CBCP: Clergy may join revolt
By Evelyn Macairan
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – A ranking official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said yesterday some members of the clergy are planning to join another popular revolt in the event of a failure of elections.
Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, CBCP Public Affairs Committee chairman, said a failure of elections where no president is proclaimed would force people to take to the streets.
“This (event) is one of those instances when the people would need guidance (from us),” Iniguez said.
Iniguez clarified that it is up to each member of the CBCP to decide whether to join such protest actions.
Iniguez said the statements made by Malacañang officials in playing up the scenario of a military takeover in the event of scuttled elections are not helping President Arroyo.
Iniguez appealed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to exert all effort to ensure that the elections on May 10 would be clean and peaceful.
Comelec Chairman Jose Melo called on critics to stop discussing a scenario that he said will never happen.
“Let us not talk about failure of elections. There will be elections nationwide,” Melo said.
Melo noted that talk of a failure of elections snowballed following the pronouncement of deputy presidential spokesperson Charito Planas, who played up the possibility of a military junta taking over the government if elections fall through.
Melo said the declaration of failure of elections occurs only in isolated cases, such as in areas where violence prevents the people from casting their votes.
“Failure of elections happens for reasons that cannot be controlled like when there is violence and the people opted not to go out and vote,” Melo explained.
Melo said such a scenario occurring on a nationwide scale was highly improbable because the elections on May 10 would be fully automated.
Commissioner Rene Sarmiento earlier advised the public to simply go out and vote on May 10 to defeat the possibility of a failure of elections.
“Even if the all precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines did not work on Election Day – which is impossible – elections will still occur if the voters showed up and voted… these ballots can still be appreciated and counted manually, just like in the past elections,” Sarmiento explained.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, the Comelec can only declare a failure of elections if the voters are not able to cast their votes due to forces beyond their control like earthquake, tsunami, terrorist attack or other violent incidents.
Administration presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro, for his part, said talk of a failure of elections are pure speculation and pessimism.
“For me, I would speculate that we should focus on who wins in (the) elections. We must win in the elections and when we speculate on no proclamation, that is very, very self defeating,” he said.
Teodoro made the remark in reaction to his cousin, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, warning of another people power revolt in the event of a failure of elections.
“It’s now incumbent on the Comelec to ensure that there would be credible, honest and acceptable elections,” the former Defense chief said.
Teodoro said talking about the possibility of a failure of elections at this point is short of admitting losing the presidential elections.
Lakas-Kampi-CMD senatorial candidate Rey Langit urged candidates to stop floating the idea of another people power revolution, saying this was a mere hypothetical issue, doing more harm than good to the country.
Langit said the ordinary people would suffer the brunt of ensuing political and economic instability, proven by the two EDSA revolts and several failed coup attempts.
Another senatorial candidate, Hector Tarrazona, also sees another popular revolt in the event of a failure of elections.
Tarrazona, of Ang Kapatiran party, said he saw what he called a “striking similarity” of the events that led to the two popular revolts that unseated two sitting presidents in 1986 and 2001.
Tarrazona, a retired Air Force colonel, pointed out the appointments of favorite military and police officials to key posts had destroyed professionalism in the ranks that led to the ouster of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
He claimed a growing demoralization among key officials in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police who were bypassed in the appointments.
Tarrazona likened the scenario in 1986 to the current situation, warning that if President Arroyo would push through on her alleged plans to stay beyond her term on June 30, a popular revolt would result, and this time, it might not be peaceful.
“My feeling is that it could be bloody if President Arroyo (pushes) herself,” he said.
Talks on the possible failure of elections and no proclamation of a new president prompted several lawmakers to propose a measure on succession.
Sen. Rodolfo Biazon had proposed a caretaker president, citing the widespread apprehensions that the elections might fail due to the still unsolved power shortage problem in Mindanao and possible glitches in the automated balloting process.
Biazon also noted the fact that the terms of office of all three constitutional successors – Vice President Noli de Castro, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Prospero Nograles – are expiring at noon on June 30, along with that of President Arroyo.
In the event of an election failure and none of the three can assume the presidency even temporarily, it is feared that Mrs. Arroyo might hold on to power with the support of the military and the Supreme Court.
But other lawmakers led by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the proposal for Congress to choose a caretaker president in case there is a failure of elections on May 10 will run afoul of the Constitution.
“There is no such thing in the Constitution. A caretaker president is not among the three constitutional successors to the presidency,” he said.
Rodriguez said there is no need for a caretaker president as Biazon proposes, as incumbent senators can actually ensure the line of succession is not broken.
Rodriguez suggested that once it is clear after May 10 that there would be problems in determining the winning presidential and vice presidential candidates, senators could elect a replacement for Enrile.
“The replacement should come from the 12 whose terms of office will expire in 2013 so that at noon on June 30, he can take over from Mrs. Arroyo as acting president until the president-elect or vice president-elect is proclaimed,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said this is in accordance with Article VII (Executive Department) Section 7 of the Constitution, which reads:
“Where no President and Vice President shall have been chosen or shall have qualified, or where both shall have died or become permanently disabled, the President of the Senate, or in case of his inability, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall act as President until a President or Vice President shall have been chosen and qualified.”
“It is clear from this provision that incumbent senators hold the key to preventing an extended term for GMA or a military takeover in case elections fail,” Rodriguez stressed.
He said senators could elect their new leader on May 31, when Congress resumes session principally to canvass the votes for president and vice president.
“By then, it should be clear if there would be problems in proclaiming the winning presidential and vice presidential candidates,” Rodriguez said.
Enrile, who is seeking reelection, has expressed willingness to relinquish his post “at the proper time.”
Enrile said he himself would initiate the selection of his replacement if there were a failure of elections on May 10. –With Jess Diaz, Jaime Laude, Mayen Jaymalin, Perseus Echeminada