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Sen. Poe wins case in Senate Electoral Tribunal

Published in Latest News

(Photo from Rappler)



MANILA (via PhilAmPress)  Sen. Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares has won her initial battle against those wanting to disqualify her as a senator and a presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.


This as the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), the constitutional body composed of Supreme Court justices and senators tasked to decide on Senate cases, dismissed by a close vote of 5-4 the petition seeking to disqualify her as Senator of the Republic despite topping the lastsenatorial elections with over 20 million votes.


The dismissal buoyed up Sen. Poe, her leaders and supporters and their campaign for the presidency and provided strong ammunition to counter four other disqualification cases filed against her due to questions on her citizenship and alleged lack of residency.


Vice President Jejomar Binay and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., campaign manager of the Liberal Party presidential candidate Manuel Mar Roxas II, immediately congratulated Sen. Poe on her victory in the SET.

“I congratulate presidential contender Senator Grace Poe on the denial of the Senate Electoral Tribunal of the disqualification case against her. This is democracy at work and allows for a more interesting battle for the presidency,” Belmonte said.

While Poe still has to hurdle Commission on Elections (Comelec) cases filed against her, the Speaker said he still trusted "these strong institutions within our government to afford everyone fair decisions" based on evidence presented in every case.

“We all look forward to a healthy presidential campaign based on performance and platforms rather than mudslinging and character assassination of contenders, so that our voters are allowed to make informed and intelligent choices on who best can lead our nation." 


Those who voted to dismiss the petition against the neophyte senator who is the leading presidentiable based on surveys were the Senate contingent of the SET, namely, Senators Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, Loren Legarda, Paolo Benigno Bam Aquino, Cynthia Villar and Juliana Pilar Pia Cayetano.


Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay who is also running for president, was the only senator-member of the SET who voted to grant the petition. The members from the Supreme Court, namely, Associate Justices Antonio T. Carpio, Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro and Arturo D. Brion, all voted in favour of the petition.


Carpio presided at the SET meeting held at the Manila Polo Club in Forbes Park in Makati City.


Senator Poe and her mother veteran actress Susan Roces thanked the SET members for their decision.


”I thank the Senate Electoral Tribunal for their fairness,” Poe said in a press statement she issued after learning that the SET had thrown out the case filed by defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David.


Poe said the SET decision sent a strong message that the Philippines considers itself part of the global community that respects international law.


”More importantly, their affirmation of my natural-born status upholds the right of all foundlings in the country to the entitlements, services and protection they deserve as full citizens,” Poe said.


”I thank our fellow Filipinos for their continued trust and confidence. Our work in the Senate will continue with the same, if not greater, fervor and commitment to the welfare of the Filipino people in all areas of the country,” Poe said.


David, who is running also for president, filed the disqualification case last August after Poe surged in the presidential surveys.


David said he is set to appeal the decision before the Supreme Court (SC).


“I will ask the SC to rule on this case with finality,” David said.


He said he considered the decision as a moral victory since the three members of the SET, who are Associate Justices of the High Tribunal, ruled in his favor.


“Moral victory pa din because the SC justices are in my favor,” the presidential aspirant in the 2016 polls added.


David said he felt sorry for the five senators who voted to deny his petition.


“It's a pity that our senators failed to rise above their political nature. The issue placed before them was constitutional and legal and yet they voted along political lines,” he said.


“It's confirmed by how the SC justices voted, they know their law and these people voted in my favor. Clearly, political accommodation lang yung sa mga senators,” he added.


David also filed the same case pending before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).


In the petition, he claimed that Poe committed an election offense for claiming that she is a natural-born Filipino and has met the residency requirement when she ran for the Senate in the 2013 midterm elections.


Four more disqualification cases filed by former senator Francisco Tatad, lawyer Estrella Elamparo, De La Salle University political science professor Antonio Contreras and University of the East College of Law Dean and Professor Amado Valdez are still pending with the Commission on Elections.


Poe has already submitted her 159-page counter-affidavit, claiming she is a natural-born Filipino based on international law that favor the foundling like her, and has met the 10-year residency requirement.


Senator Binay explained her vote was not about her father or the presidential election.


”This is about the provisions of the Constitution which each and every Filipino must uphold,” she said.


