Philippine Politics

Of course the Commission on Elections has no choice but to accept the certificate of candidacy of former President Joseph Estrada, if he decides to run for the top post in the May 2010 polls, because accepting the CoC is a ministerial duty on the part of the Comelec. The law says so.

Following a process, however, the poll body can of course determine, on its level, whether Estrada is qualified to run, or disqualified from the presidential race, although the Comelec does not have the last say on this if it decides to disqualify Estrada, because ultimately, such a decision will be challenged before the high court.

The question is, will the commission be politically influenced — and by Malacañang — to ensure Estrada’s disqualification?

The fact alone that some of the Comelec commissioners are politically influenced can be gleaned from the poll body’s unilateral decision to advance the deadline for the filing of the candidates’ certificate of candidacy to Nov. 30, 2009, even as the amended automation law states that the filing of the CoC is 120 days before election day, not six months before the polls. It doesn’t take four months to have the ballots done, even on automated polls. So why advance the date by six months for the CoC filing?

Besides, fixing the deadline six months ahead of the legal deadline date creates even more problems, since the campaign period is set for 120 days. After the filing in Nov. 30, it obviously is still not the official campaign time, in which case, what are the candidates supposed to do, not campaign?

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento claimed, in a TV interview it is the law that says the CoC deadline filing is Nov. 30, without, however, stating what law says so, because the law is clear that the CoC filing is pegged at 120 days before the polls.

To this day, the commission has not issued a resolution on this matter, perhaps because it realizes that this will be questioned, and the Comelec does not want to have this resolution — until it is too late to challenge the resolution.

With a Nov. 30 deadline, the commission probably figures that there will be enough time for it to disqualify Estrada, and enough time for the Supreme Court to decide on the issue of his eligibility months before polling day.

Still, it will be highly questionable if the commission quickly decides on this issue. There will always be that public suspicion that Estrada is being disqualified on account of political bias, and of pressure from Malacañang.

It is no secret that Gloria Arroyo and her aides, as well as the anti-Erap groups, do not want Estrada in the presidential race, as they know his vote strength and the continued support of him from the masses, who make up the bulk of the electorate. They have been commenting, much too often, that Estrada cannot run again, for various reasons, one being the most absurd, which is that the pardon granted Estrada was conditional and not absolute. The other reason given is that the Constitution bars him from seeking the same post again, through a reelection, which reason isn’t quite solid, since the former President is not seeking reelection, not being the incumbent president.

In any case, there is also the fact that Estrada only served for two and half years in the presidency, having been ousted by a coup d’ etat by his Vice President and treacherous military and police officers. Yet there is the power grabber, who could seek an election as president, even if she served the three and half year term of Estrada, giving her nine plus years in the presidential office. Where is the logic of one president forced to serve only for two and a half years, and through no fault of his, was ousted unconstitutionally, and is now claimed to be barred from seeking the same seat while the Vice President, who, through the coup d’ etat, serving the remaining three and a half years of Estrada’s term, could seek the presidency in 2004 for an additional six years?

In the end, it will again be a matter of conscience for those who will have to decide on Estrada’s eligibility. He, along with the Filipino people who voted him in, was meted a grave injustice when the high court legitimized the coup and Gloria Arroyo’s presidency, and dealt another grave injustice when he was convicted of plunder despite the conviction being clearly politically motivated. If they want yet another injustice done against Estrada, that will be in their conscience. That is, if they have one. – source: Philippine Tribune

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