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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.

Monday, April 25, 2016

After last night's presidential debate, the internet becomes final battle-ground for 2016 elections. ABS-CBN accused by netizens of “Davileak” in episode involving simultaneous TV teaser as Mar expounded on his objection to 'contractualization.' The three debates have shown shared understanding of basic issues haunting our country, but difference will lie in how much effort and sincerity winner would demonstrate to solve them.







After last night’s televised presidential debate---the third and final in the series, held in Dagupan City---the internet has become the final battle-ground for the 2016 elections. Every issue is hot  and today’s exploding issue in the internet is the appearance of the teaser at the bottom of the TV screen last night, that quoted LP candidate Mar Roxas as stressing how he has battled giant enterprises. Nothing wrong with what he said, but the issue was that at the precise moment when he started explaining his stand on “contractualization,” a.k.a. “endo” or “5-5-5,”  a  viewer, quick on the draw, noted that the teaser appeared simultaneously with the start of Mar’s statement.

How, netizens now ask, how was the teaser’s typist able to foretell Roxas’ statement? The prevailing belief of many netizens is that ABS-CBN, which broadcast the debate, had gotten hold of advance material from Roxas who was, in turn, fed questions ahead.  Karen Davila, co-host of last night’s debate, became a prime suspect, with the netizens quickly labeling the episode as “Davileak.” Were there other such leaks?

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This incident has raked up anew controversy over ABS-CBN’s alleged bias for the Aquinos and now for their candidate Mar Roxas---owing to the long history between the Lopezes and the Aquinos that traces to the turnover of the seized station in return for virtually nothing in the Cory presidency. This issue has been a sore point for citizens disenchanted with the current ruling regime, but it also shows how piping hot the political climate has become.

One reason is that thanks to the internet today’s netizens can freely offer their views and slug it out with those disagreeing with them, unlike in previous exercises when such opportunities were very limited.  I have covered elections since the controversial 1987 elections between Ferdinand Marcos and Cory Aquino that was marred by the walkout of Comelec computer programmers and fraudulent canvassing in the Batasan in favor of the strongman;  but I must say that the elections of 2016 promise to be quite unforgettable too.  More surprises before it's over?   Abangan.

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After listening to last night’s debate I connected easily to a quotable quote posted by netizen Elgin Castillo Lazaro from Suzy Kassem, the Egyptian-American essayist, firm director and poet (who also goes by the name of Blue Panther 777). Says Suzy Kassem: “Elections are highly-publicized puppet shows. Many puppets in the show are handled by the same owner, and regardless of their different costumes and voices, their agenda is one and the same. The man with the most puppets in the show usually wins the audience” (emphasis BOC's).  

The puppets in last night’s debates were not the candidates, but rather, these were the various positions the candidates made on various issues raised, which tended more often to be similar, if not the same. They offered the same stand on the various issues---the conflict with China, contractualization, the hideous traffic, poverty and the appalling lack of health care for the poor and marginalized, the pathetic plight of our OFWs, etc.

The commonality of issues and solutions only meant that our country’s predicament is appreciated by all the candidates---but the big difference would be in the effort they'll put into solving all these problems.  Indeed, as Suzy Kassem put it, the man with the most puppets in the show usually wins the audience's vote, but the success or failure of the winner will only be evident at the end of his or her term. Thus we’ll see more puppets belonging to other candidates in the next elections, etc---a never-ending cycle until real and lasting solutions come up.  

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The final debate was civil and polite compared to the two previous ones. Early in the debate Mar Roxas tried to pull the direction to allegations of VP Jejomar Binay’s corruption, which the latter sought to stop by citing a Tagalog saying: “Nagbibingi-bingihan or kaya naman nagbubulag-bulagan ang aking katunggali;  ilang beses ko nang hinarap ang issue na ito.” Mar wouldn’t give up the jab at his longtime rival, however, as he presented the Mar-Leni  team as “disente at marangal.”  Unfortunately, however, this team is so closely associated with the P-Noy administration that its various scandals and incompetence is that tandem’s task to defend.

