POSTSCRIPT / December 10, 2009 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Admin bets replacing 3 Liberal governors?

ENDANGERED SPECIES: These may just be mere coincidences, but three high-profile governors belonging to the Liberal Party appear likely to lose their posts to their protesting rivals from the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD coalition.

After recounting disputed votes, the second division of the Commission on Elections has ordered:

* On Dec. 8 — Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca (LP) to step down in favor of former Gov. Benjamin Dy (LKC), who the poll body said actually received 199,435 votes in the 2007 election, against Padaca’s 198,384 votes, for a lead of 1,051 votes in the recount.

* On Dec. 1 — Bulacan Gov. Joselito Mendoza (LP) removed and be replaced by Roberto Pagdanganan (LKC) who, according to the Comelec recount, garnered 342,295 votes against Mendoza’s 337,974 votes, for a 4,321-vote margin.

* Coming very soon — Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio (LP) is bracing for an expected Comelec order for him to turn over the governorship to his rival Lilia Pineda (LKC) after a speedy recount showing Pineda to have won by around 2,000 votes in 2007.

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ROUGH RIDE: The decisions of the Comelec division are not yet final, but they are a hint of the rough road awaiting the popular Liberal governors whose quixotic political battles have attracted attention beyond their provinces.

The losers in the recounts have many options to overturn or delay the adverse decisions — including appealing to the Comelec en banc and to the Supreme Court — from becoming final and executory before the end of the disputed term in May 2010.

Padaca was declared governor in 2007 after getting 17,007 more votes than Benjamin Dy. Three years earlier, she ended the Dy family’s almost 30-year hold on the province by defeating then reelectionist Gov. Faustino Dy Jr., Benjamin’s brother.

A 2008 Ramon Magsaysay awardee, Padaca graduated magna cum laude from the Lyceum of the Philippines in 1984, after which she worked as a radio commentator for Radyo Bombo.

Challenging her reelection in next year’s polls is Isabela Rep. Faustino Dy III, a brother of Faustino and Benjamin. It is not clear if Benjamin is deemed to have abandoned his protest since he is running for mayor in the upcoming elections.

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DOUBLE PROGRAM: As I write this, the senators and congressmen in joint session assembled are still locked in the preliminary floor skirmishes leading to a vote on whether to revoke or not Proclamation No. 1959 declaring a state of martial law in certain areas of Maguindanao.

With the expected lengthy presentation of Malacanang on the factual basis of the proclamation, the usual theatrics and the long parade of legislators wishing to explain their votes and display their legal expertise, the proceedings may drag on to early next week.

Parallel to the political show in the Batasan is the legal combat in the Supreme Court where petitions have been filed to strike down the martial law proclamation.

The congressional debates have no bearing on the court’s disposition of the issue, except if a vote to revoke the proclamation wins — thereby snuffing out the 60-day life of martial law and rendering moot the issue before the court.

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WHERE’S REBELLION?: To most of us laymen, the core issue is whether or not there is an invasion or a rebellion ongoing in Maguindanao. These situations are the only constitutional bases for martial law.

Clearly there is no invasion. Based on the facts that President Arroyo may share with the SC justices, the high court will have to rule if indeed there is rebellion. If there is none, the legal underpinning of martial law collapses.

Lawlessness, which was cited as reason for the declaration earlier of a state of emergency in the same area, is not the same as rebellion.

Sorting out the situation on the ground against the elements of the crime of rebellion should not be difficult if the armed forces, the police and Malacanang would be forthright and honest.

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TOP SECRET: The case could take an interesting twist if President Arroyo borrows the tack of then President Marcos in defending his brand of martial law — that he had intelligence reports that because of their delicate nature could not be shared even with the justices.

If memory serves, a lame Supreme Court then refused to strike down Marcosian martial rule after conceding that the President and Commander in Chief had good reasons that, unfortunately, he could not divulge in the interest of national security.

It was as if the tribunal was saying then that everybody, even the highest court of the land, should just trust the President on security matters to which only he is privy.

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FADING TRUST: But trust is a precious ingredient that the Arroyo administration does not seem to have in abundance, considering the record depth to which the President’s credibility has fallen of late.

The President will have to give a full and truthful account before the Supreme Court. Unfortunately for her, a big sector of the public hesitates to take her word even when she is already telling the truth.

This is the quandary of the President. She was taken to task when government forces and agencies reacted too slowly to the assault on the public sensibility in the Nov. 23 barbaric Maguindanao massacre of at least 57 innocent victims.

When she recovered her bearings and wielded the ultimate weapon of martial law, she was still pilloried. It seems she could never do right in the eyes of a growing number of disenchanted citizens.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 10, 2009)

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