While the papers say it right, it really doesn’t take much of a genius to realize that come February 2010, the country would only be down to just three to at the most five or six presidential candidates — down from the 12 (or is it more than that?) that we currently have. Indeed, the list is slowly narrowing down. As we get nearer to the polls, reality bites. The presidentiables and wannabe presidentiables will need to consider: their chances of winning or popularity, money, machinery or party support.
Lacson has faced these realities (the financial side, at least) and has backed out.
I still wonder if anyone would back out for more noble reasons, particularly the desire to ensure that we don’t end up with a minority president, yet again.
My humble fearless forecast? The race will be down to: Noli De Castro (Administration Coalition), Mar Roxas (Liberal Party), Manny Villar (Nacionalista Party), and Loren Legarda OR Chiz Escudero (Nationalist People’s Coalition). The surveys reflect these same people.
The others whom I did not mention either don’t have enough popularity, funds, or machinery. Many are still in denial. Nevertheless, in the case of one personality, the problem is that the constitution will not allow him to run.
I am referring to nobody else but former President Joseph Estrada, who says he is running, especially if the opposition will not unite under one standard bearer (and yes, there are no signs that such is happening anytime soon). He has been making the rounds, making his presence felt. He has been participating in several pre-election presidential debates.
But can he really run for re-election?
Erap says he can. His basis: his political and civil rights were “fully restored” when Malacanang granted his pardon in 2007. So is this enough basis?
Here is what Article VII of the 1987 constitution says:
Section 4. The President and the Vice-President shall be elected by direct vote of the people for a term of six years which shall begin at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date, six years thereafter. The President shall not be eligible for any re-election. No person who has succeeded as President and has served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for election to the same office at any time.
It is clear that any president is not eligible for ANY re-election, whether he or she was able to finish the term. Erap’s most recent response? Re-election refers to be elected again after two consecutive elections. I don’t agree with this interpretation, and I don’t think many legal experts see it this way. So again, this is something for the Supreme Court to decide on.
A quick check on the dictionary tells us what “re-election” means. The word is defined as “to elect again,” or “to elect for a second or subsequent time”. There is no mention of it needing to happen consecutively.
But more than the meaning of what a re-election means, I ask the following questions, which revolve on President Arroyo’s declaration of restoring Erap’s political and civil rights. Malacanang, which wrote several draft versions of the pardon, did not specify which rights were being restored. So one question is, what rights really are restored when one is pardoned? One right is to vote. Second, is the right to run again. That is why we have the likes of Quezon City Rep. Bingbong Crisologo, who became a Christian in prison, and was given absolute pardon. The same goes for Caloocan Rep. Luis “Baby” Asistio.
So again, assuming that Erap was given an absolute pardon, can he really run? For me, the more important questions to ask are: First, does the pardon change the history that Erap was once an elected president? And second, does another sitting president like President Arroyo have the mandate and power to change what has already transpired in history? Can an incumbent president, through her declration, legally give Erap the basis to run again? Can PGMA bypass the constitution just like that?
Of course, these are rhetorical answers we may already know the answers to. Given that Erap is intent on running (since there are no signs that the opposition will unite anyway), what is key is for the Comelec and Supreme Court to step in. This means that someone will need to question Erap’s candidacy in court, when Erap files a certificate of candidacy. Hopefully, things won’t be very messy by then.
Of course, Erap can do a Gloria by also running for Congressman and be Prime Minister, if Arroyo’s allies would succeed at amending the constitution.