The Commission on Elections describes the 151-day “election period,” which began yesterday, as “the span of time during which the Comelec exercises extraordinary powers for the purpose of ensuring honest, orderly and peaceful election.” These include a gun ban, the setting up of checkpoints, particularly in so-called “hot spots,” and active police action against “private armed groups,” etc., but nothing that would make the automated voting under Smartmatic more transparent and credible.
The Comelec had three years from the May 13, 2013 election to the May 9 election this year to ensure a clean, honest, transparent and credible election. The first order of priority was to restore all the security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms, which were illegally removed from the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine in 2010 and 2013, and for the Ombudsman to prosecute all those involved in this crime. But there is no sign of any of these until now. So what “honest, orderly and peaceful election” are we talking about?
Focus on candidates
Except for a small militant group that believes the security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms of the voting machine are prejudicial to the validity of the elections, the general public appears to be more focused on the presidential candidates. Can Malacañang and the LP camp still stop Vice President Jejomar Binay’s dramatic rise in the perception of the masses? Can Sen. Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares survive the Comelec en banc ruling disqualifying her as a presidential candidate and canceling her Certificate of Candidacy for not being a natural-born Filipino and failing to meet the 10-year residency requirement prior to the May 9 election? Will Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, whose COC is under question, not be also disqualified?
President B. S. Aquino 3rd is said to be firmly committed to Roxas and will do everything to make him win. There is no perceptible plan for an honest election, but the popular impression is that because PNoy owes him, he will pull out all the stops to ensure his election. PNoy was machine-elected in 2010 after Mar, the long declared presidential wannabe, slid to the number two position, only to be beaten by former Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay. That sacrifice deserves PNoy’s most profound gratitude and the highest loyalty medal.
The Binay groundswell
But Mar’s chances of being machine-elected a la PNoy have suddenly dimmed after Binay shot back to top position despite a year of sustained vilification by the attack dogs of Malacañang. Long “undecided” and reticent community workers have since started declaring open support for the Vice President. The groundswell, among those who still believe in the elections, has been nothing short of phenomenal.
But where Binay is beginning to look unstoppable, Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares is beginning to look impossible. She insists on running for President despite her not being a natural-born citizen and lacking the 10-year residency requirement prior to the day of the May 9 election. She knows she is not eligible, but she and her financiers seem to believe that for the “right price,” they could do anything with our Constitution, laws and jurisprudence, and the fiercest consciences on the bench will approve.
Ending Grace Poe
Two actions seek to end Mrs. Llamanzares’s political career. A quo warranto petition filed by Rizalito David before the Senate Electoral Tribunal seeks to unseat her from the Senate for not being a natural-born citizen. All three Supreme Court Justices on the nine-member tribunal had voted to unseat her for that very reason, even though her five Senate colleagues had voted in her favor, without considering the Constitution. (In my last column, I inadvertently included the residency issue in the SET case; I tried to correct that error, but the correction “failed to send.” I apologize for it.)
Through his counsel Manuelito Luna, David has raised the SET ruling before the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari, alleging grave abuse of discretion, amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. This is set for oral arguments before the High Court on Jan. 19.
On the other hand, the Comelec has already disqualified Mrs. Llamanzares as a presidential candidate and canceled her CoC for not being a natural-born citizen and for failing to meet the 10-year residency requirement prior to the May 9 election. This en banc decision confirmed the rulings of the First and Second Divisions on four separate petitions, of which I am one of the petitioners. But in response to the respondent’s plea, Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno has provisionally restrained its implementation. I have asked the Court to dismiss the respondent’s petition for certiorari and dissolve the TRO so that the Comelec ruling could finally run.
Solgen vs himself
In these two cases before the High Court, both the SET and the Comelec have a right to be represented by the government’s chief legal counsel – Solicitor General Florin Hilbay. But because the decisions of the two institutions are opposed to each other, they cannot both be represented by the same lawyer. Hilbay’s wisest move would be to desist from representing either, or to represent the institution whose assailed ruling is best anchored on the Constitution, the law and jurisprudence. This means the Comelec, rather than the electoral tribunal.
Unfortunately, he chose to represent the SET, prompting the Comelec to call on two of its commissioners – Arthur D. Lim and Ma. Rowena Amelia Guanzon – to represent it at the Supreme Court proceedings. This has provoked certain unseemly speculations. Hilbay is aiming for a Supreme Court appointment, and presumably would like to please PNoy to earn his appointment. Is this compatible with taking the side of Mrs. Llamanzares, whose candidacy represents a threat to Roxas, PNoy’s own candidate? It just doesn’t wash, unless PNoy is actually committed to helping Llamanzares, or some other secret scenario has yet to unfold, or unless Hilbay’s secret instruction or intention is to make sure Llamanzares is completely out.