On the other hand, Binay continued to project his fabled care for the poor and marginalized, as epitomized by the fact that, as he claimed, when he first ran in Makati many people there were surviving on “toyo at kalamansi only.” But it’s obvious that Binay has been humbled by the merciless accusations against him in the Senate committee dubbed as the “Yellow Ribbon Committee,” for nearly a year and a half, even though he has more bragging rights to hands-on executive experience than any of his rivals.

Meanwhile, folks expected a trashing of leading candidate Mayor Duterte (who jumped 12 points ahead of closest rival Grace Poe in the latest SWS survey) because of his jest-in-rape remarks, but nothing of the sort happened. Instead, there was a more contrite and even self-deprecating candidate who didn’t make offensive remarks about women. He made folks laugh at his hyperbolic proposal to jet-ski to the nearest island in the disputed West Philippine Sea and plant the PH flag there, to prevent Chinese incursions---never mind, he said, if he becomes a martyr in so doing.  

There’s something child-like about this notorious character that probably explains why he shoots up despite all the media canon-balls.

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 Grace Poe appealed to the emotions of women supporters by assuring them of a caring and responsive government should she make it, but I find her views of perennial problems we natives have encountered in this country unappealing--- for the simple reason that the solutions she offers are those of her advisers rather than truly hers. This is because Poe left in 1991 and stayed away as US citizen until 2010----except for intermittent visits here on a balikbayan dual-citizen visa acquired in 2006---when she accepted the job of MTRCB Chief (she finally lost her US citizenship in 2012). 

I have always maintained that Sen. Poe has no business parachuting here from her prolonged stay in America and going for the jugular on the strength of being FPJ’s adoptive daughter---she should have started at a humbler post.  VP Binay might have meant to precisely dig at Poe’s parachuting here when he stressed that he is BFF---“Binay Filipino Forever.”

One sign of sincerity, though, is the fact that, as she admitted in the debate when pressed on this point, her husband, Neil Llamanzares, has renounced his US citizenship. Actually, Llamanzares took the first step: pledging loyalty to PH last April 7, before the Greenhills barangay chair in San Juan, Metro Manila. The final step would be his actual renunciation before a US consular official, which hasn't happened yet.   

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And so election campaign 2016 lurches on to its last two weeks, highlighting many problems besetting our country and people. In the TV debates I found the plight of Perla so touching. Commuting for as long as six hours daily---or for 1/4 of her day---and suffering pay cuts as a result of being tardy, Perla arrives home from work to her children already asleep and all she can do is kiss them goodnight; chances are they’d still be asleep when she crawls out to go to work.This is the plight of perhaps millions of commuters crying to high heavens for relief. Roxas claimed that every month 12 wagons are added to the train system, but many of them have not run well. 

Then there’s Amina from Western Mindanao, who decried that until now her family lives in an evacuation center due to the continuous war there.  To her question as to who can bring genuine peace to the strife-torn island of promise, candidates Mar Roxas and Rodrigo Duterte replied, the BBL. In fact, Roxas promised that if he becomes president he'd fight for passage of that draft law that's being rejected by majority of Filipinos. Duterte, on the other hand, asserts the need to “correct historical injustice,” and that “Nothing will appease the Moro people than the BBL.” 

For VP Binay, however, poverty remains the root cause of strife and war, and  I would subscribe to this approach, as the BBL is most divisive.

Another problem highlighted by the debate is the proliferation of drugs. Mayor Duterte spoke of how drugs have reached the hinterlands, with agents of drug lords now selling the dreaded commodity even to farmers’ children, in exchange for pigs and carabaos!

Truly ours is a country awaiting rescue.  Let's vote wisely on May 09.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

PH gains new international notoriety thanks to Duterte’s callous remark about wanting to be “first” in the 1989 slay-rape of an Australian missionary, as various international and local media pounce on him. Equally tragic is seeming callousness of local folk who enjoy his jest-in-rape, an offshoot doubtless of their protest over P-Noy’s lackadaisical performance and no-show in crisis situations. Duterte's PDP-Laban finally apologizes for his 'failure to control his mouth,' but it remains to be seen how far damaged his candidacy would be.




By now our beloved Philippines has achieved international reputation for wild political free-for-all that's tough to match. Unfortunately, it's also a notoriety we probably won’t be able to live down for a while. The impression going around the world is that this seemingly progressive bastion of American-style democracy in Asia suddenly looks like one of those small, very backward countries in Africa---thanks in part to a warped sense of humor, machismo and entitlement embodied in crude, boastful one-liners of top presidential contender Rodrigo Duterte.

