POSTSCRIPT / June 20, 2004 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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If the canvass is illegal, Nene should stay way

PIMENTEL THEORY: We ask Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. to be patient with us non-lawyers who disagree with his legal moves before the Supreme Court.

(We tiptoe in the presence of Pimentel, because it is hazardous to one’s health, as many members of media have discovered, to cross the overworked senator from Cagayan de Oro.)

Pimentel asked the court last June 18 to declare null and void, illegal and unconstitutional the existence and proceedings of the 22-man joint committee of Congress that is canvassing the votes for president and vice president.

He said the authority of the committee automatically expired when the 12th Congress adjourned sine die on June 11, 2004. According to him, the Congress — and with it the committee — bowed out of legal existence upon that adjournment.

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PAY & PERKS INTACT: Still, I won’t be surprised if Pimentel and the rest of the members of the “non-existent” 12th Congress continue to draw their salaries, perks, allowances and pork barrel until June 30.

If they do, which is likely, it is because the Congress actually exists and functions, contrary to the claim and theory of Pimentel.

A Congress does not bow out of existence every time it adjourns sine die . A sine die adjournment is just the end of a congressional session. Only its lawmaking session ends, but all its other vital activities continue until its term ends, which in this case is on June 30.

(For the curious, sine die is Latin for “without day.” It does not mean “without pay,” so Pimentel et al. are assured of getting paid until June 30, presumably for work done.)

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ONLY LAWMAKING ENDS: Can you imagine Congress dying in-between its regular and special sessions? All senators and congressmen cease to be whenever the session adjourns, to be resurrected when another session is called? Absurd.

Within the full term of the senators and congressmen, which is until June 30 in the present case (except for half of the senators whose term ends in 2007), the Congress where they serve is a continuing body.

Even when lawmaking stops, all vital functions — such as the administrative task of canvassing the votes as mandated by the Constitution — continue until the last tick of the clock on June 30.

The ongoing canvass is not being conducted by mere routine motion of a member of Congress duly approved by the plenary body. It is being done by express mandate of the Constitution no less.

The Supreme Court would think twice before stopping — for a Pimentel — the national canvass.

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STAY AWAY THEN: But, to be consistent and credible, Pimentel and like-minded lawmakers serving in the joint committee should stay away from the canvassing, and stop disturbing and delaying the proceedings.

They might also want to disband their staff, vacate their offices and stop drawing their pay and perks, if they insist that the Congress where they belong(ed) has ceased to exist.

Even parasites let go and drop from their host once the source of their sustenance dies. (This is not to call anybody a “parasite.” This is just a parallel.)

Nobody is forcing Pimentel and his ilk to be present in the canvassing and be party to what they insist is an illegal act of the assembly.

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VALIDATING PRESENCE: The dramatic withdrawal of the expensive lawyers of some of the major candidates, including Fernando Poe Jr., his running mate Loren Legarda, and the “evangelist” Eddie Villanueva, is unfortunate.

(Villanueva should be counseled by his brothers in the faith to rethink his wading deeper into the dirty estero of politics. He has been “napabarkada sa mga politico” and that is not doing his religious movement any good.)

Kung sabagay, kung talo na talaga , as the opposition parties already know, based on their own copies of the elections returns, that they had lost the May 10 elections, it may make no sense for them to stick around.

By their continued participation in the canvassing, they would just be helping validate the coming “illegal” (to them) proclamation of the winner.

With this, we would not be surprised if, failing to disrupt or delay the canvassing, they would walk out on it.

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JUVENILE ANTIC: The sad thing is that some sore losers take more violent options. This juvenile antic springs from the aberrant thinking that if they cannot have an object they had coveted, nobody else should hold and possess it.

This is the same thought-process that sometimes drives disgruntled elements to hire a mob and incite mayhem in the streets. If they cannot have it, nobody else should.

The height is that in the process they might just attempt to bring down with them the entire establishment.

This is the disturbing scenario that the more sober elements of the community should guard against. We have a system that has worked for us despite its many shortcomings, and we have to live by this system. Or perish.

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IMMIGRATION BLUES: We share with you the experience of Elsa Bayani and her four-year-old American granddaugther, Gabrielle, in the hands of immigration officers at the airport.

Here are excerpts (slightly edited) from a letter of Ms Bayani to the Philippine honorary consul general for New Orleans and Los Angeles:

“We traveled to the Philippines with our four-year-old granddaughter, Gabrielle, after having obtained affidavits notarized by you (1) executed by Gabrielle’s mother giving permission for the child to travel with us and (2) executed by me taking responsibility for Gabrielle’s safety, health and nutrition, etc. Such affidavits cost $35 each — total $70 paid to the Honorary Consulate. We have no advice further about things to expect upon arriving in Manila.

“We were whisked away from the Immigration line at Manila airport to the office. We showed all documents relating to Gabrielle’s travel with us. They copied all for their files. Then we were required to pay P3,120. When I started asking questions, I was given a copy of the law saying in part: ‘EXCLUDED CLASSES, Philippine Immigration Act — Sec. 29(a)(5) Persons most likely to become public charge. x x x Sec. 29(a)(12) Children under 15 years of age, unaccompanied by or not coming to a parent, except that any such children may be admitted in the discretion of the Commissioner of Immigration, if otherwise admissible.’

“The phrase ‘at the discretion of the Commissioner of Immigration’ means to me that not everybody comes under this law, and hence, not everybody gets to pay P3,120.00. I believe that those who are perceived as having money to pay are the ones singled out in the line.

“We paid P3,120 and returned to the Immigration line. Her passport was stamped. Our passports were stamped ONE YEAR. We did not check the stamp on Gabrielle’s passport.

“Gabrielle’s mother arrived in the Philippines Jan.16 to pick her up and return with her on Feb. 4, 2004. At the NAIA Immigration, Gabrielle’s passport was stamped Jan. 23, 2004, which means that she should have left the country on that date. The Immigration labeled her as ‘overstaying alien’ and demanded a penalty of P2,500. Her mother refused to pay because she was not aware that Gabrielle was to leave the country Jan. 23, 2004, according to the entry visa stamped on her passport not like our ONE YEAR.

“Gabrielle’s mother said that if they have to detain Gabrielle, they should turn her over to the US embassy. Then as if they were doing mother and daughter a favor, the Immigration said, we would allow you to leave this time without any penalty.

“The words ‘at the discretion’ irk me as though not everyone has to come under this law. That anyone whom they perceive has money to pay is being singled out or randomly asked to pay. Gabrielle’s mother swore that she would never be back to the Philippines at least for a while.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 20, 2004)

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