Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It was not just Noy’s Porsche that dragged him down

President Noynoy’s net satisfaction rating dropped sharply from +64 last November to +51 early this month, as per the finding of an SWS survey, and the pollster is attributing it mainly to his purchase of a slightly used Porsche (for P4.5 million and termed P-Noy’s “Le Cirque” by naughty media) months back. The survey showed that many citizens regard the purchase as being in poor taste and poor judgment in the wake of widespread poverty and many problems facing the nation.

Indeed many don’t approve of the Porsche purchase, but there’s also the media reports that surfaced soon after about P-Noy’s nocturnal habit of driving that  sports car fast on the highways to Hacienda Luisita, trailed by cars of his security. I’ve heard protests not only about the expense this nocturnal predilection involved, but also the fact that it endangered his safety
As a senator put it, the President’s life, safety and health are matters of public concern and he has no business jeopardizing these.  For instance, recently there were reports that the low-bottomed Porsche was permanently damaged when it hit a large rock on the highway and is now confined to some garage.

Folks don’t like P-Noy’s obsessive campaign vs. Merci

But I suspect that if poll surveys are taken these days, P-Noy’s net satisfaction would plummet some more. This is due to the fact that while a sizable number of citizens agree with the need to subject Ombudsman Merci Gutierrez to a trial, they also do not like the idea of their President making it his obsession to bring this issue to just about every forum.  For many, at the very least he should just let his attack dogs do the demolition job against Merci while he stays presidential and seemingly above the fray.   

But no, he doesn’t. His most recent forums were the baccalaureate ceremonies of the Ateneo University and a distinguished business group, either of which could have been the venue of a high-level policy speech, say, about his economic program in the light of crucial world developments affecting us, such as the possible shortage of oil or the tremendous economic damage to our No. 1 trading partner, Japan; but he chose mainly to campaign against Merci, reinforcing the perception of his paucity in ideas and vision. Even the Senate, whose independence he should respect and uphold, was not free from presidential interference. As one citizen grumbled, kulang na lang mag-kampanya din sa graduation ni Joshua!

Did P-Noy order Lacson to surface for his one vote?

Talking of Merci’s impending trial before the Senate that opens on May 9, no matter how much the administration would deny it, the popular belief is that Sen. Panfilo Lacson was ordered by P-Noy to abandon the life of the fugitive of  14 months and surface, in order to cast another vote against Merci. Lacson’s people had campaigned for candidate Noynoy in the recent elections and people believe they are close enough for P-Noy to order him to surface for his vote.

Will Leila de Lima make good her threat to go after Lacson 'coddlers'?

On the subject of the fugitive senator who’s being given what seems like a hero’s treatment by the media, Anti-Crime crusader Dante Jimenez is absolutely right in denouncing his  “blatant disrespect of the rule of law” in eluding the warrant of arrest issued by the Manila RTC for implication in the Dacer-Orbito double murder case. The mere fact alone that  he headed the PAOCTF when the crimes were committed and was implicated by a once-close aide makes it imperative for him to face the law and defend himself in court. Instead he chose to run; as they say in the police world, he who runs is guilty. One cannot imagine this sort of thing happening in a developed country.

 Let’s hope Secretary Leila de Lima makes good her threat to charge the senator’s “coddlers” in court, as there’s plenty of suspicion that the coddlers include a number of military and police people with plenty of assets and resources in places like Cebu, so that it was so difficult to track him down. It’s reminiscent of the long search for another fugitive from the law, Lacson’s PMA 1971 classmate and buddy, Gringo Honasan, who was also coddled by his comrades-in-arms.

Atienza’s historic protest vs. Lim---now manual

The electoral protest case filed by former Mayor Lito Atienza against Mayor Fred Lim in connection with the former’s allegation of automated fraud committed against him in the May 2010 elections got moving yesterday. It can be considered historic in that the Atienza protest is the first one to be processed by the Comelec among the many local protests filed before it in connection with the first automated elections for the country.  The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) has already begun processing electoral protests from legislative candidates, but the Atienza protest is the first in the local category.

Yesterday, the Comelec asked Atienza’s lawyer, Romy Macalintal, to identify ballot boxes from 200 precincts that they are contesting, to determine if there’s substantial basis to go on with his protest. If there is---and his camp is confident there is---ten revision committees, each headed by a chairman, will go full blast to work eight hours every workday

Advantages of experienced election lawyer as poll body Chief

 The Atienza protest case is also interesting as it comes in the wake of the  mandamus challenge that various IT professional groups, led by the Center for People’s Empowerment and Governance (CenPeg),  filed with the Supreme Court some months back. The IT professionals want the SC to force Comelec to disclose all scanned images of all ballots cast in the recent elections, as they believe this would help in the manual count of protested votes.  Former Chair Jose Melo had stonewalled this demand for manual recount, insisting that PCOS machines be used instead for the poll protests; but the professional groups deemed this insistence unacceptable and even ridiculous, as those very machines were suspected of being the tools for electoral frauds last May.

Happily, in an en banc resolution three weeks ago to be applied nationwide, the Comelec responded quickly under new Chair Sixto Brillantes. It ruled that recounts of all ballots lodged before the Comelec (such as those of candidates for city and provincial posts) and those filed by municipal mayors and other local candidates before RTC judges and by barangay candidates before municipal judges, will from hereon be  manual and exclude use of  the PCOS machines.  

Macalintal and Brillantes are kumpadres often on opposite sides

Not only is the Atienza protest case historic, but there’s also a human interest angle here. Election lawyer Brillantes was the lawyer of Mayor Lim, and in fact he filed the answer to Atienza’s protest on Lim’s behalf, but he had to give up this task when he was appointed Comelec Chair by President Aquino. Yesterday Brillantes was present at the opening conference called by the revisors for the two parties, and today, when the opening of contested ballots begins, is also expected to be on hand.  Macalintal, who’s Brillantes’ kumpadre even as they nearly always represented opposing sides, welcomed the Poll Chief’s interest in the details of the case. As Macalintal opined to this columnist, the advantage of having a seasoned election lawyer like Brillantes as Comelec Chief is that he knows the election laws and procedures, unlike his predecessors  who were limited only to theories.

This protest case against Lim bears watching in the coming weeks.

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