To be fair, put Poe, Duterte on the ballot

- Federico D. Pascual Jr. - The Philippine Star

THE COMMISSION on Elections rolls out tomorrow a provisional list of candidates in the May 2016 elections – and our fearless forecast is that it will include Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte despite their presidential candidacies being questioned.

Everything considered, however, this corner believes it is but fair and just to allow the inclusion of Poe and Duterte in that tentative list of candidates while legal questions over their qualifications are being threshed out.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista has said that although tomorrow’s list “will not yet be final, we want it to be close to the final list of candidates” that the poll body wants to publish by Jan. 8.

When the printing of the official ballot with the candidates’ names starts by the third week of January, we would not be surprised to see the names of Poe and Duterte on it.

Including them in the official ballot even before the challenge to their qualification is decided with finality by the Supreme Court is fraught with dire possibilities – including street marches – but the nation will survive any disturbance stoked by partisans.

In a transition period such as a national election, both the electorate and the candidates should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Elections are the ultimate democratic process by which the people choose their leaders. There should be much leeway in the selection process instead of artificially limiting the field of choice.

Actually one technical limiting factor is just the length of the ballot (the more candidates, the longer and more cumbersome it is). But in the old days of manual voting, regardless of the number of candidates, the voters simply picked and wrote one name for president.

Awaiting final resolution at the Comelec are Poe’s motions for reconsideration of two division rulings disqualifying her for allegedly not being a natural-born citizen and lacking the required 10-year residency.

Also hanging is a petition to disallow Duterte’s substituting for his party’s original nominee for president who had mistakenly indicated he was running for mayor of Pasay City.

We are aware of the need to observe the basic requirements of the Constitution for presidential candidates before they are screened for second-level qualifications that voters arbitrarily require of candidates.

But with creeping moves to shoot down one candidate after another using legalistic stratagems, we say: Let us give serious candidates with clear popular support the benefit of the doubt and allow them to vie for the people’s direct mandate.

Honest elections are a better mechanism than litigation. Place the fate of the nation in the hands of the people themselves rather than rely on the whim and discretion of unelected seven members of the Commission on Elections and 15 justices of the Supreme Court.

Better to suffer from the collective misjudgment of the national electorate than be a victim of a skewed ruling of a small group of men and women, supposedly learned in the law they may be.

• Why P-Noy satisfaction rating dips

NOBODY is surprised that the public satisfaction with President Noynoy Aquino’s performance slipped to +32 percent in the Dec. 5-8 survey of the Social Weather Stations, showing a nine-point decline from the +41 registered in September.

We saw some of the plausible reasons in a chat some evenings back with economist Ben Diokno, former secretary of the Department of Budget and Management under then President Erap Estrada and DBM undersecretary during President Cory Aquino’s term.

He recalled a piece he wrote for the blog ManilaSpeak, where he said that with the solemn vow to do justice to every man, President Aquino should be running after all erring officials, whether friends or foes. There should be no selective justice or selective prosecution, he said.

Saying the President has also failed in his oath to defend the Constitution, he noted:

“He has been rebuffed by the Supreme Court many times starting from his creation of the Truth Commission. Through the Disbursement Acceleration Program, he usurped the powers of Congress, and bullied the Supreme Court (but luckily the SC justices stood their ground).

“But through his subsequent acts in the 2014 and 2015 budgets that seek to circumvent the Supreme Court’s DAP ruling, Mr. Aquino showed his unwillingness to execute the laws of the land.”

Diokno continued: “The next president should be more circumspect and be inclusive rather than be hateful and vindictive, and be able to look at the big picture.”

To avoid similar mistakes, he said the next president must assemble a Cabinet and senior advisers from a wide group of honest and competent men rather than from a narrow circle of friends, classmates and shooting buddies.

The next president should foster national unity, he said, noting: “We have never been so divided as a people. The division started with President Aquino himself. His penchant to display the yellow ribbon, rather than the Filipino flag, on his lapel is a symbol of divisiveness. If you’re a yellow-ribbon wearing citizen you’re with him, if not you’re against him.”

He recalled then Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas’ words to Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez at the height of the Tacloban tragedy: “You have to remember, we have to be careful. You are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino.”

The Philippines should move in one direction, Diokno said, “to a more progressive, more open, more humane society” – especially because the Philippines competes with other countries, including its ASEAN-6 neighbors (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam).

With the ASEAN integration this year, he said, the focus should be to address the challenges towards competitiveness. He noted that although Mr. Aquino had five years to prepare for it, he failed to do just that.

Diokno said: “Our inability to attract direct foreign investment is a clear proof that the government has not done enough to make the Philippines an attractive place for investment.”

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NOTA BENE: POSTSCRIPTs are archived at www.manilamail.com (if necessary copy/paste url on address bar). Follow us via Twitter.com/@FDPascual. Email feedback to dikpascual@gmail.com

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