 Time Magazine just came out with an essay titled,“ Philippine Presidential Candidate Defends Remarks on Rape,” quoting Duterte as describing his jest-in-rape as “This is how men talk.” The Washington Post headlined the “Leading Philippine Presidential Contender” as saying: “Gang rape victim ‘so beautiful he wishes he had been first...’ " The Los Angeles Times also weighed in on the subject as did newspapers in Germany, Australia, France, the UK and Singapore, as well as the BBC and CNN. All came out with their own commentaries on this jest-in-rape controversy. 

Generous comparison with controversial US presidential candidate Donald Trump has become inevitable. 

XXX

The Australian Embassy, whose late citizen, lay missionary Jacqueline Hamill, was the victim of the gang-rape/slay in the Davao prison on August 15, 1989, put out a terse but straight to the point statement from Ambassador Amanda Gorely:  “Rape and murder should never become the subject of a joke. Violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere.” 

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, sympathizing with his Aussie colleague, was quoted by CNN Philippines in a carefully worded statement stressing that "Any statements by anyone, anywhere, that either degrade women or trivialize issues so serious as rape or murder, are not ones that we condone."

Various human rights and women's organizations here and around the world also chorused vs. Duterte's unbelievably lamentable remarks.


XXX 

What the controversial Davao leader said when first he viewed the body of the Australian female missionary who was raped and her throat slit by rioting prisoners in Davao---that he wished that as mayor he had first crack at her, given how beautiful the woman was--- was the height of moral depravity. And to think that he alluded to that incident twice in the current presidential campaign and many in his audience of men and women laughed with him---it is sad, so sad. 

 No wonder the world is in shock that such a man would be a candidate for the highest post in this predominantly Christian nation----and is actually dominating the surveys!. Such remark has absolutely no place in a civilized society dominated by the fear of God and a deep reverence for women. As a number of commentators here and abroad have stressed, something even remotely suggestive as that "jest" would have summarily cut the career of the person dishing it in any civilized setting. 

What disturbs right-thinking folks here, however, is that apparently the mayor has not reformed much in this regard----as viewed in photos showing him grabbing women and kissing them against their will. This attitude is very much a part of the sense of entitlement of public officials in this still very politically-feudal country of ours. A major daily prefers to call it in its editorial the droit du seigneur---the right of the lord.  

 XXX 

 Another thing I cannot understand is how the crowds listening to him saying that jest-in-rape could have snickered and enjoyed it. To paraphrase Vice President Jojo Binay, don’t these people have mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, etc.? This depraved sense of humor, however, is only part of the mystery of why some people would even take Duterte seriously as candidate for President.

 As one netizen put it quite vividly, quite upset: “In this political sortie as shown in this video, (Rodrigo Duterte) turned the case of a rape victim into a joke. He said that what he regrets about the case is that the rape victim is so beautiful, and he would have demanded, 'Dapat ang mayor ang mauna.' In another video, he told his story about molesting their housemaid and why he believes it is only venial sin, because 'maid lang siya.' This man is sick! And the culture of sexism he is creating is sickening! The crowds laugh at all his jokes which demean women, making themselves more and more like him. Think of all the women and girls in your life before you vote for Duterte. Think also of the men and boys as well, for you would not want them to become unto the image and likeness of Duterte.” 

 XXX

To be sure, the reaction of Duterte’s adoring fans to his sick joke about the poor Australian missionary, whose only crime was to minister to the inmates of the Davao Penal Colony at that time, is very much a part of the strong protest reaction against the incumbent President and his lackadaisical attitude about everything, and his no-show in times of crises. 

Moreover, compared to his wimpy and colorless rivals, the contender from Davao appears to be the exact opposite: all fire and brimstone, swagger and braggadocio personified. The more he dishes out curses and gutter language, the more crowds flock to his rallies. 

XXX

But it's easy to see that Duterte doesn't have the material to be a good president---with his king-size ego he'll not be able to work with anyone and every week there would be hiring and firing in the Cabinet. What we can see from past events is that a Duterte presidency would produce a most unstable situation for the country.

