After denying it for five months, President Benigno Aquino III finally admitted that Grace Poe, an “independent candidate” for president, is actually the surrogate presidential bet of Aquino’s Liberal Party. Aquino himself confirmed this when he urged Poe to withdraw from the race in favor of LP presidential bet Mar Roxas, after the latest surveys indicated that PDP-Laban presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte will win the election.
While President Aquino easily reached out to Poe, Aquino did not dare make the same overture to Jejomar Binay, another presidential candidate who had been at the receiving end of Malacañang’s hate campaign since last year. The President’s plea to Poe, unprecedented in Philippine political history, indicates that Poe was all along the LP’s “Plan B” or alternative candidate if Roxas does not prove to be a viable candidate for president.
Aquino urged Poe to withdraw in favor of Roxas, and not the other way around, because the LP has made it appear in its most recent campaign propaganda that Roxas has a better chance of winning than Poe does.
Anyway, the LP grand plan to field an official candidate in Roxas and an “independent candidate” in Poe backfired because it failed to consider that Roxas, who yielded his presidential ambition to Aquino in 2010, was not willing to sacrifice himself again to accommodate another self-serving Aquino request. It likewise failed because Poe got overly ambitious and became desirous of becoming president, despite her dismal political track record as a censors agency chief and as a half-term senator.
In an obvious reference to Duterte’s advocacy of strongman but benevolent government, President Aquino said that there is no such thing as a “benevolent dictator.” Ironically, Aquino criticized his own mother, ex-President Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino, with that remark.
After seizing the presidency in February 1986, Cory Aquino abolished the 1973 Constitution and exercised both executive and legislative powers just as President Ferdinand Marcos did during the Martial Law era. For a whole year, and with no legislature to check her, Cory ran the country as she saw fit —much like a dictatorship. Following PNoy’s logic, Cory’s dictatorship must have been an evil one, there being no such thing as a “benevolent dictatorship.” This is another instance when P’Noy did not think before he spoke.
P’Noy does not realize that the overwhelming appeal of Duterte and vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos to the voters is a product of the incompetence, corruption, and underhandedness associated with his administation. Because PNoy has proved himself a weak law enforcer, the people are attracted to the strongman government advocated by Duterte. Since PNoy has always molded himself as an anti-Marcos personality, all voters who despise his notoriously corrupt and incompetent regime have turned to his exact political opposite embodied by Bongbong.
In other words, if President Aquino’s LP candidates for president and vice president lose in the elections, he has only himself to blame.
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As if his last-minute, Malacañang-supported media attacks against Duterte last week were not underhanded enough, “independent” vice presidential candidate Antonio Trillanes IV went so despicably low during the election homestretch. His latest move—below-the-belt personal attacks against Duterte consisting of television advertisements using young children cued to recite memorized words associated with sex, obscenity, and violence, which children are supposed to be insulated from hearing (much less reciting) in the first place.
Surprisingly, the advertisements were paid for by a vice presidential candidate, who has no presidential running mate, to attack a presidential candidate!
The Trillanes advertisements were broadcast on at least one TV network —ABS-CBN TV Channel 2. Before those advertisements could do further harm, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano (Duterte’s running mate) went to court and obtained a restraining order to stop the broadcasts.
In an attempt to justify his televised personal attacks against Duterte, Trillanes said that children have a stake in the outcome of the elections.
While the youth do have a stake in the outcome of the polls, the strategy employed by Trillanes was uncalled for. The message could have been conveyed without exploiting children by making them memorize and recite lines they ought not to say as youngsters.
Trillanes undoubtedly exploited innocent children for his shameless partisan political objective. He has no regard for standards of decency. No wonder he hires more consultants for his senate office than what the law allows him to hire.
There are other questions to ask.
The law requires that before children may be featured in advertisements, the consent of their parents or guardians must be obtained first.
Likewise, the law requires that clearances must be obtained from government agencies like the Department of Education (to assure that study hours of the children are not interrupted), the Department of Labor and Employment (to assure that the laws governing juvenile workers are followed), and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (to assure that the children are not exploited).
Under the Fair Elections Act, the advertising contract between Trillanes, who paid for the advertisements, and the television network which broadcast the advertisements, must be approved by the Commission on Elections.
Were the foregoing requirements complied with by Trillanes?
If the aforesaid government departments issued the required clearances, the heads of these agencies may be prosecuted for graft, and for violating special laws protecting the youth from commercial exploitation.
Although the Comelec apologist claimed that the poll body has no power to regulate the content of a political advertisement, he did not deny that the Comelec has the power to prohibit political advertisements that violate laws protecting children from commercial exploitation.
Unless a more plausible excuse is offered by the Comelec, the public suspicion that the poll body will countenance computerized election fraud to favor the LP candidates may not be far fetched after all.