choice in 2016
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As we were writing this piece, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), sitting en banc, had just deferred its decision on the disqualification case against presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe. The six poll commissioners, including Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, were expected to deliberate again and make a decision soon.

We can’t understand why the commissioners had to defer its decision another day. It is obvious that they would simply uphold the earlier decisions by the poll body’s First Division (2-1) and Second Division (3-0) to cancel Poe’s certificate of candidacy for failure to meet the requirements for presidential candidates on citizenship and 10-year residency.

The First Division ruled on a petition by lawyer Estrella Elempario on Poe’s alleged lack of residency, while the second division ruled on petitions filed by University of the East College of Law Dean Amado Valdez, former Senator Kit Tatad and De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras questioning Poe’s citizenship.

With the lone dissenter in the first division, Commissioner Christian Lim, abstaining from the en banc deliberation because of his ties with one of the petitioners, lawyer Estrella Elempario, the pending decision could even be unanimous (6-0) with Bautista siding with the five other commissioners from the two divisions who all voted to disqualify Poe. The five are Commissioners Al Parreno, Arthur Lim and Sheriff Abas from the second division and Luie Guia and Rowena Guanzon from the first division.

It’s highly doubtful that the five would suddenly change their minds a few days later, and even if Chairman Bautista bucks the odds and votes in favor of Poe, it would still be a 5-1 decision that would effectively void Poe’s COC and remove her name from the official ballot.

They could have just gone ahead with the obvious and given Poe time to immediately file her appeal before the Supreme Court. That could have given the high tribunal time to issue a temporary restraining order on the submission of the final roster of candidates for the ballot, whose deadline was on Tuesday (Dec. 22).

In any case, it appears certain Poe would be disqualified unless the Supreme Court decides to overturn the Comelec ruling and upholds Poe’s candidacy. With three SC justices having shown their opinion in the 5-4 voting in the Senate Electoral Tribunal in a case seeking to void Poe’s election in the 2013 senatorial elections for the same reasons – her lack of citizenship and residency – we more or less have an inkling of how the tribunal would decide.

As to the case of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who had filed his COC as substitute for party mate Martin Dino, who for some reason, wrote that he was running for Pasay mayor on a COC form for presidential candidates, the mayor’s supporters can only hope that the commissioners would overlook the mistake and allow Duterte to run.

Knowing that all the seven commissioners, including abstainer Arthur Lim, were appointed by President Aquino, who is openly campaigning for Liberal Party candidate Mar Roxas, do we expect any of the six sitting en banc to allow Duterte to run knowing that the mayor poses a threat to a Roxas victory?

I’m not a lawyer but I doubt if the Supreme Court would entertain an appeal by Duterte on a question of technicality, and not on legality. 

There are even speculations that the third leading candidate based on the latest surveys, Vice President Jejomar Binay, might be found guilty of corruption charges and, therefore, disqualified before the official start of the campaign in February or shortly before the elections in May.

If this happens, Aquino’s candidate Roxas could win by default. This is even more unprecedented, and even more unacceptable to the people. This can happen only if Aquino is so desperate to make Roxas win and avoid incarceration for his role in the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

But I don’t think even the arrogant Aquino would do such a reckless thing. He’ll probably let Binay run and let his party’s black ops to just pounce on Binay with more corruption allegations, and if Roxas remains lagging behind in surveys, maybe he can make behind-the-scene deals with Binay through her Binay-friendly sisters. They had done that against Roxas in the 2010 vice presidential contest, why can’t they do it again next year?

But wait, even if the three frontrunners are eliminated, there is still the feisty Miriam Defensor Santiago to reckon with. Surely, they can’t disqualify Santiago so they’d probably zero in on the fact that the lady senator is very ill and may not be able to discharge the duties and responsibilities of the president if she is elected.

Here is where the supporters of Poe, Duterte and perhaps Binay could vent their anger on the disqualification of their candidates. They could always vote for Santiago, who is one of the most qualified among the presidential candidates in 2016.

It’s not really a hopeless situation. Voters need not choose between the devil and deep blue sea, after all. That is, again, assuming that the 2016 presidential elections would be a clean one. (valabelgas@aol.com)

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