Results of a psychiatric test conducted in 2000 on Davao's colorful politician by  psychologist Natividad Dayan, former President of the International Council of Psychologists, prior to the annulment of Duterte's first marriage, give an interesting image that could have a direct bearing on the future of this country, should he make it this May. The results read in part: "Destructive behavior, lack of self-discipline, poor capacity for objective judgment, lack of capacity for remorse, unable to reflect on the consequences of his actions." 

To be sure, that psychiatric assessment was made sixteen years ago, but it is evident from his current behavior that he hasn't changed much. The report should serve as serious food for thought for the electorate in the coming electoral exercise. 

XXX

Over the past days since the jest-in rape remark erupted, Duterte was stubborn and adamant against apologizing for it, even though he was well aware that he could lose votes. In fact he said he was prepared to lose in the elections rather than surrender something he felt deeply about. But later good sense and fear of losing in the elections appear to have gotten the better of the PDP-Laban under which he is running.  

Late night news quoted the PDP-Laban statement on Duterte's behalf which said: “I formally apologize to the Filipino people for my recent remarks in a rally. There was no intention of disrespecting our women and those who have been victims of this horrible crime. Sometimes my mouth can get the better of me.” 

Just how far his PDP-LABAN-issued apology would get him remains to be seen. The people have seen the worst of this man. How would this controversy affect his ratings and who stands to profit from his possible fall from grace. Abangan.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Basilan carnage raises specter of ISIS in our shores, needing heightened vigilance. Kit Tatad, through lawyer Manuelito Luna, files a suntok sa bwan new MR vs. Poe after SC issues ‘minute resolution’ upholding her candidacy and no more MRs to be entertained. Did P-Noy and Poe really meet in Bahay Pangarap days before SC’s final resolution, signaling junking of Mar? SC’s poor handling of Poe’s case contributes to lowering of her ratings.





The terrible tragedy of Mamasapano  is still very much in our collective memory as a nation, but along comes the tragic 10-hour encounter of AFP soldiers reportedly with the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan--- that resulted in the slaying of 18 army soldiers and wounding of scores others. Fighting in that far-flung area is said to continue, with 13 Abu Sayyaf men killed in a fresh encounter.

But aside from the emotional wounds wrought especially on bereaved families of the dead and wounded in thus Basilan tragedy, complicating the picture is the still-unconfirmed report from a Singapore think-tank that the Basilan attacks on our troops were carried out by the ISIS---the dreaded Muslim force that has wreaked havoc in various countries abroad. This is the first time that reference to the presence of this violence-given group has been made in our Southern borders.

What makes it tougher for our nation and people is that as in the Kidapawan massive protest, it takes some time to hear from our President. the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, which is most unsettling. If the attacks in Basilan were ISIS-related, there is enormous need to be vigilant---above all, we need prayers. Our deepest condolences to the families of all those Army soldiers slain or wounded in those condemnable encounters.

XXX

One has to hand it to former Sen. Francisco  Tatad for sheer obstinacy, along with his lawyer, Manuelito Luna. Last April 9, the Supreme Court, on a working vacation in Baguio City, issued a “minute resolution” upholding its March 8 decision ordering Comelec to honor Grace Poe’s certificate of candidacy. The SC also waste-basketed the five motions for reconsideration (MRs) from Comelec and four private respondents, including Tatad, and stressed that no further pleadings or motions would be entertained by the Court on this issue.

Yesterday, April 11, however, Kit Tatad, through his lawyer, Manny Luna, filed a second MR at the SC, that stressed that while he recognized the SC’s injunction against further pleadings or motions,  he feels it’s “absolutely necessary” to file another MR  “in light of the unconscionable trespass and transgression of the Constitution and the basic standards of decency and fairness which the Majority committed,  both procedurally and substantively in disposing of the motions for reconsideration.”

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Tatad justified his new MR move by citing Sec. 3, Rule 15 of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court, which goes: “… There is reconsideration ‘in the higher interest of justice’ when the assailed decision is not only legally erroneous, but is likewise patently unjust and potentially capable of causing unwarranted and irremediable injury or damage to the parties.”  One major injury one could cite was the resort of the Court, at the recommendation of original ponente Justice Jose Perez, to solve a major political quandary by means of a “minute resolution,” instead of a full-blown opinion.

