POSTSCRIPT / June 13, 2004 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Readers agree: Erap abandoned his post

DARK SCENARIO: We have been asked about this scenario: Suppose the canvassing has been completed some 75 percent with the tabulation showing Fernando Poe Jr. leading — and suddenly some widespread disturbance disrupts the canvass and the disorder shoots past June 30.

Questions: To produce a president to handle the crisis, can Poe and his followers insist that he be recognized since the canvass showed him on top? If the vice president-elect was also not proclaimed, can the Senate President act as president until a regular president is proclaimed? Is the regular president to be proclaimed after the disrupted canvass is completed (assuming this is still physically possible) or would a special election be held under the acting President?

Our answer: We don’t know. Maybe the lawyers can step in to cover up for our ignorance.

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READERS’ REACTIONS: Not one of the readers who sent reactions agreed or sympathized with former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada when he insisted in his June 2 letter to POSTSCRIPT that he did not resign nor abandon the presidency in January 2001.

All readers (100 percent) who reacted via email took issue with Erap. Samples:

Ben Simpao, San Francisco Bay Area: “At that point when people were at the Malacanang gates demanding for his resignation, Erap could not do anything anyway (not because he was averting blood spilling into the streets).

“He knew that nobody would obey or follow his orders or instructions anyway. He was hopeless, hapless, helpless and useless. So what he could only do was to skip through the backdoor by crossing the Pasig to the other side of Malacanang in safety and out of harm’s way.

“That was abandonment. His b…s shrunk to the size of marbles.”

Gerry Delgado (originating-IP: 203.131.164.227): “Erap did run away when he left and abandoned Malacanang at the height of Edsa 2. If he was truly president, he would have remained and even died with his boots on, to say the least.

“But he was afraid he was going to be lynched. Courage comes with the presidency even in death. He should have stayed because he was the legitimate president. When he left it was an abandonment of his covenant with the people, even if he did not resign.”

Cesar M. de los Reyes, i-manila.com.ph : “Erap needs his own version why he left Malacanang. His version is to buttress his defense before the Sandiganbayan that he did not resign from his post but simply took time out to relax at his San Juan home. And as an after-thought, he even wrote a letter appointing the VP GMA as officer-in-charge in his absence.

“Neat, isn’t it? But it was his Executive Secretary Edgardo Angara’s version that did him in. In his obvious eagerness for the world to remember him as a major player in that inglorious historical Edsa II episode, and even before the smoke of conflict had died down, Angara published an unsolicited diary on the remaining moments of a debilitated President.

“That diary proved to be Erap’s downfall for it was used as basis by the Supreme Court, as a first hand witness’ account, in concluding that indeed Erap abandoned his post and his unsigned letter of resignation was simply overwhelmed by the fast moving events. Had it not been for Angara’s diary, the Supreme Court would have had a difficult time justifying the proclamation of GMA as President, and Erap would still be around to finish his term which ends on June 30.

“Erap must be gnashing his teeth.”

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TALO ANG TUMAKBO: We would have wanted to share more footnotes to that historic moment when Erap Estrada abandoned the presidency and all his rights and claims to it.

But the comments of the readers quoted above would suffice at the moment. Before dropping the subject, however, we just cannot resist reiterating our earlier comment:

“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 it 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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DEFENSOR SIDE: Rep Maite Defensor (3rd District, Quezon City) replied to a letter of Ms Patricia Daza published in this column on the recent election in the district that saw Atty. Mat Defensor (Maite’s father) beating Michael Planas on whose behalf Ms Daza wrote the letter.

For lack of space, we cannot print Ms Defensor’s entire letter, but what we have here is, unedited, more or less the substance:

“It is false that my Certificate of Candidacy was voided. I have been away since September 2003 but was back for two weeks in December to file my candidacy. The filing was delayed to Dec. 15 and the fact is that I issued a Special Power of Attorney to my father as I had to leave for the USA on Dec. 11, 2003, for a scheduled hospital procedure on my baby. Mr. Planas filed a disqualificaion against me on the basis of the SPA which was never resolved by the Comelec. It was only on April 13, 2004, that the Comelec received my withdrawal which I had filed through the Consulate in San Francisco. Thus, in a Comelec resolution, my withdrawal was found to be in order.

“On Ms Daza’s point that the CoC of Ms Anna Lisa Cabochan was voided because the license of her notary public has expired five days earlier than dated, we never really found out if indeed the license of that notary public had expired. But in Capili vs Comelec, the Supreme Court ruled that if one went to a notary public in good faith, the notarization is valid even if the license of the notary public is expired or even fake. On that basis, the Comelec en banc came out with a resolution dated April 20, 2004, that the CoC of Ms Cabochan is valid, and thus, the substitution of Atty. Mat Defensor is in order and further that the name of Atty. Mat Defensor should be included in the certified list of candidates.

“When a Comelec resolution of the 1 st Division came out dated May 14, 2004, disqualifying my father, I had doubted its authenticity. The election was already finished and my father was winning in 33 barangays out of 37, Mr. Planas wanted the canvassing and the proclamation stopped. But even if the resolution had been authentic, it seemed that the 1st Division had overlooked the case and, more importantly, a resolution of the 1 stDivision cannot overturn an en banc decision signed by the chairman and six commissioners issued earlier, as against a division of only three commissioners. Therefore the disqualification had no value. Besides, the decision of the 1st Division is not immediately executory. The opposing party had 10 days to file a motion for reconsideration.

“It cannot be said that the proclamation of my father was done in haste just because he was proclaimed a day earlier than Mayor Belmonte and Vice Mayor Bautista who both won by a very large margin. It should be understood that the 2nd District of Quezon City is the smallest district in the city so the canvassing there finished the earliest to enable the proclamation of Atty. Mat Defensor. On the other hand, Mayor Belmonte and Vice Mayor Bautista had to wait for the canvassing of three more districts (Districts 1, 2 & 4) before they can be proclaimed. District 2 alone has around 600,000 registered voters compared to District 3’s 154,000. Districts 1 and 4 have an average 250,000 voters each. The proclamation of Atty. Defensor was done after the canvass and tabulations were made 100 percent.

“I admire Ms Daza for defending a “friend.” I blame Mr. Mike Planas for continuously misinforming the public, including Ms Daza who has been using her resources, connections and reputation to take on his fight while being armed by him with lies and falsehoods….”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 13, 2004)

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