MANILA, February 16, 2004 (STAR) A law each day (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) By Jose C. Sison - I hope FPJ realizes soon enough the emerging public perception that his followers are the ones spreading the text messages and news reports about the alleged Supreme Court’s 8-5 decision disqualifying him as a candidate for president for lack of the requisite citizenship at birth. He should know that the opposite camp has no reason at all to spread said rumors since the anticipated decision is in their favor anyway. The temptation to cast doubt on the independence and impartiality of the tribunal is naturally greater for those anticipating an adverse decision. This is an effective way to arouse sympathy for an alleged injustice that has been inculcated in their minds. Floating the rumor at this stage when the Supreme Court (SC) has not even heard both sides puts the SC in a bad light and clearly signals a plan to sow unrest in case it does not give in to what they want. It is a subtle way of exerting pressure on the SC to rule in their favor.

But their plan may just boomerang on them. Applying pressure on our justices through this unfounded rumors and open threats of civil unrest may just have the opposite effect. These methods may all the more constrain the justices to rule against them, not so much as to show that they cannot be swayed by pressure than to test the supremacy of the rule of law according to how they see them as the final arbiter of every justiciable controversy. Remember that the issue in this case of FPJ’s citizenship from birth is not an open and shut case in his favor. There are existing and weighty jurisprudence pointing to the legal reality that he is not a natural-born Filipino although it is not completely groundless for the SC to breakaway from these existing jurisprudence and adopt a new one. Adhering to the existing jurisprudence is apparently a more prudent step in the face of the pressures exerted on them rather than breaking away from it which may only be construed as succumbing to blackmail or threats.

It is also not correct for FPJ’s spokesman to contend that disqualifying him from the race would be "infringing on the people’s right of suffrage". Suffrage is the right to vote in elections, plebiscite, initiative or referendum. Like any right, its exercise is regulated by law. Voting in elections, of course, should be limited to choosing candidates who are qualified for the position. Our Constitution itself provides that people can only vote for a natural-born Filipino as president. Thus "any candidate who has been declared by final judgment to be disqualified (because he is not a Filipino citizen from birth in case of a presidential candidate) shall not be voted for and the votes cast for him shall not be counted" (Section 6, R.A. 6466). This is not disenfranchising the electorate but applying and upholding the constitutional provision fixing the qualification of a candidate for president.

FPJ will be acting for the country’s best interest if he will stop his followers and the groups supporting him from further spreading those rumors and airing those threats. Now is the golden opportunity for him to display the highest form of statesmanship by definitely and categorically declaring that he will abandon his presidential bid if the Supreme Court decides to disqualify him. FPJ should change his stand and retract his previous statement that he ‘would never back out no matter what they do to me’. With this statesmanlike stance, his chances of winning will be greatly enhanced if he may eventually be allowed to run, anyway.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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