The rule of law, or the whims of the powers that be

The preliminary conference of Akbayan et al vs Marcos Jr. disqualification case, presided by Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, Comelec First Division, on January 7, 2022. (FB photo)

By Miguel C. Suarez 

The Commission Elections is expected to resolve the disqualification cases against Ferdinand Marcos Jr. within the month. Either way, the issues are expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court. The Marcos camp will not accept an adverse ruling, and neither will the petitioners. 

To be technical about it, the Comelec has to rule on two petitions seeking to cancel Marcos’ certificate of candidacy and four petitions to disqualify him from running for public office.  

There would have been no issue at all in the first place at this late date if both the Comelec and the citizenry had been alert  enough to prevent Marcos Jr.  from running for office at the very start. Now he claims he should be allowed to stand in an election because he already has set not one but two precedents. The argument does not hold water, but then one does not need to make sense in this country. 

But why is there so much trepidation over this matter? The reason is that the rule of law depends so much on the wishes of the powers-that-be and how the judiciary, the quasi-judicial and the legislative bodies perceive those wishes to be. Didn’t members of Congress simply anticipate what President Rodrigo Roa Duterte wanted vis-a-vis Sen. Leila de Lima and ABS-CBN? 

Alas, all one has to do is recall that, as alluded to earlier, this is not the first time Marcos Jr.  runs for office. Also, recall what happened to Senator de Lima and former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, simply because Duterte didn’t like them. Curiously, why was Duterte allowed to run for president when he substituted for someone who had filed a candidacy for mayor of Manila? 

That’s not all: We have the extrajudicial killings and the prospects of the International Criminal Court stepping in to show us what the rule of law means and should be. Why are Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Joseph Estrada, Imelda Marcos, Juan Ponce Enrile, and so many other plunderers out of prison while their underlings and other ordinary mortals languish in jail? Rule of Law? 

Of very recent vintage is the Supreme Court ruling that the anti-terrorism law is constitutional, except for one parenthetical line. The law is riddled with gross constitutional infirmities, but the high court okayed it. Why? Because Duterte wanted it? 

This sorry state of the rule of law does not apply to the current situation. It goes back even to what many of us consider some of the best times. Why was GMA stopped at the airport and not allowed to travel in the absence of formal charges against her and despite a high court ruling she be allowed to go? Well, what goes around, comes around. The rule of law cannot be selective. 

We can go on and on, but for now, let’s not forget why Marcos Jr., a certified convict, is not in jail but is instead running for the presidency. His mother is not in jail either despite her convictions.  

So, let’s see how the Comelec will act on Marcos Jr.’s cases. He did not even show up for the Comelec’s First Division hearing on Friday, in typical Marcos arrogance. He was ill, his lawyer said. Was he ill, too, when he failed to show up at the earlier hearing by the Comelec’s Second Division? This cavalier attitude on the part of Marcos should give Comelec reason to rule against him. Or does he have some foreknowledge that the Comelec will let him get away with it? 

It would be much more interesting to watch how the Supreme Court will rule on this matter now that Duterte has issued mixed signals about Marcos. This time, the Supreme Court should not tarry too much the way it did in resolving his ludicrous election protest against Leni Robredo. It took the Supreme Court more than four years to make up its mind.  

One part of me wishes Marcos Jr.  would be disqualified and his certificate of candidacy invalidated. He is a convict and, therefore, should not be allowed to run for office. That is justice, the right thing to do, the rule of law applied. 

The other part of me – very tentative at that – wishes that he be allowed to run so he can be spurned by the people. But what if he is elected?

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