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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.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reports buzz with -6 rating for P-Noy and Palace in panic mode. Voting on DAP issue perceived very close. Would P-Noy get to retain DAP as X’mas gift? SC paves way for Justice and HRET Chair Presbitero Velasco’s son to occupy Rep. Gina Reyes’ lone Marinduque seat---by disqualifying her as alleged US citizen. House members alarmed at possible loss of independence.


President BenignoAquino III, SC Justice Presbitero Velasco &
Rep. Regina Ongsiako Reyes
There’s a reliable report that in a recent survey conducted nationwide in the aftermath of the PDAF and DAP controversies and the mishandling of government’s response to super-typhoon Yolanda, President Aquino garnered a rating of negative 6. This item’s not being reported in media, but reliable reports from Malacanang indicate that the presidential staff is panicking about the plunge of his survey rating and they’re now burning the midnight candle to see how further erosion could be stemmed.

In fact talk is rife in media about emergency rule being contemplated by some Palace bright boys, that would give P-Noy extraordinary powers to deal with the serious image crisis---and a perfect excuse to extend P-Noy's term beyond his six years!
The recent resignation of Presidential spokesperson Ricky Carandang is perceived as part of the Palace’s new image-building, crisis-management efforts---to pull away from gross perceptions of its ineptitude and incompetence. So too the appointment of former Sen. Ping Lacson as Rehab Czar, except that unfortunately, it only stirred memories of his murky past---the last thing the Palace would want to resurrect.

so XXX

There has been pressure from various quarters that surveys be conducted now on how the Palace is faring---to get the true pulse of the people in the light of P-Noy’s sharp decline in ratings. But even without official confirmation of results, a negative 6 rating for P-Noy is not remote as there’s palpable and widespread discontent with the administration in all levels of society.

In fact, there are tell-tale signals of feigning official indifference---which could actually be a cover-up for panic within. For instance, recently readers might have noted a small item buried in the inside page of a national newspaper, quoting P-Noy as saying he does not pay attention to survey ratings.  I found this utterance a far cry from the way he would be so sensitive to any movement upward or downward in his comparative ratings in earlier months.

For sensitive readers, this could be indication of a serious negative decline that the Palace is having difficulty confronting. A negative 6?  Malacanang, kindly confirm or deny.

XXX

One crucial issue that could further plunge P-Noy's rating is the “Disbursement Acceleration Program” (DAP) pending before the Supreme Court---the second of the twin financial packages, the other being the PDAF for members of Congress that was earlier struck down by the SC. How the SC decides the DAP issue would have incredible and far-reaching significance for the nation.

In fact, the High Court is the current hot battleground for three very crucial issues: the constitutionality of DAP, whose oral arguments would be heard this Tuesday; the disqualification of Marinduque Rep. Regina Ongsiako Reyes which the SC has ruled on “with finality,” and the constitutionality of the RH law, where the two protagonists submitted their respective memorandums last month and which the SC is expected to rule on early this January. 

XXX

On the DAP, the issue is whether the many billions in lump-sums that the President has at his complete disposal---and not subject to COA audit at all---is legal or not. Judging from the stunning 14-0 vote earlier of the magistrates on the  unconstitutionality of lump-sum pork allocations of P200M for senators and P70M for House representatives, the lump-sums for the President---his presidential pork---amounting to nearly P1 trillion should also be struck out as unconstitutional, if reason and logic are to prevail.

As former SC Chief Justice Reynato Puno opined, if the lump-sum PDAF is unconstitutional, more so the DAP. And doubtless the whole nation agrees with him, except for administration partisans.

But it’s not that simple for the SC justices, for the DAP now has become the sole source of power for the President---to persuade allies (read, bribe) to vote on crucial issues or to prevent his own impeachment by the House on blatant constitutional violations. But perhaps more importantly for P-Noy, he needs this huge lump-sum pork to bolster the victory of his handpicked LP candidate in 2016, who could provide the by-then ex-President the protection he would need from possible prosecution and jailing---just like the fate of GMA.

XXX

From media accounts, SC magistrates are now being subjected to all manner of persuasions, friendly and not so friendly, including possible impeachment for some of them. Recall that after the pure hell Chief Justice Renato Corona was mercilessly subjected to in media by Palace operatives, this has become a terrifying possibility for some justices.

