POSTSCRIPT / June 4, 2009 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Late barring of Erap could upset opposition

PULL THE PLUG: Our grapevine at the Presidential Commission on Good Government says that one commissioner got scarce recently for about a month, reportedly held by gambling financiers to whom he owed some P20 million.

In desperation, the harassed commissioner asked a padrino at the Department of Justice to help him get an emergency loan from a bank close to the administration. But the bank, for good reason, turned down the loan idea.

To compound the commissioner’s problem, his reported boy friend who had held a key post in a sequestered cash cow threatened to squeal on him and his financial escapades.

But at the nick of time, the missing commissioner surfaced after being bailed out from his debt problem by a big shot oozing with cash who reportedly needed a favor with the PCGG.

Really now, in the name of sanity and decency, why does not somebody pull the plug off the life support of this ageing dinosaur bumbling about in the name of good government?

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LEGAL TRAP: Former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada, one of the frontrunners in the 2010 race to Malacañang, may want to first firm up his legal standing as a reelectionist if he is serious in his comeback bid for the presidency.

If he ignores this detail, his opposition bloc might end up with no presidential candidate the moment his candidacy is struck down by the Supreme Court on the ground that he is not qualified to run for “reelection.”

Election lawyer Romy Macalintal warns that if Estrada succeeds in uniting anti-administration elements and runs as the coalition candidate, the opposition may just end up without a standard bearer.

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NO SUB: Macalintal says that this could happen if Estrada’s Certificate of Candidacy is denied course or cancelled by the Commission on Elections on the ground that he is not eligible for “any reelection” as provided under Section 4, Article VII, of the Constitution.

“If the Comelec action is sustained by the Supreme Court,” he continues, “Estrada cannot be substituted by anyone because the rule is that ‘a person with a cancelled Certificate of Candidacy is no candidate at all.’”

Macalintal points out the SC has held in many decisions that Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code is clear and unequivocal that “only an official candidate of a registered or accredited party may be substituted, hence, there cannot demonstrably be any possible substitution of a person whose CoC has been cancelled and denied due course.”

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POLITICAL SUICIDE: The High Court has ruled, he adds, that: “A person without a valid Certificate of Candidacy cannot be considered a candidate in much the same way as any person who has not filed any CoC at all cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be a candidate at all.”

He says that a non-candidate has no right to pass on to his intended substitute. “Clearly, there is none,” he explains, “because no one can give what he does not have.”

“The opposition would be committing political suicide if it fields a candidate, like Estrada, whose qualification to run again for president appears to be clearly repugnant to the provision of the Constitution,” he says.

If Estrada’s CoC is voided during the campaign, it would be past the deadline for filing a CoC by a new opposition candidate. What his camp could do is adopt one of the other presidential candidates with a valid CoC.

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VOX POPULI: But Estrada insists that while the Constitution says “The President shall not be eligible for any reelection” (Section 4, Article VII), it refers only to “reelection” and pertains only to the (incumbent) president.

Estrada, who served less than three years of his six-year-term until he was ousted in January 2001, points out that he is “not running for reelection” because he is not “the President.” He says he is just “running again.”

But Macalintal says: “Even the voters would have second thoughts in voting for Estrada for they would rather be sure that their votes are counted instead of being cast for someone whose qualification is not yet resolved by Election Day.”

Politics could creep into the SC deliberations if at the final stage of the hearings repeated surveys show that Estrada continues to be a frontrunner and his camp invokes the “Vox populi, vox dei” line.

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PRESIDENTIAL FORUM: At the UP School of Economics in Diliman, meanwhile, Estrada and other presidential aspirants are set to face off tomorrow on the second stage of “Countdown to 2010: An ANC Leadership Forum.”

The program will be aired live on the ABS-CBN News Channel (SkyCable Channel 27) at 7 p.m. and again on Studio 23 on June 6 at 6 p.m. and on ABS-CBN’s “Sunday Best” on June 7 at 10:15 p.m.

The lineup includes former Senators Panfilo Lacson and Loren Legarda, and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay. As of this writing, Vice President Noli de Castro and MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando have yet to confirm their attendance. Sen. Manuel Villar, preparing for a foreign trip next week, will be absent.

The first stage last May 11 had senators Chiz Escudero, Dick Gordon and Mar Roxas, Gov. Ed Panlilio, and Secretary Gilberto Teodoro.

“Through the forums, we hope to help the Filipino youth see who these potential candidates are and what they stand for,” said ANC chief operating officer Glenda M. Gloria.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 4, 2009)

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