Wednesday, December 9, 2009

DQ raps vs Estrada baseless — legal expert


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A member of opposition standard-bearer Joseph Estrada’s legal team yesterday advanced his stand that there is nothing in the 1987 Constitution that prevents the former president from seeking the country’s highest post in the 2010 national elections and, therefore, all three petitions seeking his disqualification before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should be rightfully dismissed.

Dean Pacifico Agabin,

formerly of the University of the Philippines College of Law, stressed that all three petitions were anchored on the premise that as a former chief executive, he was no longer qualified to run.

“The Constitution is absolutely plain and unambiguous in referring to who is barred from running,” Agabin, in a statement, said. “The phrase ‘the President’ as used in Article VIII, Section 4 (of the Consitution) refers to no one but the incumbent, which President Estrada is not, and therefore there is no basis for these petitions seeking his disqualification,” he added.

“Constitutional interpretation dictates that a word or phrase in one part of the Constitution is to receive the same interpretation used in any other part, unless clearly stated otherwise,” he stressed.

The legal luminary also dispelled efforts by some quarters opposed to Estrada’s candidacy to treat the Constitution as if it were a lawyer’s contract, subject to interpretation solely by legal minds.

“The Constitution is a layman’s document, and the laws it contains are not intended to befuddle or confuse those who, having voted for its ratification in 1987, adopted it as the supreme law of the land,” Agabin said. “The words ‘the President’ as used therein refer plainly and simply to the incumbent, and there is no need to refer to other outside sources in determining who it is that is referred to in this phrase.”

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down a petition submitted by a group calling itself the Vanguards of the Constitution of the Philippines Inc. calling for Estrada’s disqualification from the 2010 elections.

The former president’s legal team expressed confidence that the three other petitions seeking the same ruling on Estrada before the Comelec would suffer the same fate because they were equally defective, glaringly deficient and failed to meet the requirements for form and substance.

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has decided to join President Arroyo in Congress next year as he announced his own bid to represent the first district of his home province in Batangas.

Ermita said he is to file his certificate of candidacy in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) today, to fill in for his daughter, Lisa Ermita-Abad, who was then the candidate of the ruling party, Lakas-Kampi CMD, until Ermita made his announcement.

Ermita’s taking over of his daughter’s candidacy was permitted under Comelec’s substitution provision which is allowed until Dec. 14.

The Palace official also stressed it is up to Arroyo if she will replace him as Executive Secretary since the Supreme Court has allowed appointed officials to stay on their position after filing of CoCs.

SC has ruled that appointive officials are not considered candidates after filing their respective CoCs for different elective positions until the official campaign period starts.

On the other side of the political fence, Nationalist People’s Coalition spokesman and Valenzuela Rep. Rex Gatchalian said the NPC remains one of the most potent and best organized political organizations in the country and there is no truth to a published report that some of its stalwarts are moving to other political parties.

He stressed the NPC is taking exception to attempts by other parties to undermine their unity by issuing false and misleading press releases about the transfer of some NPC stalwarts to their camp.

Gatchalian was referring to a report that Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero, father of Sen. Francis Escudero, and the Duranos of Cebu have bolted the NPC.

“We want to belie that claim because there is absolutely no truth to that report. Both Congressman Escudero and the Duranos had confirmed to us that they filed their candidacies under NPC and will be running under our banner,” the lawmaker said.

He added the NPC which remains the second biggest political party in the country is focused on ensuring the victories of all their candidates in all levels.

He said some of their members have very strong chances of winning congressional posts in next year’s elections.

“It proves that the NPC remains solid as ever and we will continue to play a key role in fighting for the rights and welfare of the people as well as in shaping the future of the country,” he said. Aytch S. de la Cruz, Charlie V. Manalo and PNA

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