POSTSCRIPT / May 19, 2022 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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SC halting canvass, barring Marcos dim

The filing this week with the Supreme Court of a last-ditch petition to prevent presumed president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from taking his oath on June 30 conjured up various possible scenarios.

Martial Law survivors ask the Supreme Court to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Photo: Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Speculation ran wild after a group of civic leaders asked the high court to void Marcos’ Certificate of Candidacy “ab initio” (from the very start) and temporarily restrain the Congress from starting next week the canvassing of the votes cast in the May 9 elections.

The consensus among my media colleagues, two of them lawyers, is that the Supreme Court will not restrain the Congress canvass nor void the CoC of Marcos who as of May 13 had garnered 31.1 million, or more than half of the votes counted.

A more positive view, actually an expression of hope, was that the tribunal would rise to a higher moral plane for a more encompassing view of not only the law and the facts of the disqualification case but more of what is good for the country.

With time pressure being felt all around, the Congress plans to start its canvass on May 23 to pave the way for the oath-taking on June 30 of the president-elect as reflected in the canvass of the election returns received by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In their petition, the civic leaders told the high court that by refusing to cancel or deny due course to Marcos’ CoC despite the telling issues raised against it, the Commission on Elections “acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction”.

The alleged grave abuse should not be too difficult for the court to determine. In fact, we can assume that all SC members have more or less formed their opinion on that and related issues.

The petition for the SC to void Marcos’ CoC ab initio (like it was never issued by the Comelec), could lead to complications in the congressional canvass, which will be the basis for the June 30 swearing-in of the incoming president under the Constitution.

* * *

Before complications arise during the limited time left, we pray that the justices add to the cut-and-dried legal arguments a moral layer of ethical conduct and genuine concern for what is best for the country at this point in its history.

Laws can be cited, interpreted and applied in many different ways. Many judges are even able to write decisions favoring either of two opposing parties, and make them sound fair and just. But the people want, need, or expect more moral grounding in resolving Marcos’ DQ case.

People who have seen enough disgraceful things are no longer praying for particular candidates or parties but for this country. We want to see us Filipinos embracing and trusting one another. We want to heal and prosper together.

With this petition filed with the SC, more people must now be praying for the enlightenment of everybody, especially of SC magistrates, for them to eschew partisanship and have a broader view dominated by what is good for the long-suffering nation.

* * *

The petition filed by Fr. Christian Buenafe, Fides Lim, Ma. Edeliza Hernandez, Celia Lagman Sevilla, Roland Vibal, and Josephine Lascano asked that Marcos’ CoC be canceled ab initio based on his alleged material misrepresentation about his conviction of crimes involving moral turpitude.

The Supreme Court should not find that difficult to check.

They asked that should the petition be given due course by the SC, “the qualified candidate for the position obtaining the highest number of votes cast (minus those for Marcos) be proclaimed as the President.”

They said: “Consequently, respondent Marcos must be deemed to have never been a candidate from the very beginning, his candidacy invalidated, and the votes attributed to him considered stray.”

If that were granted, Marcos’ presidential bid would revert to nothing. He would not have been a candidate at all and the millions of votes cast for him and considered “stray” will not be counted.

* * *

What happens if the SC adopts that view? A veteran lawyer told us that when those Marcos votes are erased, the presidential candidate who gets the highest number of the votes left wins.

As the count stood on May 13, that candidate is Vice President Leni Robredo. Based on the partial, unofficial results count that day, she had 14.8 million votes, the closest to Marcos, with the rest of the field trailing far behind.

Without saying she was conceding defeat, Robredo thanked her legions of volunteers and alerted them of a plan for a more robust non-government organization to continue the countrywide “Angat Buhay Lahat” movement that complemented her campaign.

Another scenario mentioned in our chats with colleagues was what could happen if the SC fails to resolve the DQ case with finality by June 30, or if for some reason Marcos fails to take his oath by that date set by the Constitution?

The quick answer we keep hearing is: That will not happen! But suppose it does – who will be sworn in on June 30 as incoming president?

There was a split in our group between those saying that President Duterte should stay as holdover president to prevent a “crisis”. Not being a lawyer, the newsman who said that failed to explain the legal basis of Duterte being a holdover president.

Another one said Duterte’s daughter Sara who plans to advance her oath-taking to June 19 would be already the Vice President by June 30 and presumably ready to fill the vacuum.

One of the lawyers among us reiterated what he said earlier: Our dire speculations will not happen, Marcos will be upheld by the Supreme Court, and the DQ petition thrown out with enough time for everybody to recalculate and plot their next move.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 19, 2022)

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