could remain a candidate, despite the fact that she knows she is not constitutionally eligible for the office, and that seven of seven Comelec commissioners (in the Comelec en banc), and three out of three Supreme Court justices (in the Senate Electoral Tribunal) have agreed she is not a natural-born citizen. What could be the source of this perverse show of confidence?
Although the Supreme Court has the power of judicial review over the Comelec and SET decisions on Mrs. Llamanzares, it can only set aside a clearly erroneous ruling, but it will have to affirm a clearly proven one. The five-to-four SET decision sets aside the Constitution in favor of political considerations: it is clearly erroneous and must be reversed. The Comelec ruling, on the other hand, is based on the Constitution and the facts of the case: it is clearly proven, and must be affirmed and upheld.
Someone who apparently can no longer take Mrs. Llamanzares’s insistence that she be allowed to run, despite her not being a natural-born citizen and her failing to meet the 10-year residency requirement prior to election day, has called to point out that, contrary to what I and the seven Comelec commissioners and the three SC Justices at the SET maintain, Mrs. Llamanzares is, “in fact, natural-born–a natural-born LIAR par excellence!” This language goes far beyond the norm of this column, but it is a point of view that demands to be heard. Indeed, Mrs. Llamanzares has lied too much under oath.
Good moral character
When I was still in the Cabinet and in the Senate, jobseekers used to come to me asking for “recommendations.” I could not turn down these requests, so I made it a rule that where the jobseeker did not have sufficient credentials, I made sure that I could at least say, I knew the person to be of “good moral character.” Can we at least say the same of all those running for president, vice president, and the Senate? I’m afraid we can’t.
Program of government
In a functioning presidential system, a presidential candidate normally represents a party, which is known by its program of government. He does not have to invent his own. But we don’t have real political parties, so we don’t have well-grounded political platforms, either. Candidates try to invent their own. They issue bold statements in response to specific situations and call it a platform. Even vice-presidential and senatorial candidates who will not run the government if they win, are asked to present their own programs of government.
So they end up saying the same things. They all want to do better than Mussolini in making the trains run on time, and better than the German Fuhrer in spurring an “economic miracle.” Except that, they will not say how they intend to do so. But nobody seems to see the most important things that should concern the nation’s leader and everyone else–namely, that we have lost our sovereignty as a nation, that all our institutions have been weakened, that society has lost a higher vision of itself, that the country, in the concrete, has become a center of money-laundering, narcotics trade, human trafficking and other transnational crimes, that the multi-faceted insurgency has grown without much opposition from Malacañang, and that through all these, many of our people still demand to be entertained rather than governed well, and have replaced the search for the good, the true and the beautiful with the search for the “lesser evil.”