‘High IQ not qualification for public office’
By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Saying a high IQ is never a gauge of good public service, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has junked disqualification cases against Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid and world boxing champ Manny Pacquiao, whose candidacies in the May elections were questioned for lack of academic credentials.
The Comelec’s second division found no merit in the petition filed by Ely Pamatong, a flamboyant lawyer and himself a disqualified presidential aspirant whom poll officials earlier ordered detained for calling them “thieves” during a public hearing in January.
Pamatong argued that Lapid, a reelectionist, was “hardly educated” and knew little about lawmaking, while congressional aspirant Pacquiao was “mentally very poor and not prepared to step into the ring of legislation.”
He also said candidates mired in “mental poverty” should be declared a nuisance, in the same way candidates with scant finances get booted out of the race.
The lawyer also branded Lapid and Pacquiao as “unqualified professional entertainers.” Lapid used to be an action star while Pacquiao dabbled in movies, TV sitcoms and recordings in between his megabuck fights.
But the poll body ruled that aspiring public officials need not have a high educational attainment.
The Comelec noted that after giving a “highly opinionated critique” of Lapid and Pacquiao’s intellectual capacity, Pamatong failed to present proof that the two candidates fell short of the requirements for seeking public office.
“A candidate’s high educational attainment has never been held as qualification for public office. To be sure, the quality of public service which an elected official can render is not measured by the level of his intelligence,” the poll body said.
Pamatong also produced no evidence that Lapid and Pacquiao were nuisance candidates out to make a mockery of the May 10 elections, the Comelec added in a March 2 ruling.
Lapid, who is seeking reelection under the administration’s Lakas-Kampi-CMD coalition, placed 12th—just making it within the winning dozen—in a recent Pulse Asia survey of senatorial contenders.
Pacquiao is taking a second crack at a House seat as Saranggani representative. In 2007, the ring icon lost to the incumbent Darlene Antonino-Custodio in the congressional contest in South Cotabato.
Arrested on the spot
Pamatong had also asked the Comelec to bar deposed President Joseph Estrada from seeking a second term and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from running as congresswoman of Pampanga.
On Jan. 20, just as the 2nd Division was set to announce its dismissal of his petition versus Estrada, Pamatong shouted insults at the commissioners, calling them thieves as he walked out of the session hall. He was ordered arrested on the spot and detained for 10 days.
And just like the candidates, voters need not take a diploma course just to know how to cast their ballots in the country’s first automated polls, according to a Comelec official.
They just need to follow two critical instructions: shade the ovals corresponding to their preferred candidates, and do not “overvote” or shade more ovals than is necessary, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said.
Jimenez and officials of Smartmatic, Comelec’s technical partner in the automated polls, met with Inquirer editors and reporters on Tuesday night for a demo of the counting machines to be used in the May elections.
Jimenez appealed to groups conducting voters’ education campaigns to focus on these basics, especially since voters tend to have “information overload” when exposed to various forums discussing poll automation.
“The problem is that many collateral issues come up (during such forums) and crowd out the basic information in the mind of the voter. One of the things we (in the Comelec) try to do is always bring the conversation back to the simplest of terms,” he said.
“Let’s always emphasize those things. Repetition is what will work,” Jimenez said, this time addressing the appeal to journalists.
The Comelec is also asking voters not to fold the ballot or put other marks on the paper so as not to compromise its security features. The ballot, though sweat-resistant, is not water-proof.
Earlier this week, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada admitted he still knew little about the automated election system except for the ballot being as long as a place mat and that it contained hundreds of names that need to be shaded.