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With a court challenge, Senate tally will change dramatically

May 16, 2019


La esperanza muere ultima. (Hope dies last.)— United farm worker

First word

THE Senate race is not yet over. There’s still hope for those who are trailing closely in the election count. The names of the final winning senatorial candidates could still change in a major way.

What could change the shape of the final 12 is a court challenge of the eligibility of winning senatorial candidates, those who are running for a third term in the Senate in defiance of the constitutional prohibition of more than two terms.

A research and analysis team tells me that if the opposition or the Liberal Party lodges this challenge in court, and if the case goes to the Supreme court, the suit will likely prosper because the high Court has been much exercised on questions of the eligibilities or qualifications of public officials, including justices. This SC will not just look away.

Such a court challenge will ripple through the composition of the winning 12 from top to bottom, and produce some significant effects, namely:

First, the complete shutout of the opposition in the Senate race could be averted.

Second, the position and stability of four nominally winning candidates could be shaken, and lead to disqualification.

Third, the coronation of President Duterte’s runaway victory in this referendum on his presidency will be momentarily delayed and moderated.

Third termers in winning dozen

As of yesterday morning (May 15), the following candidates who are seeking a third term in the Senate were listed among the prospective winning dozen:

1. Pia Cayetano at No. 4

2. Lito Lapid at No. 7

3. Bong Revilla at No. 10

4. Koko Pimentel at No. 11.

That these candidates have already served two terms in the Senate is acknowledged in their own biographies on social media. This fact can be quickly confirmed through a review of the winning senators in elections dating back to the start of the 21st century.

Pressing closely on the heels of the third termers are:

1. JV Ejercito at No. 13

2. Benigno “Bam” Aquino 4th at No. 14

3. Jinggoy Estrada at No. 15

4. Mar Roxas at No. 16

5. Serge Osmeña at No. 17.

The court challenge will question the election of Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla and Koko Pimentel on the grounds that they have all been elected and have already enjoyed two terms in the Senate.

They are all seeking a third term in the Senate, which the Constitution explicitly prohibits in Article VI, Sec. 4: “No senator shall serve for more than two consecutive terms.”

A third term implies more than two. The affected candidates and their lawyers can quibble and split hairs about the meaning of the word “consecutive.”

Justices and judges will laugh when lawyers try to argue their way out of this conundrum.

It will be interesting to see the would-be senators and their lawyers argue these points in the Supreme Court. Will they resort to Bill Clinton’s tactic of parsing the meaning of the word “is” in defending himself on his relationship with Monica Lewinsky?

I personally believe that this is a lost cause or case for the third termers. The reality of the constitutional prohibition will be affirmed.

Ejercito, Aquino, Roxas will win seats

If the Supreme Court or an electoral tribunal disqualifies the third termers in the May 2019 elections, the following will happen:

1. Four senatorial candidates will be booted out of the winning 12 candidates.

2. In their stead, four other candidates closely following them in the vote tally will be elevated to the winning circle.

These are:

1. JV Ejercito, now No. 13 in the unofficial count

2. Benigno “Bam” Aquino 4th, now No. 14

3. Mar Roxas now No. 16.

Jinggoy Estrada, who is now at No. 15, will not be elevated to the winning dozen, because he is himself a third-termer.

In short, two candidates of the opposition, Bam Aquino and Mar Roxas, will take their seats in the new Congress on June 30.

Similarly, Ejercito will be reelected to a second term in the Senate. He will be the lone winner of the Estrada-Ejercito political dynasty, which suffered losses down the line in the recent election — including the defeat of Joseph Estrada as mayor of Manila.

Opposition missed eligibility issue

The opposition’s failure to raise the eligibility question in the election campaign is just one more shortcoming and missed opportunity of the Liberal Party-led opposition.

If LP lawyers fail to build a strong case for Bam Aquino and Mar Roxas, the LP should be placed on life support, where it can become eligible for a death certificate.

No one — not the opposition (Otso Diretso) and not the independent candidates — wanted to speak out or own the issue concerning the eligibility of many senatorial candidates who were running for a third Senate term in violation of an express provision in the Constitution.

Consequently, they could not reap the electoral dividends of such a principled and forthright stand on the issues. They frittered away their time instead on paltry issues and boastful debate-challenging.

Election dynamics is a tricky thing. I learned long ago that it is a plus or minus affair. You gain votes by prevailing in the issues debate with your opponent. You lose votes when you lose the debate. When you own an issue, by making it a signature of your candidacy, you could grab nearly all votes on the issue for your campaign.

The vulnerability of the third-term senatorial aspirants was such that votes could have been taken away from them, and votes could be won by those who could successfully press the issue during the election campaign.

No one ventured to speak out on the question during the election campaign.

The Liberal Party, led by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, never noticed or understood the issue. They did not see the fact that no Otso Diretso senatorial candidate was illegally coveting a third term.

Had the opposition led by the LP fought the idea of third termism as a principal part of its platform and campaign, the party and its allies would not be facing now the prospect of being completely shut out from the final Senate tally.

Instead two LP candidates would be safely ensconced in the magic 12.

Butterfly effect of eligibility challenge

The disruption that an eligibility suit will cause on the election outcome will be chiefly the fault of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The election body did not heed the warnings of some in the media, who saw possible chaos arising from the spectacle of many third-termers running for seats in the Senate.

On April 12, 2019, the Manila Times published an editorial headlined, “No third term for senators,” to call the attention of Comelec on the issue. It said:

“Before the matter becomes a disruptive issue, subject to contention and endless argument, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would be well advised to declare with finality the meaning of the constitutional provision on election to the Senate, ‘No senator shall serve for more than two consecutive terms.’”

The Comelec did not heed the warning. Comelec spokesman James Jimenez was on TV every day talking the election to death, but he never once mentioned that the commission had discussed even once the eligibility of senators or former senators seeking a third term in the Senate.

The disruption is at hand. Third-termers could illegally win seats in the balloting, and Comelec may abet the illegality by proclaiming them.

A disqualification suit or protest will surely follow.

A suit or challenge of the eligibility of third- termers will have a “butterfly effect” on the election results.

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is a phenomenon where a small change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.

This will happen if certain candidates are disqualified or barred from holding seats in the Senate.

The final result of the Senate election will be radically altered. The opposition will not die after all.


Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net


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