Few cases in the Court have received as much attention---and criticism---from leading legal luminaries, august organizations such as the 56,000-strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Philippine Bar Association that dates from 1891, a multitude of opinion writers and Filipinos from all walks of life.  Yet the SC decision was, to say the least, left hanging without a majority vote---an unfinished business affecting the life of the nation in this heated political season.

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Opining that the SC majority’s move has created an unprecedented scandal against justice, Tatad and Luna cited how Justice Arturo Brion was moved to complain in his dissenting opinion that the Court has committed “a grave abuse of discretion, violated the Rule of Law, and inflicted upon the constitutional and political system an invalid doctrine that cannot morally or legally bind anyone in conscience, but which seeks to bind the May 9, 2016 electoral process.”

Brion, a bar topnotcher, opined that “ No less than the survival of our republican and democratic state is at stake.” (emphasis BOC's).

XXX

For Tatad and Luna, filing a new MR despite the Court’s firm stand against new MRs is a suntok sa bwan---given that ten votes are needed even just to admit the new MR---which is impossible under the present alignments. But the MRs filed recently by Tatad and other respondents in the past two months---namely, the Comelec through –Commissioner Arthur Lim, lawyers Amado Valdez and Estrella Elamparo and Prof.  Antonio Contreras of De La Salle U---become more dramatic in view of Tatad’s recent allegation in media about a “secret” meeting in Bahay Pangarap between President Aquino and Grace Poe prior to the April 09 minute resolution of the SC.

Citing “unimpeachable sources” within the Palace, Tatad claimed that in return for the SC’s assurance that she would be qualified to run in the May 9 elections, Poe was supposed to guarantee “protection” for the outgoing Chief Executive against lawsuits for acts committed during his term. Grace Poe has vigorously denied Tatad’s allegation, and it’s difficult to confirm the truth, but certainly the passionate defense by some magistrates of her eligibility to run has made Tatad’s allegation easier to believe.

Rumors about a  Palace deal, plus the much-criticized partiality of some magistrates and revelations about Poe’s American family have contributed to the downward spiral of her survey ratings---from a peak of 35% last month, the latest several surveys show her in an 11 digit decline, even as Rodrigo Duterte benefitted from her fall and Jejomar Binay and Mar Roxas also steadily inched upward.

XXX

SC spokesperson Theodore Te resented the Inquirer story that the SC  is “in turmoil,” but the reality is that the average person perceives it as truly in turmoil----owing to the political play that began when no less than the Chief Justice accused Comelec of playing politics in cancelling Poe’s COC. Then she recently followed this up with a missive toward “those who want to ‘game’ judicial processes for political ends.” On the other hand, reading through anti-Poe opinions one sees seething sentiments. 

When the SC went on a working vacation in Baguio City, many citizens hoped and prayed it would decide in a more forthright and decisive way Poe’s eligibility,  based on her citizenship and residency. They waited to see how the MRs from Comelec and the private respondents would be handled by the SC.

XXX

Nothing, however, but confusion and bitter wranglings reigned.  The SC shot down Comelec’s  rejection of Poe’s certificate of candidacy and DQ of her. This was done, however, not with the usual full decision of the  majority, but only a “minute resolution”---a one-liner allowing Poe to run, on the argument that writing a full decision would have delayed the SC decision’s promulgation by one to two weeks.

Actually the minute resolution may have been just a lame excuse so that each of the seven justices in the “majority” needn’t explain what’s widely believed as un-explainable---allowing Poe to run despite very clear prohibitions in the Constitution: her failure as a foundling to establish her being natural-born and her lack of the ten-year residency requirement.

XXX

Many things left unresolved by the SC “minute resolution” caused enormous confusion among citizens.  For one thing, the vote didn’t move from the time the SC issued the order for Comelec to uphold her COC last March 8.  The Baguio resolution remained 7-5 in favor of citizenship for Poe with three magistrates opting not to take up this issue, while on residency, it was 7-6 in favor of Poe, with two justices not taking any position. Interestingly the three abstaining magistrates in the first issue were the ponente of the majority bloc, Justice Jose Perez; the ponente of the original majority opinion (which turned out later to be the dissenting opinion), Justice Mariano del Castillo, and new justice Benjamin Caguioa.  Why Justice Del Castillo didn’t speak out when he joined the dissenters is a puzzlement to many court observers.

