Rule of law or rule of the people?
(The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2016 - 9:00am

Almost all the presidential candidates for the May elections – from Vice President Jejomar Binay to Senator Grace Poe, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas – have issues thrown against them which could obviously influence the decision of voters on Election Day. Jojo Binay, who declared his presidential bid first, was an easy target. He and his family are being pilloried with corruption allegations, while the presidential bid of Senator Grace Poe was immediately questioned due to residency and citizenship issues. The Senator was a foundling whose biological parents remain unknown to this day, and people are watching the case because as Chief Justice Sereno said, it would have far-reaching consequences and implications not only for the senator but other foundlings. A human rights activist posited: Is a foundling considered a second class citizen who cannot aspire for the highest position simply because he does not know the identity of his biological parents who abandoned him?

Another candidate facing disqualification is Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, whose name is being attached to the notorious Davao Death Squad. Devout Catholics are also aghast at the perceived “loose” morals of the mayor who is unapologetic about having several mistresses. Mar Roxas on the other hand is being hounded by the MRT problem and other controversies involving the DOTC which he headed before he was given the DILG portfolio. His handpicked successor Jun Abaya is being crucified by irate commuters and MRT passengers who go through hell every single day because of frequent MRT breakdowns and the worsening traffic situation. There’s also the Mamasapano debacle which is dragging Mar since he was DILG chief at the time, plus he is the chosen successor of the President who is believed by many as the one ultimately responsible for the massacre of the Special Action Force troopers by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Not that one can blame many for tarring Roxas with the same bloody brush, since he himself said he will continue whatever the president is doing because they serve as his platform. Luckily for Mar, the last Mamasapano hearing was a dud. Nothing new came out of it.

While there may be truth to perceptions that the issues against the candidates are politically motivated, it is also equally true that ultimately, the people will render judgement. Which is why there is a growing sentiment to allow all the candidates to run so that the ultimate decision will be made by the  people on who will lead this country in the next six years.

As magistrates have repeatedly asserted, “Sovereignty resides in the people, and all government authority emanates from them.” We have seen what can happen if the people decide to use this power – as seen in 1986 during the EDSA People Power revolution and then again during EDSA 2 in 2001 which – although described as a mob rule – proved that the people can oust a president by responding to the call of street parliamentarians.

As cautioned by former Supreme Court Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, there is the danger of an abuse of “people power” and that mob rule should not be allowed to destroy the rule of law and the democratic principles upon which the stability of government depends. A former justice of the Supreme Court believes that the Court should allow all candidates to run and let the voice of the people prevail.

If Mar Roxas wins, then it could mean that the Mamasapano massacre and other issues hounding the government are not deemed important by the voters. On the other hand, if VP Binay wins, then it goes to show that the people do not believe the corruption allegations. If Grace Poe emerges victorious, it would show that the people consider her a natural citizen and believe her platform of inclusive governance.

And while surveys are indicators of voter preference, at the end of the day, the only survey that counts is none other than the election results – a reflection of the true will of the people.

An Imperial coup

Undoubtedly, the visit of the Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to the Philippines was an “Imperial coup” judging from the way their five-day visit went. Aside from its historic significance, the Imperial visit was one that has changed our relationship with Japan and brought it to a new level. The charm offensive mounted by the Imperial Couple was unprecedented.

We saw it firsthand at a small reception hosted by Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa which numbered a little less than a hundred guests and pre-cleared by the Imperial Palace. President Aquino and “First Sister” Pinky Abellada accompanied the Imperial Couple at the reception. Among those present were former president Fidel Ramos, Speaker Sonny Belmonte, BSP Governor Say Tetangco, Frank Drilon, Secretary Albert del Rosario and business magnates Don Jaime Zobel, Tessie Sy-Coson and Tommy Alcantara. Also present was Ed Angara and Lilia de Lima who were both recipients of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun. Ed received the Grand Cordon while Lilia was conferred the Gold and Silver Star.

The Imperial Couple charmed the guests and spent time talking to almost everyone present. In my brief conversation with them, I reminded them of Nepal in 1975 at the coronation of the late King Birendra where as an RPN news reporter, I chanced upon the then-Crown Prince and Crown Princess as they were coming out of their VIP cottage. I came up to them for a short interview much to the dismay of the Imperial protocol officer present. Then as now, they were extremely gracious.

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