At the moment, SC sources put the possible vote on DAP at 9-6---nine against DAP and six for it.  Perceived as four solid votes for DAP will be those rendered by the four P-Noy appointees, including Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno who wrote a concurring dissenting opinion about the “unwarranted conclusion” of invalidating all lump-sums.

In addition, two magistrates are also likely pro-DAP---Justice Mariano del Castillo who figured in an inadvertent plagiarism case years back, and Justice Presbitero Velasco whose son could well come to claim the Marinduque legislative seat of Gina Reyes after she was disqualified due to her alleged US citizenship. Two other justices are also perceived to be very negotiable.

Thus, it could be an 8-6 final voting and P-Noy could get to keep his DAP as a sparkling Christmas gift. Citizens have to be super-vigilant. Let’s also pray that the magistrates’ integrity and the welfare of the nation would prevail.

XXX

The SC recent final decision to disqualify Marinduque Rep. Gina Reyes on the ground of her alleged failure to renounce American citizenship puts the SC and the House in a truly lamentable CONSTITUTIONAL COLLISION COURSE. Reyes has presented many evidences of her renunciation of US citizenship, including her use of a PH passport for some time now, but the SC has ignored them---thus paving the way for defeated candidate Lord Allan Velasco, son of Justice Velasco, to sit in her post.

The valid question is, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING, when it’s clear as a bell that Sec. 17, Art.  VI of the Constitution provides that, “The Senate and the House of Representatives shall each have an Electoral Tribunal which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of their respective members.”

Under this provision, authority conferred upon the Electoral Tribunal is full, clear and complete. The use of the word “sole” emphasizes the exclusivity of the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) over all contests relating to the election of House members. The circumstances confirm this in Reyes’ case.

XXX

Reyes was proclaimed winner by over 4,000 votes by the provincial board of canvassers (PBOC) of Marinduque last May 18, 2013, and sworn into office as its duly-elected representative by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte last June 5 and again, together with other elected representatives last June 30, the official opening of Congress.In fact Reyes filed two (2) bills on July 1 in the exercise of her legislative function and it was formally accepted by the House on the 4th Monday of July, when President Aquino delivered his Sona before the joint Congress.

But ignoring these facts and events with indecent haste, the COMELEC and the SC have been issuing resolutions and decisions BEYOND THE LEGAL PERIOD when Reyes’ case was still under their jurisdiction.

XXX

What’s clearly affected by the Comelec stand and now the SC disqualification of Reyes is the central fact of the case:  that  Reyes fell under the HRET once she was sworn into office by Speaker Belmonte last June 5. If there was/is a protest to be filed by Velasco, this should fall in line in the HRET. But no, the SC had to intervene and nullify Reyes’ eligibility now---and the perception is that it’s clearly because Velasco’s father is a sitting SC justice.

It’s also obvious that the Velascos don’t want to wait for the HRET decision which, admittedly, could take months and even years. The big irony is that Justice Velasco also chairs the HRET. 

But the High Court ought to be the first institution to respect strict compliance to the exclusivity of jurisdiction of HRET---as the latter is an independent CONSTITUTIONAL BODY adjunct to the House.

XXX

Media reports said Speaker Belmonte has asked his lawyers to study this case, stressing that the House could not just disregard Reyes’ wide vote margin over Velasco, and the Speaker’s official proclamation of Reyes. He also wants to ensure that HRET “is not being rendered useless” by the hasty and heavy-handed SC interference.  

In the meantime, he has asked Regina Reyes to remain at the House.

Obviously many House members are fearful that the same fate as Reyes’ may befall them, and they are urging Belmonte to take a stand on this case---to adhere to the time-honored principle of the exclusivity of HRET jurisdiction over all contests relating to the election of House MEMBERS once they're sworn in. They rightfully insist that Speaker protect and fight for the independence of the House. He has no choice, so that this brings the House in direct collision with the SC.

Again this is politics rearing its ugly head in the SC. The question is, why is this sort of thing happening? Why are our institutions being destroyed one by one?




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7 comments:

  1. has the SC gone rogue...are they the new power that decides elections that are not the purview of the courts...if the SC show its partisanship it will meet with the wrath of the filipinos and the nation...and these rogue justices should be incarcerated for abdication of their oath to impartiality.

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  2. The curse of politics has truly infected every institution of our country, which is truly sad. The SC should be the last bastion of impartial justice. Let's keep voicing our protests and apprehensions, and address ourselves to the SC magistrates to be faithful to the vows they swore to of playing the role of the blind-folded Lady Justice. Warm regards.

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