Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Erap’s camp to Comelec: Let the people decide


Original Story: http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/20091223hed5.html

As he stressed the democratic values based on such tested political concepts as “people’s choice” and “popular will,” former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada yesterday expressed confidence the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would allow him to again seek the presidency in the 2010 national elections.

“Our democracy dictates that on this issue regarding the presidency, we must let the people decide,” Estrada’s spokesman Margaux Salcedo said in a statement she issued after the former president personally went to the main offices of the Comelec to listen to the arguments for and against three cases seeking his disqualification on the basis of a provision stipulated in the 1987 Constitution.

Estrada himself expressed confidence that the Comelec would immediately dismiss those cases which he described as “baseless.”

He reiterated his lawyers’ previous statements that the constitutional ban against running for another six-year term “is only for an incumbent president, a president who served complete six years. I served only for two and a half years. Therefore, I’m qualified to run.”

Petitions to disqualify Estrada were submitted by Elly Pamatong, Evillo Pormento and Mary Lou Estrada before the Comelec after Estrada filed his certificate of candidacy, just before the Dec. 6 deadline the poll body set for filing of disqualification cases.

As this developed, a survey conducted Dec. 5 to 10 by polling firm Social Weather Station (SWS) showed Estrada’s son, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, in a statistical tie with fellow Senators Miriam Defensor- Santiago and Ramon Revilla. Santiago obtained the nod of 55% of the survey’s 2,100 respondents; Revilla, 54 percent; and Jinggoy Estrada, 53 percent. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent, which puts all three in a statistical tie. Pulse Asia survey had Estrada at number 1 with 55 percent.

Meantime, former president Estrada’s camp expressed confidence that the former president has captured a bigger slice of the youth vote, given the latest Pulse Asia survey.

The survey indicated that while Estrada improved across all demographics, the biggest increase in his ratings was among the youth ages 18 to 24 years old where Estrada improved by 12 points from 10 percent in October to 22 percent in December.

“This is significant because these are voters who were only eight to 14 years old when former President Estrada became president in 1998 and would generally be unaware, for sheer reason of their youth, of the legacy of President Erap and his contributions to the poor,” Salcedo explained. “This shows that President Erap has captured even this young market.”

Estrada and another presidential hopeful, Sen. Manuel Villar, were about statistically tied at second place in Pulse Asia’s survey. Estrada had 19 percent of the respondents’ preferences while Villar had 23 percent. The survey’s margin of error was pegged at plus-minus 2 percent.

Another recent survey, conducted this time by polling firm Social Weather Station, showed similar configuration.

Meantime, the camp of vice presidential hopeful Sen. Loren Legarda expressed optimism that she would keep her popularity ratings.

“We always believed that intrinsically Loren is a strong candidate. She is the genuine candidate of the masses. This can be attested by the fact that it is the masses that embraced and supported her which explains why she topped the senatorial race twice.” said NPC spokesman Rep. Rex Gatchalian of the 1st District of Valenzuela. “I think the people like what they see in her performance as a public servant and in her commitment to further her advocacies.”

Gatchalian attributed Legarda’s ascent in the pre-election surveys “her dedicated and sincere efforts to promote her advocacies of saving the environment, championing the cause of women and children and protecting the interests of overseas Filipino workers and their families.”

At the Comelec, Estrada’s lawyers sought to consolidate all three disqualification cases filed against the former president.

The Comelec, however, refused to consolidate the three cases, citing the disqualification case filed against incumbent President Arroyo, who is seeking a congressional post in the 2010 national elections. Pamatong sought Mrs. Arroyo’s disqualification as he raised aconstitutional issue based on Article VII Section IV of the 1987 Constitution which states that “The President shall be not be eligible for any reelection.”

According to Dean Amado Valdez, another member of the Estrada legal team, yesterday’s hearing at the Comelec dealt only on the procedural or technical aspects of the case and not at all on the merits, which are all in the pleadings.

“In fact, the Comelec did not allow arguments anymore, except to accept the waiver of the President’s legal team of their right to file memoranda in order to speed up the process and because what they would say in the memoranda are already in their Answer anyway,” Salcedo said in a statement.

But during a portion of the oral arguments, Salcedo said lawyer George Garcia, also a member of Estrada’s legal team, sought to dismiss the disqualification case filed by one Mary Lou Estrada. Garcia argued that since the Comelec had already declared Mary Lou Estrada a nuisance candidate,”they should already dismiss this case.” The Comelec said that they would take this fact into consideration.

Lawyers for Estrada remained optimistic the Comelec would rule not only in favor of the former president but also “in favor of letting the voice of the people be heard through the ballot.”

Salcedo said, “We are optimistic that the Comelec will interpret the Constitution in favor of the spirit of democracy. They need to allow former President Estrada to run in order to allow the real mandate of the people to be determined in the elections of 2010. Our democracy dictates that on this issue regarding the presidency, we must let the people decide.”

Also at the Comelec, lawyer Romulo Macalintal expressed confidence that the poll body would junk the disqualification case against Mrs. Arroyo.

“We are hoping that the Comelec will immediately resolve that.. As a matter of fact, what we are expecting is that the Comelec will just dismiss the petition without further arguments because on the face of the petition itself it is dismissible,” he said.

Macalintal further said the petition against Mrs. Arroyo’s running for congressional post was based on the ground that the president was not entitled to re-election, a term he described as referring to “the same position of the president and to another position.”

Mrs. Arroyo is running for a congressional post, Macalintal stressed, “but it does not mean that she is running for re-election.”

Mrs. Arroyo is facing two disqualification cases: one filed by Pamatong and another by Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel. Charlie Manalo contributed reporting

Original Story: http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/20091223hed5.html

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