Whatever his motivations, Hilbay’s decision to defend a position that trashes the clear provisions of the Constitution in favor of other considerations is likely to shift our focus farther away from the real issues. Hilbay is reputedly more interested in “unplugging” the Constitution, as his book of the same title suggests; his defense rests on his thesis that foundlings are natural-born citizens, and that if they are not mentioned at all in the enumeration of “who are citizens” under the 1935 Constitution, which was in force when Mrs. Llamanzares was born in 1968, it is because those who wrote the Constitution found it no longer necessary to mention them.
This is a highly fallacious theory. The Constitution is the handiwork of the people who promulgate it, not by the delegates who worked on it; it must be read and understood as the people apprehend its letter and spirit, not as some legal advocates propose to interpret it, even when there is no need to interpret it. To propose that foundlings are natural-born citizens, when they are deliberately excluded from the enumeration of citizens under the Constitution, is to reject what is known in favor of the unknown; the objective and definitive in favor of the purely speculative. It is to turn upside down the time-worn universal legal maxim, upon which rests an inexhaustible wealth of legal discourse and judicial rulings, that in any enumeration that which is not included is excluded – inclusio unius est exclusio alterius.
It is also to render meaningless the jus sanguinis doctrine, which governs the citizenship of all natural-born Filipinos, and replace it with the jus soli doctrine, which all our Constitutions, from 1935 to 1973 to 1987, reject. By speculating on the real meaning of what is clearly stated in the Constitution, the Llamanzares defense merely aggravates the gross disrespect for the Constitution, which has grown these last few years, and which it is our duty to stem and reverse. Its implications go far beyond the Llamanzares case.
I have no reason to believe Hilbay’s theory will fly with the learned SC justices.
Father vs ‘daughter’
Neither can one see the Justices being persuaded by Mrs. Llamanzares’s own insistence that foundlings found in the Philippines of unknown parentage are natural-born Filipinos “under international law,” and that to prevent her from running because of her constitutional ineligibility is “to deprive the people of their right to choose their own leader.” The late Fernando Poe Jr., Mrs. Llamanzares’s adoptive father, was the real winner in the 2004 presidential elections, as far as we, his partymates, were concerned. But we never had the gall to say Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had deprived us of our right to choose our own leader.
The adopted daughter is certainly less modest. She seems to believe that she now speaks for “the people” and that they want her to be their leader, regardless of her constitutional infirmity. This is pure ego trip, and “the people” have nothing to do with it. By what madness does someone who is not even eligible under the Constitution claim any right to be elected as the President? The facts are undisputed, so are the constitutional provisions, laws and jurisprudence.
It is beyond dispute that under the Constitution no person shall be elected President unless he is, among other things, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding the election. And these Mrs. Llamanzares is not.
It is beyond dispute that under the Constitution, natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their citizenship. This she is not. As a foundling of unknown parentage and nationality, she must have performed an act – legal or illegal – to become a Filipino citizen (assuming she did become such) before she became an American citizen in 2001, her only known and properly documented citizenship. Such an act destroyed any claim to her being a natural-born Filipino.
It is beyond dispute that under the 1935 Constitution, which was in force when Mrs. Llamanzares was born in 1968, a child must have a Filipino father in order to become a Filipino. If the mother alone is a Filipino, the child must elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority. It is undisputed that she was born a foundling, and found in the premises of the church in Jaro, Iloilo on Sept. 3, 1968, and that her parents have remained unknown to this day.
Politics of the grave
Mrs. Llamanzares has not hesitated to disturb the sleep of the dead by digging up the graves of people long dead in Guimaras, which produces the best Philippine mangoes, in her search for the correct “DNA match” to establish her Filipino parentage. Never before in the long history of our tatterdemalion politics have we seen anything like this. So far the results have been negative. But even more negative has been the public reaction to political excursion to the grave.
Why does she insist?
Beyond what the Constitution says, what the Comelec says, and what the Court could say, Mrs. Llamanzares knows she is not eligible for the office. So why does she insist? What makes her believe that we deserve a President whose parentage we do not even know, whose nationality we are not sure about, and whose claim to patriotism, if any, is directly contradicted by her having once renounced all allegiance to the Philippines in favor of the United States, and that her husband and children have remained Americans up to this day? Aside from all the “negatives” in her résumé, what has she got to offer to us Filipinos?
Will Mayor Duterte do any better than Mrs. Llamanzares? Let’s follow tomorrow’s clarificatory hearing at the Comelec where Atty. Luna will argue Rizalito David’s petition against the political maverick.