Friday, June 29, 2007

Maguindanao's Bitter Lessons

Team Unity's Juan Miguel Zubiri was quick to claim noble victory yesterday, saying, "I’m just happy and delighted and thank God and this country that democracy will prevail.” -- after the Supreme Court denied Koko Pimentel's petition for Temporary Restraining Order against the canvassing of Maguindanao province by the Commission on Elections.

COMELEC's James Jimenez was full of brio, declaring, “It looks like if there is no TRO, I guess we have every right to proceed!” By which I do believe he means that the Comelec en banc will convene itself as a National Board of Canvassers today, Friday, June 29, do some simple arithmetic and with the alacrity of a rat proclaim Juan Miguel Zubiri Senator of the Republic. In a sound bite that should resonate all the way back to the 2004 "Noted" Canvassing, Jimenez also intoned that the canvassing of votes is a "mere ministerial process" at this point.

The Maguindanao recanvassing yielded 195,823 votes for Zubiri and 67,111 for Pimentel. Pending the Maguindanao votes, the COMELEC en banc, which sits as the NBC, has already tallied 10,861,888 votes for Zubiri. Pimentel, on the other hand, had 10,746,298.

The Palace has cunningly used the clock after realizing that Koko's prayer could not possibly be granted for being premature. Now take a look at this provision in the 1987 Constitution on the Senate:
Art VI Section 4. The term of office of the Senators shall be six years and shall commence, unless otherwise provided by law, at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following their election. No Senator shall serve for more than two consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term of which he was elected.
That's tomorrow (Saturday of this week) that the Constitution says the six year term of the Senators elected in the May 14, 2007 elections "shall commence." Citing this provision and riding high on the Supreme Court decision not to grant a TRO, Chairman Ben Abalos can seem to justify an immediate proclamation of Zubiri as the 12th winning senator and let the next charades be enacted in the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

The lessons are brief but stern and stunning:

(1) Comelec can do anything it wants to up until proclamation because Comelec IS the election system under the 1987 Constitution. It is a Constitutionally independent body whose jurisdiction over elections is overpowering and unassailable. In the hands of such as its present stewards, Democracy becomes a Whore. However, the eternal moralizing over an inherently flawed system is largely futile.

(2) All the watchdogs in the world can howl at the moon and pat themselves on the back, but here at the very end of our infamous manual canvassing process, Comelec quietly reigns supreme. I am afraid that by letting the Media and the electoral watchdogs have a field day with expose and self-congratulation, the Comelec has transferred the moral responsibility for a clean and honest elections to the Watchdogs themselves. The Watchmen, after all, are busy with "ministerial duties." The strategy all along has been to use the watchdogs and media and Church as the moral cover for monkey business as usual. The bitter lesson here is that even heroic vigilance and world-class investigative journalism are not enough to stop the brazenly and inexorably corrupt institution called Comelec. It is rotten wood that ought to be razed from root to branch and replaced with a modern election system, like the ATM network used by the banking system.

(3) The real power of the Supreme Court lies in what it chooses not to do. Even Bar TopNotchers should not therefore lightly appeal to it for redress of grievances. Losing a case before the Supreme Court may amount to a moral victory but it is a public relations disaster that can be exploited so easily and cunningly by the other side.

Ricky Carandang on Mornings on ANC was hard on Koko Pimentel, quoting that old saw that "A person who represents himself before the Court has fool for a lawyer." This, because Koko argued the case for the TRO himself yesterday, but failed to convince the Court. The most devastating quote from him yesterday was the admission that he has only circumstantial evidence that the Maguindanao elections were marred with fraud.

What? After all that has happened in Maguindanao?

"Hey Rizalist, you're getting scary with posts like this from last Friday:" Maguindanao will determine the Senate President.

AUTOMATION is not a technical problem. It is a moral and political imperative. Else, let the Filipino people bear their chains in abashed silence!

Sing! Musa Dimasidsing!

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