ON the day the amici curae trooped to the Supreme Court to be heard on the Poe disqualification petition, Ms. Susan Roces appeared before legions of her husband’s supporters in Plaza Miranda and told them to keep calm. The majority went along with her call, but a minority disobeyed her. And significant minority of her husband’s supporters have continued to disobey she and her husband’s call to respect the Supreme Court since then. And they still do.
The Supreme Court’s decision has been greeted with jubilation by Mr. Poe and his camp, and with relief by the rest of the country, whatever its political stripes. But as an editorial in another daily puts it, a close reading of the majority decision indicates that “the Court dismissed the challenges to the qualification of FPJ to run for but did not conclusively declare him qualified to keep the presidency if he won it, for he might still be challenged on the unresolved factual issue of his paternity.” There remains, then, a potential opening for those inclined to continue pursuing Poe’s disqualification should he be elected to the presidency: clearly a dangerous, incendiary proposition, and one which should not be pursued.
For in having ruled that the proper body to decide the disqualification of a candidate before an election is the Comelec, the Supreme Court has not denied itself the Constitutionally-ordained duty of being the tribunal to adjudge disqualification cases arising after a presidential election. But what the Constitution allows is not necessarily what is in the public interest to cause to be exercised. If the nation was already nervous in the face of the disqualification petition dismissed by the Supreme Court as premature and as something over which it had no jurisdiction, the nation will be positively filled with dread should anyone try to file a case to disqualify Poe should millions end up voting him into office.
It may be the continued fear that the Damocles’ sword –the natural born citizenship issue- hangs over Poe’s presidential prospects that is making the dangerous minority that tried to condition the minds of the public to view the Supreme Court in a negative light, continue its dangerous agitation. If it is foolhardy for Poe’s opponents to want to attempt a new disqualification case after the elections, it is equally irresponsible and wrong for some of Poe’s more virulent supporters to continue poisoning the minds of the population.
These were the people who egged on thuggish elements to march on the Supreme Court; who tried, through statements and text messages, to convince the people that it would be natural to expect the Supreme Court to succumb to pressure from the administration. These are the same people who have proved unrepentant in the face of the Supreme Court’s sticking to the law, as it must naturally do, and who continue to be skeptical about how the Supreme Court arrived at the decision it did. And yet the Supreme Court quite clearly stuck to its expected duty to limit its actions according to the provisions of the Constitution and the duties the charter ordains for constitutional bodies, including the Commission on Elections and the high court itself.
In the face of a ruling that allows him to run, and which offers him the prospect of election to the presidency, the burden remains on Mr. Poe to continue exercising the leadership he tried to exercise through his wife when she addressed his supporters in Plaza Miranda. It is incumbent on every citizen to insist on the integrity of the Supreme Court, and not grudgingly admit that it may, from time to time, transcend the sort of politically-motivated behavior one expects of the presidency and congress. The Supreme Court neither requires, nor expects, public approval of what is decided in its chambers, which is why all Filipinos must accept its verdicts regardless of whatever political convenience or lack of it the court’s decisions entail. There remains a dangerous band who claim to follow Poe, but do not follow him when it counts: when Poe says he is trying to exercise responsible leadership. The continuing test, therefore, in this campaign, for Mr. Poe, is to prove he can control his own partisans.