Vice President Binay, who once offered Poe to run as his vice president, said he is enjoining everyone to respect the SET decision.


Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the disqualification case was a form of harassment “right from the very start.”


”Now that it’s over, we can start focusing on the real debate about character and issues,” Trillanes, whose Magdalo group endorsed the candidacy of Poe, said.


The world has to fight back

Published in On Distant Shore

Known as the City of Lights, Paris loves its nights. On Friday, tens of thousands of Parisians were out to enjoy the night – watching a friendly soccer game between Germany and France at the Stade de France, listening to an American band at the Bataclan concert hall, drinking their favorite cocktail at the La Belle Equipe Bar and Le Carillon Bar, having dinner at the LA Casa Nostra restaurant and Petit Cambodge, or simply strolling along Rue Albert.


But it was Friday the 13th and something tragic was bound to happen.


The bloodbath began soon after 11 p.m. A gunman opened fire on Le Carillon bar in the Rue Albert, near the Place de la République, before heading across the road to Le Petit Cambodge (Little Cambodia) restaurant, killing a total of 15 people.


At the La Belle Équipe, at least 19 died in gun attacks. At the La Casa Nostra Restaurant, at least five were shot dead.


At the 1,500-seat Bataclan concert hall, hundreds of people were waiting for the American rock band eagles of Death Metal to perform when attackers, wearing vests strapped with explosives shouted “ Allahu Akbar!” (God is great) and then opened fire, killing at least 80 and seriously wounding many more in a matter of seconds. They later took 20 hostages and executed seven of them before detonating their explosives as policemen started their assault.


The security forces that stormed the concert hall found four attackers dead. Three had blown themselves up and a fourth was shot dead by police.


To the north, two suicide bombers blasted themselves near the entrance of Stade de France national stadium where some 80,000 gathered to watch a soccer game, including French President Francois Hollande who was quickly evacuated. 

Surprisingly, only the three suicide bombers were killed.


On that tragic night, at least 129 people were dead and more than 350 wounded, some of them in critical condition. It was a dark night in the City of Lights.


The Islamic State released a statement on Saturday, saying that eight brothers using explosive belts and varying assault rifles had carried out attacks on “carefully chosen” targets in response to France’s involvement in the air strikes on IS militants in Syria and Iraq.


The world grieved as it had on the morning of September 11, 2001, when three planes hijacked by terrorists slammed into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York and at the Pentagon in Virginia, killing close to 3,000 people.


Europe was again gripped in fear as it had been when jihadists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo newspaper and killed 17 and wounded 11 in January, and when errorists bombed a train in Madrid in 2004, killing 191 people.


Hollande imposed a state of emergency after the worst peacetime attack in France since WWII and the deadliest in Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings.


The attacks came ahead of three major international events where some of the world’s leaders were expected to attend – the G-20 summit in Turkey, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, and the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris.


The attacks should give the world’s leaders the motivation to finally work together to address the problem of global terrorism and put an end to, if not minimize, the barbaric acts of extremists around the globe, particularly in the Middle East and in Africa.


Intelligence officials are known to be tracking down several jihadist cells operating in Europe, particularly in Belgium, France and Turkey. Europeans are now worried that the ISIS had embedded some of its jihadists with the refugees who had fled Syria to find peace and better life in Europe.


While Al Qaeda, which was responsible for the 9-11 attacks, has been weakened by the death of its leader Osama bin Laden, but the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has carved a territory in strife-torn Iraq and Syria, has emerged as the world’s newest and biggest threat. In Africa, the Nigeria-based Boko Haram has killed more than 17,000 people since 2009, including 10,000 in 2014. It has also carried out mass abductions, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in April 2014.


In April this year, another Islamic extremist group, the Somalia-based Al Shabaab militant group killed 147 people and wounded scores of others at a Kenyan university, the highest death toll on Kenyan soil since the US Embassy in Nairobi was bombed in 1998, resulting in the death of more than 200 people.


There are more Islamic extremist groups that are sowing terror all over the world. These include the Haqqani Network and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Kataib Hezzbolah in Iraq, the Jemaah Islamiyah which has cells in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, and the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao.


The world’s leaders have three opportunities this month to pool their resources and come together with a coordinated action against the ISIS and other terror groups in their bases of operation, particularly in Syria and Iraq, and against terror cells operating throughout the world, particularly in the United States and in Europe.


