Wherever I have gone lately, I have been buffeted with the most extraordinary questions. So many people just want to talk about Smartmatic, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares’ stateless status and her reputedly “unstoppable” presidential ambition. Many have asked me why after provoking the most passionate discussion of the issues, I continue to show so much disdain and distrust for the 2016 presidential election.
Why am I saying that the next election could sink rather than save us, and that what we need is a revolution instead? Have I developed a closed mind on the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) voting machine from the Venezuelan firm Smartmatic, and on the stateless status of Mrs. Llamanzares? Why do I want to infect the rest of the nation with my extreme political prejudices? National election, rather than boxing or basketball, is our national sports, says my friend and coconut farmer spokesman Charles Avila; why then don’t we just leave our people to enjoy the biggest fiesta of their lives?
We just can’t do it anymore.
In 2010 and 2013, Smartmatic conducted our national elections on behalf of the Comelec, which has the exclusive constitutional authority to conduct elections. This was a grave violation of our nation’s sovereignty and our Constitution, and rendered the entire election illegitimate and invalid. The PCOS machine was illegally divested of all its security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms, rendering the results questionable at best.
Neither the political parties nor the public protested. It took a little while before Automated Election System (AES) Watch, Tanggulang Demokrasya (Tandem), the National Computer Society, and the National Transformation Council, among others, pointed out that we did not have real elections in 2010 and 2013, and that those who were “elected” in those elections were but de facto rather than de jure officials.
The whole process was additionally flawed. In 2010, US Ambassador Harry Thomas and a number of Western ambassadors preempted the process by formally recognizing B. S. Aquino 3rd as president-elect before Congress could complete its official canvassing of the votes and declare him “elected.” In 2013, the PCOS machines were programmed to produce a 60-30-10 across-the-board result in favor of PNoy’s senatorial candidates everywhere, including those places where the candidates were not at all known to the voters.
With the votes from 48 percent of the voting centers counted, the unheralded topnotcher, Grace Poe Llamanzares, posted 20 million votes at the Comelec website. Several days later, this figure was scaled down, without any explanation, to 16 million votes. When the votes from the remaining 52 percent of the voting centers were counted, she got an additional 186,000. Upon completion of the count, her votes went up finally to over 20 million. Not a few voters were shocked to find out that they had voted for Mrs. Llamanzares without their knowledge.
Criminal complaints were filed before the Ombudsman against then Comelec Chairman Jose Melo and other officials involved in the rigging of the 2010 elections. But until now, the Ombudsman has not acted on these complaints. The office has acted with far greater dispatch on partisan complaints in pursuit of selective justice against non-believers in PNoy’s administration.
Now, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista has signed two contracts with Smartmatic for the lease of 93,977 PCOS units, (now renamed Optical Mark Reader (OMR) to simulate a change in the system), despite the intense clamor against the firm’s involvement in the 2016 elections. The lease is worth P8.4 billion.
Several petitions are pending before the Supreme Court to disqualify Smartmatic from any contract with the Comelec, following a Smartmatic International audit report to the British House of Commons showing that Smartmatic-TIM (Philippines) is a wholly-owned foreign subsidiary, instead of a 60/40 Philippine corporation as claimed, with no legal authority to do business in the Philippines.
This means only the Supreme Court can still stop the contracts. But unless this happens, it would mean discarding the 81,896 PCOS machines which the Comelec had used in the last two elections, and purchased at a total cost of P9.3 billion, exclusive of warehousing. It also means shutting out any alternative indigenous system such as the TAPAT model, which was successfully demonstrated by Filipino engineers before Baustista and company earlier.
The original plan was to refurbish and upgrade the 81,896 PCOS units by installing the security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms which had been illegally removed from them earlier. This would have cost the Comelec not more than a couple of billion of pesos, as against the P8.4 billion exclusive of other “hidden” costs. Like the PCOS machines in 2010 and 2013, the new OMRs will be devoid of any security and safety measures and accuracy mechanisms, and therefore guaranteed to perform according to the desire and design of their controllers.
Election analysts and observers generally presume that after PNoy’s endorsement of former DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas as the Liberal Party standard bearer, the latter’s camp will be in complete command and control of the “hocus PCOS” operation. This guarantees a repeat of the 2010 and 2013 “elections” with Roxas as the inevitable “winner.”
But a highly informed source who claims to have intimate knowledge of the planning being done inside the Grace Poe Llamanzares camp points out that there is a far more insidious threat coming from that camp, with the involvement of some Cabinet members, who do not wish to be identified with Roxas. With all the money that has come in from the corporate elite, the Llamanzares camp plans to hijack the PCOS operation from Roxas, and rewrite the entire script for 2016.
Unless the Senate Electoral Tribunal unseats Llamanzares from the Senate for not being a natural-born citizen before the October deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy, she will declare her candidacy for President despite the fact that she is not even legally a Filipino at this stage, and therefore not qualified to run for any office. Banking on the financial backing of the corporate elite and her adoptive uncle’s surveys, which have put her ahead of other wannabes, she will threaten the nation with popular revolt, if her candidacy was not recognized and her “votes” were not counted.
It is a poor rehash of PNoy’s campaign threat in 2010, when he threatened to stage “people’s power” if he did not lead his closest presidential rival by five million votes. PNoy got what he wanted when the outgoing regime panicked and capitulated. Now, some of Llamanzares’s foreign and local advisers believe the same recipe could be replicated, in favor of the constitutionally disqualified candidate.
Thus, when they talk of Llamanzares, Senator Serge Osmena 3rd shows no awareness that she needs to prove her citizenship first to stay in the Senate, while her partner Chiz Escudero prefers to dismiss the quo warranto suit against her before the SET as “pure harassment.” Llamanzares has obviously a lot of supporters in the media, such that when they write news stories about her desire to run for president, there is never any mention of the fact that her constitutional disqualification for the job has been repeatedly discussed in the opinion pages.
The basic facts are as follows: Mrs. Llamanzares was stateless at birth, being a foundling. She became a Filipino citizen through some illegal process that misrepresented her as the natural daughter of Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces, her surrogate parents. There was talk of adoption, but there is no proof that she was legally adopted.
She lost her Filipino citizenship when she became an American citizen in 2001. She returned to the Philippines after the death of FPJ in 2004, and decided to apply for the reacquisition of Filipino citizenship in 2006 under RA 9225, otherwise known as the Dual Citizenship Law. This allows former natural born Filipinos who had become citizens of a foreign country after the law took effect in 2003 to reacquire their citizenship.
But Mrs. Llamanzares was never a natural-born Filipino, and she became an American citizen before RA 9225 was enacted. By making serious misrepresentations about her personal circumstances, she was able to acquire a Philippine citizenship. But being the result of a misrepresentation, it is therefore void ab initio. Having lost her US citizenship in 2012, and not being a Filipino now, she is simply stateless.
The scheme is for her to run for president despite her patent disqualification. If and when a disqualification suit is filed against her, her camp will exert every effort “to dribble the ball” and prevent the court from acting on the suit before the election. Her camp expects her to dominate the polls through special operations. And with the media behind her, they hope to mount “people power” should any group insist on invoking the Constitution.
The Constitution would then be perverted by someone who has sought the presidency, avowedly in order to “preserve and defend the Constitution.”
But why should the people wait for anything like this to happen? If Mrs. Llamanzares, despite her patent constitutional disqualification, should insist on running with the support of the corporate elite and various other actors, we the people should stop her in our own name, and in the name of the Constitution.