POSTSCRIPT / May 23, 2004 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Did FPJ really say 'I won!' or 'Ewan!'?

ANO RAW?: There’s this story behind the news headline about Fernando Poe Jr. crowning himself as the president-elect.

When the persistent press crowded around FPJ in Zamboanga to extract some comment from the taciturn actor about the Namfrel slow Quick Count showing him trailing President Arroyo, he snapped “Ewan!” (I don’t know!)

“Ano raw? (What did he say?)” asked the jostling reporters, and somebody nearer to Poe shouted back “I won!”

The news that Poe had claimed victory (“I won!”) then hit the radio waves with lightning speed, finally making the headlines in Manila.

* * *

IT’S SEDITION: President Arroyo, whose sense of rumor sometimes seems keener than her sense of humor, called in the praetorian guards, his security advisers, and the media (in that order) — and fired off a thunderbolt of a warning.

La Presidenta served notice that anybody giving out false election information that tended to disturb the peace, not to mention her equanimity, was committing sedition and would be charged accordingly.

We won’t be surprised if the Department of Justice issues a legal opinion supporting the President’s position. A justice secretary’s legal opinion, btw, has the effect of law on the subject until overturned by a competent court.

* * *

UNDER SEDATION: Mention of “sedition” calls to mind an episode during the waning years of Marcosian martial rule.

Then Information Minister Greg Cendana, our dear friend from Pangasinan, was asked about the health of his boss the President, who was then rumored to be in a coma, if not yet dead.

“He’s under sedition,” replied Greg with his usual winsome smile.

“Ano raw?” yelled somebody at the poker table at the Press Office.

Unlike in Zamboanga last week, there was no translation offered of Greg’s reply, no lightning rush for the phones to report how the President’s sedation has affected his close-in aides.

* * *

DIVINE RIGHTS: But we doubt if Da King of Philippine Movies would invoke the Divine Rights of kings as authority to proclaim his electoral victory and schedule the location shooting of his Grand Inaugural on June 30.

If there is a candidate who has prior claim to Divine Rights, it must be evangelist Eddie Villanueva, who ran for president in obedience to a mandate from God.

A hoarse Brother Eddie is still making the rounds trying to explain why until this late date he has not received instructions from God to accept with grace the fact that he has lost his bid for the presidency.

Btw, nobody is asking Brother Eddie to concede to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — but only to concede the fact that he has lost.

* * *

WHO INSPIRED IT?: But if news reports are true that FPJ actually declared himself the winner in the May 10 polls ahead of the Congress canvass that starts tomorrow yet, we speculate that that precipitate move may have been suggested by:

  1. Makati Mayor Jojo Binay, a shadowy figure a step behind Poe, could have wanted to recreate that historic scene of Cory Aquino claiming victory in the 1986 elections against Mr. Marcos and proceeding to take her oath at Club Filipino.
  2. Comedian (also a senator) Tito Sotto, anotheralalayof Poe, could have thought that the fans could no longer be made to wait for the next joke on Eat Bulaga, so advised the actor to crack the biggest joke of all to fill the gap.
  3. Or maybe FPJ has been watching a rerun of the animation film “Shrek.” There was this memorable scene of Lord Farquad (spelling?) crowning himself king. But Poe should have noted that Farquad was promptly swallowed by a dragon. (The she-dragon burped, but only the crown, not the crowned, was expelled).

* * *

BACK TO BASICS: Seriously now, it may be timely to remind everybody three basic things: (1) as a rule, criminal acts are personal, (2) the body assigned by the Constitution to oversee elections is the Commission on Elections, and (3) cheating can be committed on either side of the fence.

If a candidate or his henchmen cheated, or if a poll chairman tampered with the results in her precinct, et cetera, whoever committed the crime should personally answer for it. Without proof, we do not blame his brother or his father or the mayor who is his relative.

It is neither logical nor valid to blame, say, the President for every act of cheating or electoral anomaly, unless it can be shown that the cheater acted on direction of the Chief Executive.

If for instance several voters could not find their names on the list and failed to vote, it is absurd to blame the President on the face of it. Maybe we should direct our fire on the Comelec.

Thugs run away with a ballot box. Or gunmen shoot up a precinct. Do we blame the President just because we failed to catch the culprits?

* * *

RESIGNATION ILL-ADVISED: It is absurd to blame prematurely President Arroyo for the shabby conduct of the elections and then ask for her resignation.

The suggested resignation is even suspect as it is admittedly calculated to pave the way for her critic, Vice President Teofisto Guingona, to assume the presidency and schedule a snap election for a new president.

To have the President abandon her post at a time like this would be to invite chaos, even bloodshed. For the President to follow the suggestion would be a betrayal of the national interest.

On the contrary, the President should stay — instead of run away — and lead in cleaning up the mess.

* * *

BLAME THE COMELEC: We have said enough of the Comelec. In fact, we may have been too harsh at times on the battered poll body and the commissioners headed by chairman Benjamin Abalos.

But the fact remains that the Comelec, and not Malacanang, is commanded by the Constitution to manage elections and such electoral exercises as plebiscites and referendums.

The Constitution has given Comelec fiscal independence. It does not have to beg the budget office of Malacanang to release its funds. It is also clothed with quasi-judicial powers, enabling it to function like an independent court of law.

You might have noticed, in fact, that Malacanang is always taken to task whenever there is the least suspicion that it may be meddling in the decisions and affairs of the Comelec.

In short, to say the obvious: If you are mad about the May 10 elections, vent your ire on the Comelec.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 23, 2004)

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