By Anna Valmero
First Posted 18:16:00 11/30/2009
Filed Under: Politics, Elections, Eleksyon 2010
MANILA, Philippines--This year's Bonifacio Day turned into a “political festival” complete with bands, thousands of cheering crowds and three of the top presidential bets for next year's elections - former president Joseph Estrada, Senator Manny Villar and evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) legal chief Ferdinand Rafanan described it as an attempt by candidates to attach a symbolic meaning to their filing of certificate of candidacy.
“Bonifacio is known to be the revolutionary hero who rose among the masses, maybe that is why they wanted to file their candidacies today (Monday) so it becomes symbolic,” said Rafanan.
The use of gimmicks, such as cycling or driving a jeep to the Comelec main office as done by re-electionist Senator Pia Cayetano of Nationalist People's Party and Estrada, including the use of jingles and bands mark the start of the “circus” mood of the elections, said the official.
“This signals the beginning of the campaign circus as 2010 candidates would soon become entertainers themselves—singing and dancing in front of voters during campaigns,” said Rafanan.
He noted: “Aside from the TV actors and actresses that they get for their campaigns, they also become singers or dancers. This is expected after the Supreme Court ruling said that there are no laws banning political candidates from the election offense premature campaigning.”
The official also noted the use of party colors to show unity and identity of the party.
From this day on, it seems only three or four colors will be seen after several parties sport similar colors identified with other parties.
Orange was the party color of Estrada and Villar, yellow for Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and Jesus is Lord founder Villanueva; and green for actor-turned-politician Vicente “Tito” Sotto III
Nationalist People's Coalition, which is also the color of Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro.
“Maybe some voters would be confused on the use of similar colors by two parties but the more sensible ones will not be mislead,” said Rafanan.
He added next year's face-off between top opposition and administration bets can be likened as a continuation of the UAAP clash between Ateneo and De La Salle universities since the Liberal Party's Aquino and Mar Roxas, who both filed their bids on Saturday, are alumni of Ateneo de Manila University while administration bets former defense chief Gilbert Gibo Teodoro and Edu Manzano are graduates of DLSU.
The official said Comelec expected top contenders to file their candidacies toward the deadline due to talks and alliances being finalized for the national slate.
“Until today, all parties have submitted an incomplete slate of “senatoriables” for reasons that until now, they are still finalizing talks with their possible party members. It is much difficult for more established parties to file their list immediately because talks are still underway as most of them have stated unlike with nuisance candidates who runs as independent and have no plan to ally with other candidates,” said Rafanan.
Issues regarding the legitimacy of Estrada to take another shot at the presidency after he was “disrupted” from his term in 2001 and for Arroyo to seek a lower position as representative of the second district of Pampanga have been raised.
The re-election bid of Estrada is among the top issues that might affect the final turnout of the May 2010 elections for several reasons, said Rafanan.
“It must also be noted that all candidacies can be challenged by any person. While it is true that Comelec has a ministerial duty to accept all candidacies filed, the Comelec en banc is also mandated to include only those qualified on the official list of candidates for the 2010 elections. The legal department would make recommendations for the prospective candidates but the en banc has a final say on who gets disqualified or not,” he told INQUIRER.net.
“As for Estrada's case, this is not a simple case of disqualification that can be attributed to lack of financial capacity and manpower to launch a nationwide campaign. In invokes a clear interpretation of the constitutional provision, 'The President shall not be eligible for any re-election' found under Article VII Section 4,” said Rafanan.
Rafanan said legal luminaries are divided as to whether the provision only applies to an incumbent president or all presidents. Another issue is the specific position that the president cannot seek re-election: one school of thought believes this involves all positions, from president down to the local and barangay government while another camp believes it is only referring to the presidential post.
Petitions for disqualification may be filed against Estrada and even Arroyo, but for the national elections, the greater impact would be if Estrada is allowed to run or not by the Comelec en banc or the Supreme Court.
“Both cases are similar actually. However, in the case of Estrada, this is the first time that a former president would want to get re-elected as president. We believe appeals to this case would be elevated up to the Supreme Court and the final resolution of which, may not be issued before January when we print the ballots,” said Rafanan.
Prior to Estrada's filing of candidacy, lawyer Oliver Lozano who is also another presidential bet filed a motion on October seeking the disqualification of the former president.
It was denied by the second division as a “premature motion” since Estrada has not yet filed then his candidacy. Immediately after Estrada's filing, Lozano announced he is set to file December 1 with the Commission Secretariat the same petition for disqualification citing the now controversial constitutional provision.
In the case of Arroyo, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said there is no legal impediment blocking the president from formalizing her Congressional bid. As an elected official, she is also not considered resigned from her position, even after she files her candidacy.
“There is no legal impediment for President Arroyo to file her bid as second district congresswoman of Pampanga,” said Jimenez. “However, it is up for the Comelec en banc to decide such case should it be elevated to them later.”