A bi­ased Supreme Court, threat to our frag­ile democ­racy

Business World - - OPINION - TERESA S. ABESAMIS

We can­not let the sit­u­a­tion pro­ceed on this fright­en­ing course.

Un­less The Supreme Court, sit­ting as the Pres­i­den­tial Elec­toral Tri­bunal (PET) re­verses it­self on its po­si­tion that a res­o­lu­tion is­sued in Year 2010 stip­u­lat­ing a min­i­mum of 50% shad­ing of the bal­lot ovals is re­quired for val­i­da­tion of the bal­lot, its bias for the rich will be­come even more ob­vi­ous. The Com­elec had rec­og­nized a 25% shad­ing thresh­old in an en banc res­o­lu­tion.

In re­sponse to her let­ter re­quest to Com­elec for guid­ance, fol­low­ing the protest fil­ing in July 2016 by Fer­di­nand Mar­cos, Jr., Com­elec Over­sight Com­mis­sioner for the Ran­dom Man­ual Au­dit (RMA) Luie Tito Guia had writ­ten a memo to lawyer Felipa Anama, Clerk of the PET, in­form­ing the Supreme Court that the vote count­ing ma­chines had been con­fig­ured in May 2016 to count ovals with min­i­mum shad­ing of 25%. This thresh­old was con­sid­ered ad­e­quate for pre­vent­ing count­ing of ac­ci­den­tal mark­ings or un­in­tended er­rors, and en­sur­ing in­ten­tional votes are counted. In this coun­try where a great ma­jor­ity are not used to read­ing and writ­ing much, this makes sense.

The PET says it is “not aware” of such a Com­elec Res­o­lu­tion. All it has to do is take the trou­ble to look for the doc­u­ment

which should be in their files, and which was signed by then Com­elec Com­mis­sioner An­dres Bautista, Com­mis­sion­ers Guia, Chris­tian Lim, Rowena Guan­zon, Al Par­reno, Arthur Lim, and Sher­iff Abas. The en banc res­o­lu­tion for­mal­ized an agree­ment ear­lier and demon­strated by tech­nol­ogy sup­plier Smart­matic prior to the May elec­tion that a 25% thresh­old was sen­si­ble and doable.

This de­vel­op­ment which seems to have es­caped no­tice by ma­jor me­dia chan­nels is cru­cial to the sur­vival of our in­creas­ingly threat­ened democ­racy. If Mar­cos Jr. is de­clared the win­ner in this protest, it can be at­trib­uted to this de­ci­sion by the PET to stick to its guns on the 50% thresh­old what­ever the ev­i­dence. It will also open up other protests from elec­tion losers from all over the coun­try. It will be a ma­jor tragedy for the Filipino na­tion.

It will make all our march­ing in the streets start­ing from the as­sas­si­na­tion of Ni­noy Aquino in 1983 un­til we de­posed the dic­ta­tor Mar­cos on EDSA in 1987 an ar­du­ous but fu­tile un­der­tak­ing.

The Mar­cos protest has been a gru­el­ing jour­ney for Vice-Pres­i­dent Leni Ro­bredo who was, af­ter all, a re­luc­tant can­di­date who ac­cepted her duty de­spite seem­ingly hope­less odds, es­pe­cially not hav­ing the money for cam­paign fi­nanc­ing. She had worked ex­tremely hard from a start­ing base of 1% “likely to vote” to a fi­nal vic­tory. The fi­nan­cial bur­dens placed on her and her sup­port­ers by the Mar­cos protest have been awe­some. The Supreme Court even dis­al­lowed some of her donors from con­tribut­ing to her protest ex­penses; at the same time that Mar­cos Jr. hand­ily paid his mil­lions, claim­ing that he, haha, had raised the money with help from friends.

This same Supreme Court has just re­cently re­vived a dor­mant case against Philip­pine Air­lines ( PAL) which FASAP ( the Flight At­ten­dants and Stew­ards As­so­ci­a­tion of PAL) had won twice. Sud­denly, out of the blue, the SC de­cided the FASAP il­le­gal dis­missal case in fa­vor of the ex­tremely wealthy PAL con­trolled by Lu­cio Tan who had ear­lier been con­victed for tax eva­sion.

A few years ago, the Supreme Court, ma­jor­ity of whom were ap­pointed by then Pres­i­dent Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal Ar­royo, and who, it seems were rec­om­mended by celebrity lawyer Estelito Mendoza, de­cided to award 20% shares of San Miguel Cor­po­ra­tion to claimant Ed­uardo Co­juangco, Jr., who had funded pur­chase of the shares with coco levy funds held in the United Co­conut Planters Bank of which he was then CEO. The po­nente, Lu­cas Ber­samin had stated in his opin­ion that the SC had de­cided that there was “no ev­i­dence,” haha, that Co­juangco was a Mar­cos crony. Here is an­other case of the rich (Co­juangco) win­ning over the poor (co­conut farm­ers) not­with­stand­ing the ev­i­dence.

I won­der whether new ap­point­ments to the Supreme Court which cur­rent Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte will be able to ap­point dur­ing his 6-year term will im­prove the odds of ob­tain­ing fair jus­tice for all in the Court of Last Re­sort.

The SC’s de­ci­sion sit­ting as PET on the Mar­cos elec­toral protest vs. Vice- Pres­i­dent Leni Ro­bredo is cru­cial for the sur­vival of our elec­toral democ­racy. Val­i­da­tion of the Mar­cos protest can lead to chaos, and who knows, the end to our demo­cratic free­doms, in­clud­ing the right to choose our lead­ers through free and fair elec­tions. We can­not let the sit­u­a­tion pro­ceed on this fright­en­ing course. TERESA S. ABESAMIS is a for­mer pro­fes­sor at the Asian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment and an in­de­pen­dent de­vel­op­ment man­age­ment con­sul­tant. tsabesamis0114 @ya­hoo.com

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