POSTSCRIPT / February 10, 2022 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Duterte now says all poll bets qualify

A random voter watching from a distance the launching last Tuesday of the campaign of candidates for national positions could not get enough depth and substance to be able to say who is most qualified among the job applicants.

President Duterte says, however, that all the presidential candidates are “qualified”, contrary to his earlier belittling their fitness – even describing one of them as corrupt – to succeed him when he leaves his office on June 30.

Proclamation rallies kick off election campaign period (Photo: CNN Philippines)

As he did not explain his revised assessment, some quarters wonder if in his view being corrupt qualifies one for the presidency – or if his saying “qualified” merely meant that the candidates are natural-born Filipinos, registered voters, able to read and write, at least 40 years old, and have been Philippine residents for at least 10 years, as minimally required under Sec. 2, Art. VII, of the Constitution.

He also said that he was not supporting any of the presidential candidates. Speculations persist, however, that he would like to see the election of the tandem of ex-senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio for various reasons.

The morning after the launching of the presidential campaigns, it looked like the extravaganza merely firmed up partisan biases. The followers of the candidates saw what they wanted to see – an enhanced favorable view of their favorites in the May 9 elections.

The campaign period for national positions (president, vice president, senator, and party-list groups) runs from Feb. 8 to May 7, while the campaign for those seeking local posts starts on March 25. Around 67.5 million Filipinos are eligible to vote, including 1.7 million overseas.

Most of the presidential candidates kicked off their campaign in their home bases, except for Marcos and his running mate Duterte, who held it at the Iglesia ni Cristo’s Philippine Arena in Bulacan where Marcos did not have to deliver a speech in Ilocano.

Vice President Leni Robredo and her running mate Sen. Kiko Pangilinan launched theirs in her home province of Camarines Sur with some members of their senatorial slate, including Teddy Baguilat, Chel Diokno, Risa Hontiveros, Alex Lacson, Sonny Matula, and Sonny Trillanes.

Another presidential candidate, Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso and his partner Willie Ong started their day with a motorcade around Manila. Their campaign program began at the Kartilya ng Katipunan site near City Hall.

The tandem of senators Ping Lacson and Tito Sotto launched their campaign in Cavite where the former was born and raised. They attended a mass at the Imus cathedral before their proclamation program at the Imus grandstand in the afternoon.

Boxer-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao started his campaign in his hometown General Santos City, where he traced his humble beginnings. With him was his running mate Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza.

Why is Marcos’ DQ case delayed?

The names of 10 presidential candidates are set for printing on the ballot, even if Marcos’ disqualification issue has not been settled by the Commission on Elections. From the Comelec, the question is likely to go up to the Supreme Court.

Many “What if?” scenarios are beguiling us non-partisan observers. One is: What if Marcos gets elected on May 9 (his name is on the ballot) but DQd by the SC before he is proclaimed winner?

To preclude that explosive situation, the DQ issue should be settled with finality before Election Day. What if someone or something prevents a final SC decision from coming out before May 9?

Will the SC still announce its final ruling on the DQ case if it is overtaken by the canvassing of the votes and the winner’s proclamation by a joint congressional committee of seven senators and seven congressmen?

These hypothetical questions will not arise if Marcos is defeated convincingly by one of his election rivals. But many observers still expect him to protest any loss in the elections, as he did in 2016 when he protested his defeat by Robredo for the vice presidency.

It took the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal some five years to unanimously decide to throw out on Feb. 16, 2021, Marcos’ protest for lack of merit.

The DQ question hangs in the Comelec’s first division with the failure of Commissioner Aimee Ferolino to write her opinion and cause the promulgation of the division’s decision. The delay has timed out the opinion of then Presiding Commissioner Rowena Guanzon (retired Feb. 2) that Marcos is disqualified.

Since the facts and the law on the matter are cut and dried, it should be easy for a good election lawyer to write an opinion. It is not fair to Ferolino that some parties suspect she is unduly delaying a decision by the Comelec en banc and eventually by the Supreme Court.

Join poll ‘Prayer Power’ campaign

The Manila Cathedral, meanwhile, has launched a “prayer power campaign” for peaceful, credible, and transparent elections.

It said on its Facebook page: “As endorsed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, we will be praying the PPCRV Prayer for the 2022 National and Local Elections in all our Masses. May we choose leaders according to our Christian values and teachings.”

The prayer is in response to an endorsement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and the reciting of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting prayer for the 2022 national and local elections in all of its masses.

The “Prayer Power Campaign” is available on all social media pages of the Cathedral. See: https://www.facebook.com/themanilacathedral/

At the health department, Secretary Francisco Duque warned that campaign activities could become COVID-19 superspreaders. He urged candidates to lead in observing health and safety protocols.

“It is possible for cases to increase if we are complacent, if restrictions are not enforced and observed,” Duque said as he urged government agencies and concerned sectors to ensure compliance with protocols “so we won’t have superspreader events during the elections.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 10, 2022)

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