There is something more than meets the eye in the recent decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal to throw the disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe. While admittedly most SET decisions are reflective of the political leanings of its members, the Grace Poe decision is just that- more political than legal. The four non– lawyer Senators including lawyer Sen. Pia Cayetano voted for Poe, while the three SC justices all voted against Poe with Sen. Nancy Binay joining them. It is, of course, a matter of speculation whether Justice Brion’ exhaustive dissenting opinion had influenced Sen. Binay, but the fact is, the Senator’s father is running neck to neck with Poe in most surveys. She may have her own reasons, but politics is certainly one of those considerations.
But how in the world could the lone LP member vote for Grace Poe? For dyed in the wool Party members, Sen. Bam Aquino’s act is high treason to the cause of getting another Liberal to Malacañang. Is he not supposed to vote along party lines, and thus remove one more hurdle to a Roxas presidency?
Old time politicians must have remembered the late Senator Rodolfo Ganzon, the firebrand legislator from Iloilo. Ganzon was the Nacionalista Party member of the SET when an age – disqualification case was filed against then Tarlac Governor Ninoy Aquino. He was barely 35 years old when Ninoy ran and won a Senate seat. Marcos left no stone unturned in making sure SET decided against him. But when the verdict came, Aquino won by a hairline. Ganzon crossed party line and voted for the Liberal Party candidate.
Now, Sen. Bam similarly crossed party line and voted for Sen. Grace. But there is one big difference. Ganzon, at that time, had become a bitter critic of Marcos. And within his own party, he had a long running feud with the powerful Lopez brothers – Vice President Fernando and industrialist Eugenio – for leadership in Western Visayas. But Bam Aquino? What reason has he to cross party line? First cousin to the President and a ranking Liberal, he owes a lot to the party for his election to the Senate.
Could it be then that his vote for Poe was part of the LP’s strategy to gain more leverage for his party’s standard bearer? If indeed it was, the vote’s immediate effect was to erase all doubts about the LP’s support for Petitioner Rizalito David. And guess what, no sooner had the dust settled when party stalwart Congressman Edgar Erice issued a statement that Sen. Bam’s vote indeed prove that the Liberals had nothing to do with efforts to disqualify Poe.
Party strategists must have thoroughly studied the legal underpinnings of the case and are confident that ultimately Senator Poe could be disqualified. The SET decision is but the first round in a long and fierce heavy weight fight. Let the party concede the initial battle as long as it wins the bigger price. And in the event that Poe is indeed disqualified by the Supreme Court , the LP has every reason to court the Poe faithful for Mar Roxas – he whose SET member voted for Poe. On the other hand, Poe’s legions of supporters could justifiably vent their ire on VP Binay – he whose daughter voted against the Senator.
Of course Sen. Bam could explain that he voted according to his conscience. My foot! Since when is conscience the sole arbiter of transcendental issues?
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