By Perry Diaz
Just when the issue of Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares’ “qualifications” to run for president had been put to rest and allowing her to run for president, the dissenting opinion of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio revealed that Llamanzares did not get a majority vote because the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on her citizenship was 7-5-3. Yes, seven is not a majority; it is a minority.
In his 55-page dissenting opinion, Carpio said that there was no majority ruling on Llamanzares’ qualification to run for president. “What is clear and undeniable is that there is no majority of this Court that holds that petitioner Mary Grace Natividad Poe Llamanzares is a natural-born Filipino citizen,” he declared.
Carpio cited Rule 12, Section 1 of the SC Internal Rules, which requires that all decisions and actions in court cases “shall be made up upon the concurrence of the majority of the Members of the Court who actually took part in the deliberation on the issues involved and voted on them.” Since all 15 justices had voted, at least eight votes are needed to achieve a majority ruling.
Yet they decided that a minority of seven justices constituted the majority in the 15-member Supreme Court, which reminds me of voodoo ritual where the quack doctor pricks needles on a doll and chant, wriggle, juggle, and jiggle until the “desired” outcome is achieved. If that sounds ridiculous to you, so be it. But this crazy interpretation – or manipulation – of the Constitution is going to hurt the judicial system for a long time to come until something is done to remove these inflicted warts. One of the petitioners, former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad, said that the SC ruling had “bastardized” the Constitution.
Evidently, the “desired” outcome was to qualify Llamanzares to run for president notwithstanding the obvious facts that she was a foundling with unknown parentage (which she admits) and lacked the 10-year residency constitutional requirements (which she denies). But any way you calculate it using simple arithmetic, it’s less than 10 years! And there are no ifs and buts about it. So, how – or should I say, why – did the seven justices insist that Llamanzares had satisfied the residency requirements?
But what happened was the Supreme Court – on a 9-6 vote – decided to allow Llamanzares to run regardless of the 7-5-3 votes on the citizenship issue. But the way the nine justices decided to proclaim Llamanzares natural-born Filipino citizen smacks of judicial voodooism because there simply is no way that a foundling can be deemed natural-born citizen. It was a decision that was not predicated on what the Constitution clearly requires. Yet, nine justices blatantly – and shamelessly — ignored the Constitution.
“Lagay is my guy”
There must be something that made them do it. Could their votes been bought as one insider in the Supreme Court had reportedly inferred, saying that these justices were bribed P50 million each to vote in favor of Llamanzares?
That’s a pretty serious allegation but at the same time, considering that bribery, or “lagay” as it’s known in the local jargon, is one of the most – if not the most – common way of influencing the government. Indeed, the “lagay” system is what greases the wheels of the Philippine government to move. As they say back home, “Lagay is my guy.” Stop the “lagay” system and the wheel stops.
Assuming that the nine justices were bribed, it begs the question: Who bribed them and why? While we can only speculate the “who” and “why” of the matter, there are strange things that may have happened or could happen in the near future.
P-Noy’s secret candidate
The political circles are rife with speculations that P-Noy is secretly backing Llamanzares. That’s the “who.” The “why” is that Llamanzares is the only presidential candidate who could beat Jejomar Binay and Rodrigo Duterte. The three of them are at a statistical dead heat.
In my article, “Is P-Noy hedging his future on Poe?” (February 12, 2016), I wrote: “Aquino is probably having nightmares about what the future bodes for him. Indeed, he has every reason to be scared because of what happened to former presidents Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who were both detained on charges of crimes – including non-bailable plunder – that they allegedly committed while in office.
“It’s interesting to note that it was Arroyo who pursued the plunder charges against Estrada that landed him in jail and it was Aquino who put Arroyo in detention awaiting trial for a series of plunder cases. Could Aquino’s successor pursue plunder charges and other crimes against him after he leaves office? With the pattern that Arroyo started, Aquino’s successor might send him to jail, too. And there is every reason to do so unless his successor is someone who wouldn’t do it to him… like his pal Roxas. But with Roxas seemingly unelectable, who among the top three contenders would spare him from prosecution? Or is it persecution?
“Grace Poe [Llamanzares], who is Binay’s closest rival, could be kind to Aquino if she were elected president. She could be Aquino’s ‘insurance’ against incarceration. Indeed, many suspect that Poe is Aquino’s ‘secret candidate’.”
What appears to be happening is that the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Llamanzares to run for president was politically motivated. Interestingly, four (including Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno) of P-Noy’s six appointees to the Supreme Court voted to allow Llamanzares to run. Coincidence? Maybe. But as someone once said, “In politics there are no coincidences.”
It’s interesting to note that the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), which heard the disqualification case filed earlier against Llamanzares by Rizalito David, voted 5-4 to dismiss the case against her. Of the nine SET members, the three SC justices and Sen. Nancy Binay voted against Llamanzares while the five other senators on the tribunal voted in favor of Llamanzares. One of them, Sen. Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, is a first cousin of P-Noy. As soon as the votes were announced, P-Noy’s sister Kris Aquino congratulated Bam for his vote in favor of Llamanzares. Coincidence?
Coincidences or not, two of the most respected SC justices’ words were ominous. Carpio said that the decision to allow Llamanzares to run for president while “the question on her being a natural-born Filipino citizen was hanging over her head was to make a mockery of the elections.” Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro said, “The issue of natural-born citizenship… if not overturned, will wreak havoc on our constitutional system of government.”
A few days ago, the petitioners against Mary Grace Natividad Poe-Llamanzares submitted a motion for reconsideration. The Supreme Court can redeem its honor by taking politics out of the case. At the end of the day, if the justices continue to politicize the Supreme Court, they will destroy the credibility and integrity of the entire Judiciary beyond repair for a long, long time.