XXX

Senior Associate Justice Carpio was right in his second assessment: with a 7-5-3 and a 7-6-2 vote in Baguio, THERE WAS NO MAJORITY VOTE AGAIN.  All five justices opposing Poe’s run----namely,  Justices Carpio, Arturo Brion and Teresita De Castro, who never wavered from their position since their vote in the Senate Electoral Tribunal, as well as Justices Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Bernabe--- defended their respective positions with clear and vigorous arguments. The most bristling perhaps was Justice Brion, who was consulting with his doctors when the March 08 voting on the Poe issue was suddenly sneaked in---against an earlier agreement to have it next day, when Brion reported back to work.

By contrast, the 7 in the “majority” had no opinion except for Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who spent much of her piece castigating the dissenters than defending her stand. Sereno didn’t want the Court to go beyond the minute resolution and  a good reason could be that  she preferred Poe to be judged by vox populi. She also approved the position of Justice Perez that any complaint against Poe---in the event she wins the presidency---could be lodged as a quo warranto complaint by oppositionists before the SC, this time sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).  

Such a post-election move, however, could be even more futile, given that nine magistrates are already on the side of Poe, vs. five or six against her.

The SC is truly in turmoil, Teddy Te’s protest notwithstanding, and never has the public seen such confusion and dissention among the magistrates.  It’s a time for grieving, just like the Basilan carnage.




Thursday, April 7, 2016

Filipino citizenship “must be treasured like a pearl of great price”----according to late SC Justice Isagani Cruz in1989. But why is it that a candidate who failed to treasure that pearl since 2001 is being rewarded by this same SC with right to run for highest office, in violation of constitutional provisions? The IBP, composed of 56,000- strong lawyers all around the country, goes against SC in Poe case---only the second time since martial law days that IBP has done so---historic and monumental vote. Philippine Bar Association, country’s oldest organization of lawyers, dating from April 8, 1891, also votes vs. Poe.







Former UE Law Amado articulated in today’s “Daily Tribune” the sentiment that many Filipinos are feeling now about presidential candidate Grace Poe---how she has been living in the US since 1991, gave up her Filipino citizenship to become an American in 2001, then reacquired her Filipino citizenship in 2006 under R.A. 9225, informally known as the “Dual Citizenship Act,” even as she remained an American citizen until 2012---when she was already working as MTRCB chief,  per records of US Consulate in Manila.

The citizenship of Grace Poe, in fact, has in fact become the butt of jokes around---e.g., PH might beat America in having its first American woman President---Poe to beat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to that distinction?

XXX

Actually, because Pinoys will be Pinoys, jokes about Poe’s being an americanita abound,  but this is no laughing matter. It’s a painful thing for a Filipino to accept how constitutional requirements on citizenship and residency of candidates for the highest offices of the land are being twisted, it appears, to suit a political agenda.  

Former Dean Valdez rightly points out in his motion for reconsideration (MR) to the SC that it will be up to the voters this May to decide whether Poe is qualified to run for the highest post in the land, “despite gaping doubts on her qualification as a natural-born Filipino, as the Constitution very clearly provides.”  

Valdez stressed that “The next move belongs to the Filipino people---for them to decide whether they agree with the SC’s ‘interpretation’ as emphasized in its ‘final’ ruling, informally issued in Baguio last April 05, and formally on Saturday, April 09.

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Already, the formal decision of the SC to throw out the five MRs from private respondents---as well as the similar position of the Board of Governors of the 56,000-strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and the Philippine Bar Association---and allowing Poe to run despite constitutional prohibitions and  citizens’ objections, is already being called the “Fall of the Supreme Court,” in remembrance of the “Fall of Bataan” to be commemorated---how aptly---this Saturday, April 09.

