Political tidbits
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - November 11, 2015 - 9:00am

Of great interest to us voters are the petitions filed for the disqualification of   presidential candidate Grace Poe on questions regarding her natural-born status and fulfilment of the residency requirement of candidates for public office. The latest to be filed with the Comelec is by former University of the East Law dean Amado Valdez. To protect our right as voters, we should follow up his petition, including those of other  petitions by other complainants. Below is the two-point  summary of Dean Valdez’ petition:

1. “Assuming that Grace Poe was a natural-born citizen, she lost her status as natural-born when she renounced her Filipino citizenship in 2001 to become an American citizen. She never regained her natural born status. At best, she is a repatriated Filipino citizen under RA 9225.”

2.  “She has not completed her ten-year residency reckoned, at the earliest, from July 2006 when she re-acquired her Filipino citizenship, and at the latest on 20 October 2010 when she renounced her American citizenship.”

Petitions filed against Senator Poe’s qualifications should be decided as soon as possible in order to give the candidate and her lawyers the opportunity to rebut the arguments, as well as proceed with her campaign if she is  declared legally or constitutionally, a  rightful candidate for the position desired. However the  Comelec rules, whether for or against her, she, as the case may be, accordingly withdraws from the presidential race, or plunges headlong into her campaign, and voters do not waste time or continue with their  aspirations for the  kind of leadership she promises the nation. Justice delayed is justice denied – for either petitioner or respondent.

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Although the official period for political campaigns is still to start  in March next year, there is no prohibition for candidates from making  visitations in universities, their hometowns  or  barangays  upon invitation of their ninangs or kumpadres, and not surprisingly, the reception they receive may be taken as an indication of their popularity.

For instance, Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas made a recent visit to certain spots in Pangasinan, and,  observers say,  he’s a sure winner in the third most vote-rich province in the country with its 1.6 million registered voters.

No less than the so-called three “Urdujas” welcomed Mar – Rep. Gina de Venecia of the 4th district, Rep. Baby Arenas of the 3rd District, and Rep. Marlyn Agabas of the 6th District.

The three legislators are named Urduja, the legendary warrior princess who ruled the kingdom of Tawalisi that is now the province of Pangasinan.

Mar’s first stop was the public market in Dagupan City for a dialogue with the vendors and market-goers.  That time, however, he visited as the Kuya ng Bayan, according to Rep. De Venecia, who likened Roxas to an elder brother who is “matoor ya manserbi, maaron agi” (sincere servant, caring sibling).

De Venecia, also called “Manay Gina, said, “Like an elder brother, Secretary Mar has been helping the Filipinos to have affordable medicines through his Cheaper Medicines Law, found employment through the call center industry and the PESO (Public Employment Service Office) that he established, and the control of criminality through the Operation Lambat Sibat that he put up when he was DILG Secretary.”

The visit enabled Roxas to dialogue with Pangasinan tricycle drivers and operators at the CSI stadia, Dagupan City and the three  multi-sectoral meetings in Malimgas market, San Carlos gym in San Carlos City, and the municipal gymnasium in Rosales.

Among those who joined Roxas were Congressman Conrado Estrella III of Abono party-list, former congresswoman Ma. Rachel Arenas, Dagupan  City Mayor Belen Fernandez, San Carlos City Mayor Julier Resuello,  and  Vice Mayor Joseres Resuello, Urdaneta City, Mayor Amadeo Gregory Perez  IV and  Calasiao Mayor  Mark  Roy Macanlalay.

Recently, Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil of Pangasinan’s 2nd District also took oath as an LP member, while the incumbent Governor Amado Espino already openly endorsed Roxas for president.

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I have good news for my kababayans in Gingoog City. The Sangguniang Panglunsod of the City of Gingoog has unanimously approved and endorsed without interposing any objection to the proposal of a company with proven tract record in management and financial capability to develop and operate the P3.5 billion Odiongan River hydroelectric power generation project. Without a doubt, this development will generate thousands of jobs, attract investments, develop many kinds of livelihood projects,  significantly help in addressing the perennial power shortage in that part of Northeastern  Mindanao, and contribute significantly to the coffers of the city and national government.

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A colleague, Wilhelmina Orozco, received notice that Comelec turned down her certificate  of candidacy (COC) for the position of senator five days after she filed it. She told me she was considered a “nuisance” candidate.

Accordingly she filed a petition with  Comelec regarding the decision of the commission’s law department, Orozco wrote that the Constitution guarantees equal access to opportunities for public service. By denying her  candidacy, “the Petitioner-Law Department’s knowledge of  (the)  act of holding public office becomes glaring and wanting. It is violating the Constitution by denying the Respondent her right to run for public office.”

To Orozco, the petitioner-law department “is engaging in a capitalistic endeavor – the individual candidate, without a party must be able to sustain (meaning have enough spending money) the campaign, have funds, and insure his/her victory through the polls. This is a rather narrow view of the role of the Commission on Elections in the country.”

“Therefore, the Petitioner-Law Department misunderstands and dilutes the meaning of public service. By denying Respondent the right to run for office, it has distorted the meaning of and statement in the constitution from being equal to unequal access to opportunities for public service.”

To state that running for public office is a mere “privilege subject to limitations imposed by law, is to rewrite the Constitution,” writes Orozco. “‘Privilege’ cannot be a substitute for ‘right’. Nor should Right be capriciously changed to Privilege. Privilege is a capricious benefit that can be recalled at any time but Right is just entitlement, so fundamental that it cannot be obliterated by anyone. It is bestowed upon the Filipino people. To say that to run for public office is a mere privilege subject to limitations imposed by law is committing a gross violation of the fundamental law of the land. The Constitution guarantees equal access to public service; ergo, everyone should be allowed to file their candidacies and be allowed to be judged by the public except for health reasons – for example physiological may be mentioned as obstructive of serving the public, but incapacity to conduct a campaign is not at all nor should it be a hindrance because the Constitution states that everyone should have equal access to serve in office.

“The Comelec immediately judges candidates as nuisance even just five days after filing of certificate. It forgets that according to the Philippine Constitution, the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.  The Comelec violates this Constitutional provision thus blatantly destroying the reputation of  candidates and calling them  nuisance based on pieces of paper and not a thorough understanding of their biography, of having interviewed them, or their having been assessed by competent personnel. This is tantamount to committing libel, a civil offense that is penalized by law.”

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

ACIRC CITY COMELEC DAGUPAN CITY DE VENECIA GRACE POE LAW NBSP PUBLIC QUOT ROXAS
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