MANILA,  JUNE 4, 2004
By PETER J. G. TABINGO - 'Loser should go to poll tribunal as I did in 1992'

"Nobody ever said that life is fair."

With these words, Senator-elect Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday told Fernando Poe Jr. to accept defeat and try harder the next time.

More words of advice for Poe from Santiago: "I recommend that he migrate to another country and run for president there (or maybe) he should go back to movie-making. Anyway, I know of no law setting an age limit for it."

Santiago, who ran under the administration K-4, said Poe and his Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino are going about it the "wrong way" by asking the Supreme Court to nullify the creation by Congress of a joint canvassing committee to seek redress on alleged electoral fraud.

She said Poe should submit his grievance to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal after the winner is proclaimed, as she did in 1992 when President Fidel V. Ramos was proclaimed winner over her by a little over 800,000 votes.

"The petition will not prosper. The Supreme Court will not interfere in an internal rule of Congress. I would advise him to do what I did, cry out in private. In his case, he is doing it in public. He wants the clock to stop while he is pursuing his personal political ambition," Santiago said.

(The Supreme Court en banc is holding a special session at 2 p.m. today to tackle the petition filed Wednesday by Rep. Ruy Elias Lopez seeking to stop the canvass on the ground the creation of the joint committee was unconstitutional.)

Santiago said the petition, filed for Lopez by Rufus Rodriguez, a member of Poe's legal panel, was "patently unconstitutional" because it violates two rights under the Charter: equal protection and due process.

As canvassing for the 1992 and 1998 polls was done by a joint committee of Congress, for the KNP to demand that the canvassing now be done by plenary was synonymous to asking "special treatment," she said.

The move, she said, betrays the petitioner's "constitutional ignorance."

And since a count by plenary, if granted, would mean a slow process, she said it was an automatic "violation of the due process clause and the speedy justice clause."

Recalling her failed bid to overturn the canvassing results in 1992, Santiago said she did not see any basis to question the canvass being done by a committee.

"They (KNP members) are complaining that the process has been reduced to a game of numerical superiority, but that is the way our democracy works. Those are the rules of the game. Next time, they should work harder even before the start of the campaign. They should go the extra mile to make sure that they have control of the numbers in Congress," she said.

Santiago, who also lost in her re-election bid to the Senate in 2001, offered Poe her advise on the subject of facing up to political loss.

"After I lost, I suddenly became the most anonymous person in the country. I became invisible ... people I knew once would not see me even if I walked up to them and bit them in the nose," she recalled.

The loss would be agonizing for Poe but Santiago advised him to think twice about seeking a recount by the PET unless he is prepared to suffer a different kind of pain - the one that is felt by the pocket.

"In 1995, after three years (since the presidential elections), they had not canvassed one-fourth of the elections returns. It exhausted my money ... I had to mortgage both my house and my office building," she recalled.

All went to naught as the Supreme Court threw out her case after she ran for the Senate in 1995, on the ground that she had effectively abandoned her protest.

A suspended Malabon judge sought to intervene in the petition filed by Lopez in a taxpayer's suit, as he asked the Court to declare a failure of elections and order the Comelec to conduct special presidential elections.

"In sum, with PGMA's actual margin of barely 3 percent and with 36 percent of the voters disenfranchised, for sure, the May 10, 2004 election is a failure, null and void, and never determined, politically, morally, statistically and scientifically the winner of the presidential elections," said Judge Florentino Floro Jr. of Malabon RTC Branch 73.

Floro has been suspended for more than four years for conduct unbecoming of a member of the bench, for allegedly engaging in psychic predictions in his courtroom.

He supported Lopez' argument that Congress as a whole should conduct the canvass.

He offered a "solomonic solution" to concerns on how to conduct the canvass - Congress declare Noli de Castro winner in the vice presidential race and then as acting president until a new president is proclaimed after his proposed special elections.

He said unlike in the presidential race, De Castro clearly won over Loren Legarda.

Former Assemblyman Homobono Adaza, now legal counsel of the pro-Poe Filipinos for Peace Justice Progress Movement, said the high court can stop the canvass because the petition questions constitutionality of the creation of the joint panel.

"Congress cannot invoke the separation of powers between the legislative and the judiciary since Congress has the main duty to canvass the votes for the president and vice presidential posts. The SC has the sole power in the interpretation and statutory construction of the provisions of the constitution," he said.

He recalled that in the 1986 snap presidential elections, it was the whole Batasan Pambansa which canvassed the votes for the president and vice president. (With Cheloy Garafil) 

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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