Ro­bredo’s karma

Manila Times - - Opinion - AN­TO­NIO CON­TR­ERAS

MANY peo­ple are anx­ious about the health of the Pres­i­dent not just be­cause they fear the in­sta­bil­ity it would bring to the coun­try. They also dread the thought of the Pres­i­dent be­com­ing per­ma­nently in­ca­pac­i­tated as it can only mean the as­cen­dance of Vice Pres­i­dent Leni Ro­bredo to the pres­i­dency.

At the heart of the doubts over Ro­bredo is not only her ca­pa­bil­ity to be pres­i­dent, or the lack of it. More im­por­tantly, it goes deep into her du­bi­ous le­git­i­macy. There is a pend­ing elec­toral protest against her. Con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence are com­ing out that seem to in­di­cate sys­tem­atic fraud in the 2016 elec­tions, par­tic­u­larly in the po­si­tion of vice pres­i­dent — from unau­tho­rized en­try into the elec­toral sys­tem, to the un­vet­ted source codes of the vote-count­ing ma­chines, some of which were shown to have trans­mit­ted even be­fore the elec­tions, to the es­tab­lish­ment of unau­tho­rized re­gional elec­tion hubs, and the pres­ence of an il­le­gal fourth server.

What makes the case even more con­vinc­ing is the seem­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Com­mis­sion on Elec­tions (Com­elec) in the per­pe­tra­tion of acts that tend to cast doubt on the in­tegrity of the 2016 elec­tions. The Com­elec’s fail­ure to be trans­par­ent in many of its de­ci­sions has se­ri­ously un­der­mined the cred­i­bil­ity of the process. No less than the Supreme Court, sit­ting as the Pres­i­den­tial Elec­toral Tri­bunal, has called out the change made by Com­elec on the min­i­mum shad­ing thresh­old with­out the proper res­o­lu­tion prior to the elec­tions, and with­out in­form­ing the rel­e­vant par­ties in­volved.

In ad­di­tion, there are re­ported cases of ac­tual ma­nip­u­la­tion of or tam­per­ing with elec­tion results, from opened bal­lot boxes and wet bal­lots to miss­ing bal­lot images. There were also cases where the elec­tion results of dif­fer­ent vot­ing precincts had iden­ti­cal sig­na­tures of their boards of elec­tion in­spec­tors, or of sig­na­tures of ac­tual vot­ers not match­ing the sig­na­tures of the reg­is­tered vot­ers.

And a foren­sic anal­y­sis of the num­bers re­veals foot­prints of pos­si­ble fraud associated with au­to­mated elec­tions, from ab­nor­mally high un­der­votes for the po­si­tion of vice pres­i­dent in ar­eas that Ro­bredo won, to anoma­lous straight lines and data trends. It is also patently ques­tion­able that the sum of the to­tal

had tal­lied for the vice pres­i­dent is dif­fer­ent from the sum of the to­tal votes tal­lied from all pro­vin­cial and city servers.

Thus, there is the per­va­sive cloud of doubt over the man­date of Ro­bredo.

But what is most dam­ag­ing to Ro­bredo is to know that even the mem­bers of the com­mit­tee on con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments and re­vi­sions of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, which is tech­ni­cally part of the con­sti­tu­tional body that pro­claimed her, had to ini­tially write into their draft con­sti­tu­tion a pro­vi­sion that would bar her from suc­ceed­ing the Pres­i­dent

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new Con­sti­tu­tion. The com­mit­tee’s chair­man, Rep. Vi­cente Veloso, ex­pressed se­ri­ous doubts about Ro­bredo’s place in the line of suc­ces­sion when he asked if we are in fact cer­tain that Ro­bredo is the Vice Pres­i­dent.

Thus, even if the House ap­peared to have re­versed Veloso’s com­mit­tee on the is­sue, and has re­in­stated Ro­bredo in the line of suc­ces­sion, the dam­age has al­ready been done. And what ac- was not the pro­posal of the com­mit­tee, but the re­ac­tion of Ro­bredo and her al­lies to the pro­posal. In shoot­ing down the pro­posal, they ar­gued that such pro­posal would be il­le­gal, and is patently un­con­sti­tu­tional.