It must be pointed out that so serious is the constitutional issue vs. Poe that in the whole history of the Philippines, this is ONLY THE SECOND TIME THAT THE IBP CRITICIZED AND WENT AGAINST THE SC RULING that Poe is qualified and eligible to run for President.  The first time the IBP dissented from the SC was during Martial Law in 1973, when the legal community criticized the SC ruling that the 1973 Constitution was validly ratified by the so-called “people’s assemblies.” Thus, the IBP’s stand vs. Poe is truly MONUMENTAL AND  HISTORIC.   

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In his MR for the SC, Amado Valdez cited two landmark opinions of the High Court that undergird Filipino citizenship, which I’d like to highlight here because they are so significant and even poetic and beautiful.

In the first case, Frivaldo v. Comelec (June 23, 1989), the SC, speaking through the late Justice Isagani Cruz, said:  “… the status of the natural-born citizen is favored by the Constitution and our laws, which is all the more reason WHY IT SHOULD BE TREASURED LIKE A PEARL OF GREAT PRICE. BUT ONCE IT IS SURRENDERED AND RENOUNCED, THE GIFT IS GONE AND CANNOT BE LIGHTLY RESTORED.  THIS COUNTRY OF OURS, FOR ALL ITS DIFFICULTIES AND LIMITATIONS, IS LIKE A JEALOUS AND POSSESSIVE MOTHER.  ONCE IT IS REJECTED, IT IS NOT QUICK TO WELCOME BACK WITH EAGER ARMS ITS PRODIGAL IF REPENTANT CHILDREN.” (emphasis BOC’s).

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In the second case cited by former UE Dean Valdez, Labo, Jr. v. Comelec (Aug. 01, 1989) , the SC stressed that “A CITIZEN OF THE PHILIPPINES MUST TAKE PRIDE IN HIS STATUS AS SUCH AND CHERISH THIS PRICELESS GIFT THAT,  OUT OF A HUNDRED OTHER NATIONALITIES, GOD HAS SEEN FIT TO GRANT HIM.” The Court warned that “(H)aving been so endowed, he must not lightly yield this precious advantage, rejecting it for another land that may offer him material and other attractions that he may not find in his own country. To be sure, he has the right to renounce the Philippines if he sees fit and transfer his allegiance to a state with more allurements for him. But having done so, he cannot expect to be welcomed back with open arms.”  (emphasis BOC’s).

These two passages above put Filipino citizenship on such a high plane---INDEED LIKE A PEARL OF GREAT PRICE that one can only reject at tremendous risk to oneself.  The question is, why do many countrymen of ours seem to beat the path to the door of a candidate whose only merit was to live more years of her life as an American citizen, who has hardly ever worked here, and whose family remains American till now?

There is something wrong in this situation.

XXX

As has been noted before by this blogger and other commentators, the unjust dispersal of 6,000 starving farmers in Kidapawan was a tragedy that didn't have to happen---if only the powers that be believe in SINCERE DIALOGUE to solve problems. The farmers, severely affected by the drought that has already ruined some 18 provinces around the country according to Pag-Asa, were asking only for 15,000 sacks of rice for their hungry families. To heighten their demand they blocked both sides of the highway from Cotabato to Davao---a move which is not right, as it further ruins the economy there.

What should have been done was for the local leaders led by the North Cotabato governor and backed up by national government, to first persuade the starving farmers to open one side of the highway even as the national government began trucking or helicoptering in sacks of rice for distribution to the farmer families.

Instead, what happened was that the local officials insisted that the distribution of the rice first conform to the bureaucratic rigmarole---e.g., a food for work program DAW. Tell that to farmers and families that cannot work anymore because they are starving. Inevitably, the obstinacy of the farmers was met with arms by the police, resulting in three people dead and scores wounded after the farmers fought back with stones.  It was only in its aftermath of violence that the bodegas of the NFA were opened.

The shoot-out in Kidapawan was a horrible mishandling of a powder-keg situation, and only one indication of the crying need to elect local and national officials with enough maturity and experience, and A LOT OF COMPASSION FOR THE POOR---not inexperienced leaders whose only knowledge stems from briefings by aides and who have little or no feeling for the misery of our people.


DIALOG AND TRUE CARING FOR THE PEOPLE, EXPERIENCE AND MATURITY AMONG LEADERS---THESE ARE WHAT ARE NEEDED OF OUR OFFICIALS, NOT SHOWBIZ GOVERNMENT.