Moral, not legal or political
Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 7, 2016 - 9:00am

There are indeed so many aberrations in the coming presidential elections. Almost three months after the deadline for the filing of the Certificate of Candidacy for President (COC), we still do not have an official list of those qualified to run. This is quite unusual indeed especially considering that to be a qualified candidate for president, the law simply requires that a person must “be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least 40 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election (Article VII Section 2, Constitution).

It is thus clear enough that those who want to be elected president of this country should prove that they have the above enumerated qualifications on or before October 16, 2015, the deadline set for the filing of the COC. Apparently however, at least two serious contenders failed to do so – Grace Poe Llamanzares and Rodrigo Duterte.

In the case of Poe, she was not able to indubitably and incontrovertibly show that she is a natural born citizen of the Philippines and that she is a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding the election in May 2016.

Poe was not able to prove that she is a Filipina by birth through any document showing that her father or mother is a Filipino under the principle of jus sanguinis which is the mode of acquiring natural born citizenship under our Constitution. She could not do so because she was found abandoned in a Church in Jaro, Iolilo, Philippines of unknown parents. She just relied on the principle of international law declaring that a foundling’s parents are citizens of the country where the foundling is found.

Poe has not likewise indisputably shown that she has been a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding the May 2016 elections. By her own admission in her COC for the 2013 senatorial elections, she indicated that she had been a resident of the Philippines only since November 2006, which is six months short of the ten-year residency requirement for her to qualify as candidate for president in the May 2016 polls.

On the other hand, Duterte did not actually file a certificate of candidacy on or before the deadline.  He filed his certificate of candidacy for president only last December 8, 2015 as a substitute for Martin Dino who withdrew as candidate for president of the PDP Laban. Dino withdrew as candidate for president although it appears that he was actually running for Mayor of Pasay City as shown in the Certificate of Candidacy he filed with the Commission on Election (COMELEC) last October 16, 2015. Duterte’s case once more highlights the deplorable and detestable practice of some people who file COC’s without however any bona fide intention of running for said office and would eventually withdraw to accommodate other would be aspirants who delay the filing of COCs as a campaign strategy or as a ploy to attract more votes. This practice of withdrawal of candidacy and substitution should be abolished already.

These two disqualification cases have indeed set dangerous precedents not only in the choice of our leaders but even in the administration of justice in this country. In fact, the undue publicity given to them especially in the Poe DQ cases has some adverse effects in the possible outcome of the ruling of the Supreme Court (SC). Right now some SC justices are already being pictured as biased against Poe. Indeed there is no more need to ask for the inhibition of the three justices who rendered a dissenting opinion as members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal to inhibit themselves.  We should expect or presume that as SC Associate Justices they will no longer take part if and when the SET ruling comes up to the SC precisely because they have already expressed their views on the issues that will be brought up again there. Asking for their inhibition somehow places their integrity in doubt. In fact when they eventually inhibited themselves, the public impression is that they were just pressured to do so because of too much publicity given to Poe’s motion for inhibition. This is quite unfair.

Furthermore, the Poe camp should refrain as much as possible from talking to the press or calling for a press conference discussing the merits of their case and how strong it is. Comments and opinions regarding the case which is now pending in the SC should not only be stopped but must not be publicized any more. In fact the stand of the Solicitor General (OSG) that Poe is a natural born citizen should not have been given too much emphasis or interpreted as a sign that the government is favoring Poe in her petition. The OSG is simply doing its duty as counsel of the SET which is a government institution it is bound to represent in cases where it is involved.

These unfortunate developments in the Poe DQ cases obviously put some pressure on the SC to rule in their favor whether intended or not. It is in violation of the sub judice rule which “restricts comments and disclosures pertaining to judicial proceedings to avoid prejudging the issue, influencing the court or obstructing the administration of justice” (Romero II vs Estrada, 583 SCRA 396).  

But most importantly, these two DQ cases show the ease and the impunity in violating or going around the various election laws particularly in meeting the required qualifications for the position and in observing the rules laid down for a more efficient and orderly elections. They show without any shadow of doubt the undue lust for power of the current politicians who have no compunction of employing any and all means in order to win a much coveted position. Apparently, the more paramount problems besetting our country today especially in politics no longer involve legal but moral concerns. It seems that we can attain the much needed and longed for reforms in public service only if our society will undergo a moral reformation and rejuvenation.



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