“The Philippines seems like the sort of country where anyone can do anything” a friend said on hearing that Mae Paner, the pleasantly plump actress known as Juana Change, is featured in an exhibition of nude portraits (a performance described by Jim Paredes as “fearless … a must see”).
However, there is a downside to the disregard for rules in the Philippines, especially in the electoral season.
What has surprised me about Estrada’s declaration that he intends to run for reelection is not just that it is obviously unconstitutional and violates his pardon (which prohibits him from engaging in political activity), but that the response from Comelec seemed so spineless:
Speaking at a media briefing, [Comelec Chair] Melo said the Comelec could not stop Estrada from filing a certificate of candidacy. “We cannot say if he is qualified or not. There is no case against him. Right now, it seems that he is qualified because there is no protest against him,” he said.
Isn't this the sort of issue where one would look to the Commission on Elections to make a preliminary ruling, even if the issue will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court? This point was well made in a letter in the Inquirer this week:
Is the Commission on Elections not supposed to check the certificates of candidacy and see if the applicants are qualified? Are they not supposed to approve or disapprove it? What if nobody files a complaint? Then the application is deemed approved. Comelec Chair Melo said that “it seems that he [Estrada] is qualified because there is no protest against him.” It is the Comelec who should say if a candidate is qualified or not.
However, if the ultimate arbiter in this matter will have to be the Supreme Court, this will throw up huge practical difficulties, as pointed out in another letter to the Inquirer:
The point is the high court’s rulings in these parts generally take at least three months, from when an issue becomes justiciable. And that is ignoring the time for motions for review, etc, after the initial ruling has been issued. At the earliest, then, Erap’s case would become justiciable after Dec. 14, when the Comelec shall have received all the certificates of candidacy and is ready to order the printing of the ballots. I seriously doubt the ballot printing process is amenable, if necessary, to a re-run. At that juncture, then, I ask: “What kind of ballot must the Comelec order to be printed?” Is it one that includes or excludes Estrada among the presidential candidates? I assume that would somehow depend on the Comelec’s own position on Erap’s capacity or incapacity to run. And so, assuming it believes Erap is qualified, and thus has put his name on the ballot, will the votes cast for him be counted even if he may be eventually disqualified? On the other hand, if the Comelec is of the opinion that Erap cannot run and has thus excluded his name in the ballot, what happens if the Justices finally rule in his favor?
I would imagine that a likely scenario is that Erap’s name will appear on the ballot paper, but the Supreme Court will eventually rule that he is ineligible. In that case I am sure that millions of hard core Erap fans will vote for him anyway. If in the final result the number of spoiled ballots (i.e., votes for Erap) is close to the number of votes cast for Villar and Noynoy, or even exceeds them, then where will we be?