What seemed to have been lost on Ro­bredo, a lawyer her­self, and her elec­tion lawyer, Ro­mulo Ma­cal­in­tal, is that the Veloso com­mit­tee was talk­ing about a tran­si­tory pro­vi­sion in a

sup­plant the 1987 Con­sti­tu­tion and all its pro­vi­sions, in­clud­ing that of Ro­bredo be­ing the suc­ces­sor of the Pres­i­dent. Thus, it is in­cor­rect to judge the le­gal­ity of a pro­vi­sion in a new con­sti­tu­tion on the ba­sis of a pro­vi­sion in the old one it ef­fec­tively re­placed.

Not con­tented in ap­pear­ing ig­no­rant about this fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple in the hi­er­ar­chy of laws, Ro­bredo went fur­ther into the shal­low wa­ters of il­log­i­cal think­ing by de­rid­ing Veloso’s slim edge over his clos­est ri­val, mak­ing it ap­pear that her edge over for­mer se­na­tor Bong­bong Mar­cos was much higher. In do­ing so, the ar­gu­ment of this eco­nomics grad­u­ate from the Uni­ver­sity of the Philip­pines that her 263,000vote edge over Mar­cos is bet­ter than the 100-vote edge of Veloso over his op­po­nent be­trays her lack of un­der­stand­ing of the ba­sic prin­ci­ple of ra­tio and pro­por­tion. Oth­er­wise, she would not have failed to un­der­stand that there is not much dif­fer­ence since both of them ended up hav­ing a vote mar­gin of less than 1 per­cent of the to­tal votes cast in their re­spec­tive con­stituen­cies. Ac­tu­ally, there is a big­ger is­sue against Ro­bredo. It is not only her lack of pal­pa­ble in­tel­lec­tual savvy, com­pli­cated by her be­ing ap­par­ently math­e­mat­i­cally chal­lenged. And it doesn’t end with her ques­tioned le­git­i­macy in hav­ing a very slim mar­gin in a highly con­tested elec­tion where ev­i­dence of fraud pre­pon­der­ate.

It is also in her lack of eth­i­cal bear­ing. A pru­dent per­son would not have shown the same ea­ger­ness as she had in as­sert­ing her right to be­come a suc­ces­sor at a time that the health of the Pres­i­dent is ru­mored to be fail­ing. A more sen­si­tive states­per­son would have sim­ply re­frained from mak­ing a state­ment, and in­stead just asked sup­port­ers and crit­ics alike to fo­cus on wish­ing for the good health of the Pres­i­dent.

But there she was, at the mo­ment when talk about the Pres­i­dent’s health was go­ing around, and worse, ped­dled by her po­lit­i­cal al­lies, she through her spokesper­son had the gall to re­mind the Pres­i­dent that it is not his call to de­ter­mine who his suc­ces­sor should be. There was a readi­ness to cite con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions. It is al­most like an heir of ques­tion­able le­git­i­macy who, at the mo­ment when her fa­ther is al­ready dy­ing, seizes the mo­ment to re­mind her sib­lings of her right to an in­her­i­tance.

This is sim­ply in poor taste. Ro­bredo need not raise the is­sue of the Con­sti­tu­tion be­cause it is a given and its text does not de­pend on the good or fail­ing health of the Pres­i­dent.

In the end, this may be the karma of Ro­bredo. De­spite the con­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tee, she re­mains in­se­cure be­cause she knows deep in her heart that she doesn’t have the le­git­i­macy.

The Veloso com­mit­tee sim­ply called out the ele­phant in the room. While she has a le­gal claim that the Con­sti­tu­tion al­ready as­sures, a great ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple do not ac­cept her. And the more she in­sists, the more she loses that ac­cep­tance.

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