These barbaric extremists that President Obama called “the face of evil” have declared war against humanity and civilization. They don’t care about human lives and celebrate death and terror. The world has to fight back and remove this scourge from the face of the earth.


Can the Philippines defend her sovereignty?

Published in Perry Scope

Ever since twelve nationalistic – and left-leaning -- members of the Philippine Senate voted to evict the U.S. bases in 1991, our national pride had immeasurably gone up the scale never seen before since the new national flag was raised and independence was declared from Spain on the balcony of Gen. Emilio Aquinaldo’s mansion in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898. 


But “independence” was short-lived.  Little did Aguinaldo know that Spain had ceded the Philippines to the U.S. for $20 million at the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898.  And when the Americans came to claim the Philippine Islands, Aguinaldo resisted the occupation.  On February 4, 1899, war broke out.  But Aguinaldo’s fledgling army was no match to the well-armed and experienced American forces.  In November 1899, Aguinaldo went into hiding in Palanan, Isabela where he waged guerilla warfare against the Americans.  Thus began the “Philippine Insurrection,” as the Americans called it.   More than half a century later, Filipino historians changed it to the “Philippine-American War,” which is what it was. 


On March 23, 1901, a contingent of American soldiers with the help of Macabebe Scouts gained access to Aguinaldo’s camp by pretending to surrender.   Aguinaldo was captured and brought to Manila where he took the oath of allegiance to the American government.  On April 19, 1901, he issued a proclamation recommending abandonment of resistance against the Americans.  Thus ended the Philippine-American War and the American colonial era began.  In 1934, the Philippines was granted commonwealth status and given limited autonomy of self-government.  On July 4, 1946, Uncle Sam granted independence to the Philippines.


Philippine independence


But a lot of historians believe that the Philippines wasn’t ready to exercise her freedom after suffering from the ravages of World War II and the brutality the Filipinos endured at the hands of the Japanese oppressors.  Many believed that the Philippines’ status as a “commonwealth” of the U.S. should have been retained.  And many more believed that Philippine statehood would serve the best interests of Americans and the Filipinos alike.  They said that Filipinos would prosper peacefully and equally with the Americans.  And ultimately, they were convinced that a union between the U.S. and the Philippines would make the U.S. the strongest Pacific power and the Filipinos the most affluent among Asians.   The union would have formed an amalgam of western and eastern cultures in an expanse of land and sea where “the sun will never set.” And lest we forget, Philippine statehood would also protect Americans of Filipino descent and their newly created state under the nuclear umbrella of Uncle Sam.  That’s peace, prosperity, and security all rolled into one. The question is: Why did this geopolitical alchemy not happen?   Could it be because of the late Philippine commonwealth president Manuel L. Quezon wishes?  His prophetic wish, “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans,” took hold long after his death on August 1, 1944 in Saranac Lake, New York.  He must have believed that given enough time, the Filipinos would eventually become adept at self-government.  That’s how much confidence he had on the ability of Filipinos to chart their own future.  But he was wrong.


Foreign aggression


Seventy years after gaining her independence, the Philippines is still being ran like hell, and the Filipinos are still struggling in learning how to govern.  Sad to say, the elected politicians today are more interested in enriching themselves than serving the people.  Corruption has become the norm, and honesty the exception.  


And what is indeed very disheartening is that the Philippines doesn’t have the capability to defend her territory from foreign aggression. And the U.S. has not been willing to get involved, claiming neutrality, in the territorial disputes between the Philippines and China.   It was only recently that the U.S. challenged China’s 12-mile territorial boundary around those Chinese man-made islands by sending a guided-missile destroyer to within 12 miles of the reclaimed reefs in what was called a “Freedom of Navigation Operation” (FONOP).  However, it is not anticipated that the “innocent passage” conducted by the USS Lassen would result in China dismantling her man-made islands.  On the contrary, China threatened to build more artificial islands around reefs within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).


And this brings to fore the question: What does it take for China to intrude into the Philippines’ peripheral territories like the Batanes group of islands, Kalayaan Group of islands, and Tawi-Tawi archipelago?  With a navy with no warships and an air force with no warplanes, there is no way the Philippines could defend her territories from Chinese invasion whose military forces are second only to the U.S.


