Unbelievably perplexing, these lawyers

I am flummoxed beyond belief by the way lawyers think. In an Inquirer column, former chief justice Artemio Panganiban made a distinction between being “president” and being merely a “candidate for president” insofar as jurisdiction to pass upon their qualifications is concerned.

Since the Constitution makes the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) the “sole judge” of all contests relating to the qualifications of the “president,” it has no business dealing with the qualifications of a mere “candidate” for president. It is only when that candidate is proclaimed “president” that the PET can step in.

But before election, it seems most lawyers agree that the Commission on Elections can pass upon the qualifications of a presidential candidate. This has in fact happened in the case of presidential candidate Grace Poe who was thus disqualified for not being a natural-born Filipino.

The Comelec ruling is now in the Supreme Court as the regular appellate tribunal, not in the PET. Now, suppose the Court reverses the Comelec and Poe wins the election, can a case be still filed against her invoking the PET’s jurisdiction as the “sole judge of all contests relating to … the qualifications of (a proclaimed) president”? Or will the Court’s disposition of the Comelec ruling foreclose such further mischief because the PET is also the Supreme Court en banc?

But the problem is, that ruling technically pertains only to Poe’s qualifications as a “candidate” for president, not as a “proclaimed president”— which only the PET can deal with! If, indeed, the distinction is more imagined than real in that they amount to the same in the case of Poe, then the Comelec was way out of line is ruling upon her qualifications even as a “candidate” for president.

What we laypeople with just a scintilla  of common sense thought the Comelec should have done was to  dismiss that disqualification case outright and leave it to the PET to do as it will in due time (because that is its exclusive mandate!).  But by entertaining the appeal from that Comelec ruling, the Supreme Court may have lent legitimacy to the Comelec’s usurpation of authority and compounded the problem by making the PET irrelevant!

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal had earlier questioned the unnecessary expenses for the additional  perks and privileges Supreme Court justices  have been appropriating for themselves as  PET  members when both institutions, the PET and the Supreme Court refer to just one and the same animal! That issue was resolved by, who else, the Supreme Court  (G.R. No. 191618)— naturally, in its favor!

—ROMANO MORANO MONTENEGRO, romor_monger@yahoo.com