While reading the news about media’s favorite candidates for the 2016 Philippine Presidential elections, I cannot help but think that it seems the immediate future is not looking good for Filipinos at all. It looks like the tradition of holding a circus during a national election is going to continue. This time, there are so many clowns who have joined in the cacophony.
There is so much noise and so much happening with the popular Presidential candidates all at the same time that it has become difficult for voters to focus on the most important thing, which is their platform. One can be forgiven for thinking that maybe the noise is a tactic to distract the voters from focusing on what the candidates have to offer or have not offered – their vision and plans on how to bring the Philippines from Third World to First.
What is very disconcerting is the fact that a few of the most popular candidates are embroiled in legal issues that can hound their Presidential term if they ever win the Presidency.
Take the case of Senator Grace Poe (Llamanzares). If we are to believe the survey firms, the results say she is so popular with the respondents that she is already expected to win the election. This has certainly put her opponents and detractors on edge, enough to make them do something to disqualify her from running. While the Senate Electoral Tribunal has dismissed the disqualification case against her filed by Rizalito David, she is not out of the woods yet.
David is not the only petitioner who has filed a case against her citizenship status. Former Department of Justice Prosecutor Estrella Elamparo and former Sen. Francisco Tatad also filed a case to disqualify her before the Commission on Elections clerk of court. Likewise, Antonio Contreras, a political science professor at De La Salle University, petitioned the Comelec to cancel her certificate of candidacy (COC) for President based on the argument that Poe has failed to meet the 10-year residency required of presidential candidates.
What I don’t understand is why it is only now that people are looking into Poe’s qualifications as a public servant. Poe is already halfway through her term as senator but it’s only now people are questioning her citizenship status. Why was the fact that she was a foundling not an issue before? Why didn’t people question her citizenship status after she filed for her certificate of candidacy for the senate? Did people overlook or turn a blind eye to her questionable citizenship status because she was the daughter of a popular celebrity or because she was not a threat to the Presidency back in 2013? Or both? Whatever the reason, this kind of idiocy can only happen in the Philippines.
Fortunately for Poe, five of her colleagues from the Senate who are also members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal voted in her favor. Unfortunately for Poe, the decision to dismiss the disqualification case has not satisfied her critics. In fact, it has raised more eyebrows because some people have noted that among those who voted to disqualify Poe from the SET were three Supreme Court Judges – presumably those who based their decision on the law rather than merely on politics.
A lot of Filipinos were dismayed that patronage politics trumped rule of law once again. For their part, it must be discouraging for Supreme Court judges to lose to Senators who were only voted in because they were popular and not because they are knowledgeable of the law. In this case, the senators ignored the law. Since Philippine lawmakers do not follow the law, it is hard to expect ordinary citizens to follow it. As such, it is not surprising that the country has for so long been unable to progress.
Grace Poe’s Presidential term will be off to a bad start. Because there are people who believe that she is ignoring the law, she will not have their respect and therefore not have a strong mandate. She hasn’t even won the election yet but she is already at odds with members of the Supreme Court. That is not a good sign.
Ignoring her critics is one thing but ignoring the law is another. We can liken her term to that of former President Gloria Arroyo. People doubted the legitimacy of her last term due to cheating allegations. Poe could suffer the same fate if she wins Presidency with some people questioning her qualifications.
One wonders if Poe’s ability to hold the office of the President can offset the mounting legal issues she is facing. Is she really that good that Filipinos should just give her a chance to run? Some are saying that she is too ambitious. She hasn’t even finished her first term as a senator and she is already eyeing the highest post in the land. She could, however, be better than the incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino in the sense that she is more telegenic and less vindictive, but her lack of experience in politics means that she will also be learning as she goes. Now we already know how an on-the-job trainee like BS Aquino turned out. It was disastrous. The same thing can happen to a Poe Presidency.
The key here is in Poe’s surrounding herself with good advisers and her being able to routinely pick the right advice to run with. Hopefully she is not like BS Aquino who hardly listens to sound advice or who never got any to begin with. Let’s all hope she will learn from BS Aquino’s mistakes and listen to her critics. She will need to drink a cup of cement to harden herself up because her critics will be harsh, indeed.
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