By Rigoberto Tiglao | The Manila Times
IT is astonishing how the opposition — the Pinks and their apparently estranged allies, the Reds — keep on making blunder after blunder, even before the official campaign period starts next year.
The other day a group filed a case asking the Commission on Elections to disqualify Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. from running for president in the elections next year. The group, mostly identified with Red fronts, claimed that the frontrunner is a "convicted criminal," banned from running for any electoral post.
It was a dumb suit for several reasons: that kind of disqualification conviction (over Marcos' failure to file his income tax returns for 1995) is lifted after five years from the serving of the sentence; the law imposes a penalty (for failure to file income tax returns for one year) of a mere fine; and the conviction did not involve "moral turpitude," a requirement for disqualification from holding public office.
Those who filed the case obviously are people — okay, let's call a spade a spade — formerly or presently involved in the communist movement, aka, "national democratic movement," who are never interested in law, much less electoral law, as they have devoted their lives to overthrowing through violence a democratic state. One of them is the wife of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Politburo member, who was arrested last June.
The opposition is backing the case, evident in retired magistrate Antonio Carpio's devoting his column to it on Thursday, claiming the case would prosper.
The filing of the complaint is another huge boo-boo for the opposition. It sends the signal that they themselves have become desperate, convinced that their candidate Leonor Robredo has no chance at all in winning against Bongbong next year, that its only "Plan B" is to disqualify him on a technicality. Indeed, polls after polls show that Marcos could even win by a landslide next year.
The case pricks whatever tiny balloon of confidence they had. Even the dwindling group of moneyed people who hate Marcos now wouldn't throw money at a group which has practically declared their candidate wouldn't win.
It sends a signal, or confirms their ideological stance, that they do not want Filipinos to decide who they want to be their president. How much worse could their reputation be?
Haven't they been reading the newspapers just before the 2016 elections? One Rizalito David, a supporter of Mar Roxas, filed a disqualification case against presidential candidate Grace Poe on grounds that she wasn't a natural-born Filipino. That pushed up Poe's popularity and gained enough sympathy among a significant number of voters, who saw her as a poor victim of the Yellows.
The Senate Electoral Tribunal shot down the disqualification case. The issue even gave Poe's popularity a boost, drawing votes initially intended for Roxas and Jojo Binay away from them — giving room for Duterte to win.
Carpio, in arguing for the disqualification case now cites a single Supreme Court precedent, which involves disqualification cases against a congressman. Doesn't he know that never has a candidate — a viable and not a nuisance one — for the presidency, vice presidency and even for senator, ever been disqualified from running?
At the end of the day, any tribunal deciding on it will invoke the principle of vox populi, vox Dei — that the post of president is so important it transcends mere laws and precedents involving lower officials, that it is the people who must decide by way of elections as long as the candidate complies with the five simple Constitutional requirements to be president (natural born, registered voter, 40-years old, and a resident for at least 10 years before the elections).
Carpio's huge mental problem is that he thinks laws operate in a vacuum, that "lawfare" is so powerful it can even humble superpowers.
This was his huge error in backing and helping the arbitration case against China in 2013: he was naïve in believing that China would just take the threat to its national sovereignty sitting down. Right after the case was filed, China went on a massive program that cost an enormous $50 billion to transform the reefs it occupies into artificial islands, making it the claimant with the biggest and most developed features in the South China Sea. The arbitration case backfired in a big way, making China the most dominant claimant in the disputed area, and making the US' "artificial-islands," its aircraft carriers, look so puny and vulnerable.
Not only that, the arbitration case, while yielding nothing for us, gave the US military justification for their warships' patrols of the South China Sea, that it has created a more volatile situation there.
Similarly, if ever by a miracle, the Comelec, the Senate Electoral Tribunal, or the Supreme Court disqualifies Marcos, Filipinos are unlikely to take it sitting down. President Duterte, who appears to be a backer of Marcos, could exploit the national outrage against the Pinks and Reds and their disqualification plot, to declare martial law, and on to a revolutionary government.
Which I am starting to think is the only real way out of the paralyzing politics that has afflicted the nation, which the US has taken advantage of. This time, however, I don't think it will be as benign as the elder Marcos' martial law.