Vestal voting

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. - The Philippine Star

My journey in the legal academe began with my days as a law student. Our 1985 batch spent the first few sessions in constitutional law picking apart Javellana v. Executive Secretary, a.k.a. the Ratification Cases. To lawyers batch 1989 and above, Javellana was a rite of passage as we dealt with the 362-page cornerstone decision upholding the ratification of the 1973 Constitution.

A year and a revolution thereafter, the 1987 Constitution came into effect. For us, it meant we had a second Constitution to master. This double exposure and inceptional duality inevitably put us on unsteady ground. This is surely one reason for my preoccupation with the Constitution and the choice to focus on the same as a teacher.

The bundle of constitutional law subjects includes the arcane body of law on Philippine elections. It was during that 1985 season that B.P. 881 a.k.a. the Omnibus Election Code was enacted. It was “the basic law on elections,” meant to systematize the study and make it easier by having all provisions in one place.

I took it up in third year law school, 1987-1988, the year I first ran for public office. Canvassing, pre-proclamation controversies, etc. – all these concepts were difficult to appreciate in a vacuum. Hence, when handling the subject myself as professor, I would bring exhibits of questioned official returns, tally sheets and certificates of canvass. What lawyer can forget trudging through the rules on appreciation of ballots with principles like equity of the incumbent, idem sonam (sounds like), descriptio personae, etc.?

Since 1985, numerous election statutes followed, progressively stripping sections of the Code resulting in a carcass of obsolete, overlapping, disjointed and piecemeal provisions. It has become one of the tougher subjects to teach.

Lightning in a bottle. In the Senate, Senator Imee Marcos has undertaken the herculean initiative to propose a 200-page draft election code, SB No. 2521. The march of technology and the ever-growing number of new voters bespeak the urgency of immediate adopting the new codification. Even the legislated Automated Election System has proved problematic to a segment of our policymakers, many wanting to see a return to manual or at least a hybrid system. The party-list system also consistently gets its critiques.

Voting is a foundation concept. Having that right to vote, whether or not you choose to exercise it, affirms your participation in the community. Free and informed collective choice legitimizes the decisions made to govern us. This “consent of the governed” is the basis of social order. Hence, suffrage is the fountainhead of government authority. The short form is the oft heard phrase “bedrock of democracy.”

Election laws exist to minimize if not eradicate barriers to the exercise of the voting franchise. The mandate for government is to give effect to the expression of popular will rather than frustrate the voice of the electorate. Our election law framework recognizes how partisanship can lead us down dangerous paths. Hence, the need for elaborate, rigid rules to protect the voter and safeguard the purity of the process without unduly encumbering the same.

Edging closer. Thursday’s Philippine STAR editorial decried the postponement of the Barangay/Sangguniang Kabataan elections. The House has already voted to postpone. The Senate committee on electoral reforms has now reported out their version. Of course, the leadership of both houses have famously met, for the avowed purpose of synchronizing efforts toward their common goal.

Among the bases for postponement: three-year terms are too short for substantial accomplishments; the cost of staging the elections amounts to billions of pesos each time, hence the need for less rather than more elections, among others. But what of the social costs? As the editorial pondered: “Perhaps there are officials who want to show their gratitude to their barangay and youth leaders in ways that do not undermine the democratic process.”

Sen. Marcos also shares an insight which seems to be one of the anti-democratic consequences of the anti-dynasty legal provision we see in SK elections. In small barangays, almost everyone is related by consanguinity or affinity. Hence, the disqualification of relatives up to the second degree affects a large portion of the barangay’s voting population.  
Love set. Even before the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the mania on majesty was already at fever pitch owing to the retirement of the undisputed royalty of the women’s side of professional sport. I refer to the regal Serena Williams of tennis.

Serena transcended race, sex, sponsorships. She transcended even time to reach the pinnacle of her sport in a manner never before seen – in terms of total dominance, excellence, commitment and endurance. She rose above even her own surname to become one of a handful of athletes known by first name only. Like Tiger and LeBron.

As difficult as it has been to imagine the professional tour without Serena, yesterday the tennis world was shocked by another, long dreaded announcement. Roger Federer has also called it quits.

The elegant one. Together with fellow kings Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer is synonymous with tennis. The argument of who is greatest of all time will never be resolved. There is universal concurrence, however, that the choice can only come from these three contemporaries who managed to achieve greatness despite having each other to contend with. With Serena at distaff, this triumvirate embodies the epic era of tennis.

Roger made it look so easy. There is no such thing as a natural talent. Roger appeared to be such with his precision, calculation, steadiness. His was a complete game. But behind that was a massive effort at mastery and practice.

We have a potential women’s champion, Alexandra Eala of US Open fame. No Philippine athlete has ever accomplished what she has at the junior level. For perspective, the top crop of players on the women’s professional tour like current World No. 1 Swiatek, previous No. 1 Barty, Bencic, Gauff, Azarenka and Fil-Ecuadorian Leylah Fernandez, among others, were also junior girls grand slam champions.

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