POSTSCRIPT / June 1, 2004 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Congress needs a big dose of 'daldal-bawas'!

DON’T STAMPEDE: The killing of three Filipino workers and the wounding of others in a rampage Saturday of Islamic militants and a hostage-taking drama in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, will renew clamor for the repatriation of our compatriots from that kingdom.

The order of the US government for all Americans to leave Saudi Arabia right away will increase the pressure for the Arroyo administration to also recall Filipinos in Saudi Arabia.

Everything considered, however, we think that we should not act in that precipitate manner and scamper out of the desert.

When our compatriots went to work in Saudi Arabia, as others did in such nearby countries as Iraq, they and their families were fully aware of the grave risks — including the possibility of meeting a violent death.

Any decision to go home should be left to the workers themselves in consultation with their families, with the government providing ready assistance if some of our overseas workers decide to pull out.

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NOISE POLLUTION: With the ground rules finally in place for the long-delayed canvass of the votes for president and vice president, one would think the way would now be clear for a speedy count.

Far from it. Approving the rules (substantially the same ones used in past two presidential elections) is just one of the countless land mines strewn along the path to June 30, when the new Chief Executive takes the oath.

Try witnessing the canvassing or monitoring it on radio, but watch out for the noise pollution. You could grow deaf listening to the endless interruptions with this or that motion, objection or clarification.

It could be that this rigmarole is normal, even healthy. For one, it is good therapy for our garrulous politicians who simply must say something, anything, or die.

Methinks, however, that this country, especially Congress, needs a big swig of daldal-bawas (less talk).

* * *

MASTER STROKE: Seeing to it that Jinggoy, son of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, was spared by the administration machine and allowed to take a Senate seat with his mother Senator Loi was a Malacanang master stroke.

Watch closely. We will soon witness the mellowing of the Estradas, leading to the closure of many festering political wounds inflicted by Erap’s forcible departure from Malacanang in 2001.

This early, Erap’s new mood is already showing. Note his uncharacteristic statement the other day calling on Congress to get on with the canvassing of the votes despite the clear intent of some of his foot soldiers in the legislature to stall it.

Also watch the resolution (coming soon) of the plunder case filed against former President Estrada — and Jinggoy — in the Sandiganbayan.

* * *

ERAP’S TERM GONE: On a practical plane, it is best that Erap accept the fact — as we sense he is now accepting it — that he lost the presidency when he vacated the post in January 2001.

The remaining three years of his 1998-2004 term as president that was the bone of contention in those court cases will be gone by June 30, just a month away from now. There is no point pressing the issue at this late date.

Actually, Erap lost the presidency not because (1) he was Permanently Incapacitated (as alleged in the letter of then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the Supreme Court) or (2) he Effectively Resigned (as the Supreme Court eventually ruled), but because of Abandonment.

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ABANDONMENT: Abandonment of office, although akin to resignation, is not among the situations cited in the Constitution as basis for the vice president to either assume the presidency or to become the president.

Abandonment is a theory that has been uppermost in our mind, even as we put forward the idea of constructive resignation in this space on the very day that Erap left the Palace with a sort of valedictory statement.

Abandonment could be construed as a form of resignation, but since Erap has been insisting stoutly that he did not resign, we could fall back on this theory of abandonment.

The Filipino would understand abandonment, an idea that is also familiar to sabong (cockfight) aficionados.

In sabong , when a fighting cock runs away, kung tumakbo siya , he loses the bout — even if he is unscathed or even if the other cock already lies bleeding to death on the ground.

A besieged Erap ran away, tumakbo siya — and lost the presidency by abandonment.

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DELEGATION: A favorite protest of the opposition is that entrusting the canvassing of the certificates of canvass to a bicameral committee of 11 senators and 11 congressmen is an illegal delegation of powers.

They insist that canvassing should be done, as ordered by the Constitution, directly by the plenary body — that is, by the entire Congress in a joint public session.

Under the canvass rules approved Friday night, what the joint committee is tasked to do is just a “preliminary canvass” — meaning doing just the dirty administrative task of opening the CoCs and counting the votes.

The official canvass, culminating in the proclamation of the winners, will still be performed by the joint session. This is a primary function that Congress has not given up or delegated.

* * *

WHY ONLY NOW?: The national canvass is the final stage in a long process that started with the counting of the votes in the local precincts, and proceeded in a well-defined process leading to the provincial canvass and then on to the canvass by Congress.

Every step of the way from way back, the opposition and other interested parties were omnipresent. Everybody had and continues to have unhampered opportunity to monitor the count and tally and to pose objections if warranted.

It cannot be said that the national canvass is the only opportunity open to the opposition to look at the election returns and the tally sheets pertaining to the CoCs now being canvassed.

Not only have they seen the supporting documents before — they have official copies. If they wanted to object, they could have objected since Stage One instead of rising to object only now and stall the canvass.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 1, 2004)

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