And should the Philippines invoke the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), it is doubtful if the U.S. would automatically and immediately send an expeditionary force to defend the Philippines.   The question is: Would the U.S. honor the MDT?  When the Philippines rejected the renewal of the U.S. Bases Agreement, many constitutionalists were of the opinion that the eviction would result in the de facto rescission of the MDT.  Besides, how can the U.S. defend Philippine territory when she has no basing rights in the Philippines, which is fundamental to any defense treaty?    

EDCA challenged


On April 28, 2014, the U.S. and the Philippines executed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which would allow the “U.S. forces access to and use of designated areas and facilities owned and controlled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the invitation of the Philippine Government. It contains clear provision that the U.S. will not establish a permanent military presence or base in the Philippines and a prohibition of entry to the Philippines of nuclear weapons.  The EDCA has an initial term of ten years, and thereafter will continue in force until terminated by either party after having given a one-year notice of intention to terminate.”


However, the EDCA would provide what the MDT would have provided.  But no sooner had the EDCA been executed than nationalist and leftist groups filed petitions with the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of EDCA.


After lingering in the High Court for over a year, it was reported in the news that the court will soon rule to uphold the constitutionality of EDCA before President Barack Obama arrives in Manila for the APEC summit on November 18, 2015.  That’s the good news.


But the bad news is the Philippine Senate last November 10 passed Resolution 1414 or a “Resolution expressing the strong sense of the Senate that any treaty ratified by the President of the Philippines should be concurred in by the Senate, otherwise the treaty becomes invalid and ineffective.”  The resolution was sponsored by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and co-sponsored by 12 other senators.  She said that the EDCA is a prohibited treaty of "foreign military bases, troops or facilities,” which the Philippine Constitution allows only with the concurrence of the Senate under Article 18, Section 25. 


Déjà vu 


If Senate Resolution 1414 prevails with the failure of the Supreme Court to declare EDCA as constitutionally legal, then it’s déjà vu all over again.  With EDCA gone and the MDT unenforceable, the only treaty that binds the U.S. and the Philippines would be the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which is under siege by nationalist and leftist lawmakers.   Interestingly, the Supreme Court had ruled that it is constitutional… not once, but twice.  But it is expected in due time that the VFA will go away, too; thus, ending the “special relationship” between the U.S. and the Philippines that lasted more than a century.  With the Philippines feeling the heat of the Chinese dragon breathing down her neck, can she defend her sovereignty?  

Initial victory for foundlings

Published in Editorial & Other Articles

Amidst reports that veteran actress Susan Roces was gearing up to substitute for her daughter, Senator Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares, in the presidential race for the 2016 elections, the neophyte senator scored a victory in the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) which, by a close vote of 5-4, ruled that she qualified to become senator of the country.


The ruling could decidedly boost Senator Poe’s campaign to become the next president even as she faces four more disqualification cases questioning her citizenship and residency. According to the petitions, having been a foundling, she was at best a stateless and not a natural born Philippine citizen and having been in the country only since 2006, she lacked the 10-year residency requirement for a presidential candidate. Others point out that having renounced her Philippine citizenship when she was naturalized as a citizen of the United States, she had lost her being a natural-born Filipino citizen.


Senator Poe’s major rivals, Vice President Jejomar Binay, erstwhile the leading candidate in surveys, and a spokesman of Liberal Party candidate Manuel Mar Roxas III welcomed the SET decision despite of the fact that Binay’s daughter, Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, voted against Poe in the SET meeting in Makati, claiming she decided based on the law and not due to political consideration.


Lawyers and leaders of Senator Poe said with the SET ruling, the Commission on Elections wth which four disqualification cases have been filed against the neophyte senator should immediately dismiss the cases. But legal experts warned that the SET ruling was made by senators and not on the basis of law as the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court who are members of the SET all voted to give due course to the petition to disqualify Sen. Poe. They said the case and other related cases may yet be raised to the High Court itself later.


Even then, it was a sweet victory for the struggling neophyte senator and for other foundlings in the Philippines for whom she said she fought for. Let us all wait for the next chapter of the Senator Poe’s saga and the final decisions of the courts before we all celebrate.

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