Poe banks on volunteer lawyers for clean elections
MANILA, Philippines – After her victory at the Supreme Court (SC), the last thing Senator Grace Poe wants is a repeat of her father Fernando Poe Jr's "tragic" loss during the 2004 presidential elections.
"Nung 2004, kulang na kulang tayo talaga sa suporta kaya ang nangyari sa atin ay isang trahedya hindi lamang para kay FPJ kundi lalung-lalo na para sa ating mga kababayan na nawalan ng pagkakataon na mamili ng kanilang liderato," the presidential candidate told hundreds of legal volunteers on Saturday, March 12.
(In 2004, we really lacked support, which led to a tragedy not only for FPJ but also for Filipinos who were deprived of the chance to choose their leader.)
The late actor lost to incumbent President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in a tight race allegedly marred by fraud.
The "Grace Poe-Chiz (GPC) Legal Team," led by its secretary-general George Garcia, held a day-long seminar on election laws for around 460 volunteer lawyers at the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) Clubhouse in New Manila.
The political party earlier endorsed Poe and her running mate Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero.
Poe and Escudero dropped by Saturday evening to thank the lawyers for offering their services to ensure clean elections on May 9.
"Isang malaking bagay ang binoluntaryo niyo hindi lamang ang inyong oras kundi ang inyong mga reputasyon para sumama dito sa amin. Sa tingin ko, malakas na talaga ang puwersa natin ngayon sapagkat marami nang nagpapahatid ng kanilang mensahe na sila ay sasama sa atin," Poe said.
(It's a big deal that you volunteered not only your time but also your reputation to join us. I think we are stronger now because many have already expressed their plans to join us.)
She said she has other supporters who cannot come out in the open yet, fearing they would lose their projects – an indication that she was referring to local officials.
"Boluntaryo silang lumapit at sinabi ko naman sa kanila sa tamang panahon para sa inyo, sapagkat…palagi na lang ang nagiging modus ngayon kung ikaw ay hindi ka-alyado ng administrasyon, napakahirap para sa inyo na magsabi kung sino talaga ang gusto niyong suportahan dahil ang daming naiipit, ang daming mga proyekto. E siyempre kung iisipin natin kung anong makakabuti, siyempre gusto rin naman nila siguro ituloy ang mga proyekto nila sa probinsya," Poe said.
(They approached us voluntarily, and I told them there's a right time for you, because…the modus nowadays is that if you're not an ally of the administration, it's hard for you to say who you really want to support because your projects will be affected. Of course, if we think about what's best, they'd want their projects in the province to continue.)
She even cited an example: "Meron akong isang nakausap na congressman, LP member since early 1990s, inipit ang kanyang proyekto na halos P2 bilyon na meron namang katuturan na inaprubahan ng NEDA."
(I talked to one congressman, a [Liberal Party] member since the early 1990s, whose P2-billion project was halted, even if the project was meaningful and approved by the National Economic and Development Authority.)
'One lawyer in every town'
Garcia told Rappler that their volunteer lawyers will be deployed on election day to keep watch of the election results in every city, municipality, and province.
"We intend to have one lawyer in every town," he explained."On election day, sila pupuntahan ng mga tao namin sa bawat probinsya, sa kanila magco-consult ng legal problems, tine-train namin sila na sumagot, gumawa ng dapat aksyon na gagawin nila kung sakaling magkaroon ng problema sa bawat probinsya, sa bawat bayan."
(On election day, our people will approach them in every province, and will consult them about legal problems. So we’re training them to answer, and to act accordingly in case problems arise in every province, every town.)
Poe warned the lawyers that the road ahead will not be easy, especially with the challenges hounding the May polls.
A recent SC ruling that requires the issuance of voting receipts has thrust the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in a state of emergency which, according to the poll body, might force it to postpone the elections or hold manual polls.
"Ang puwede lang nating bantayan, 'pag binibigyan ng resibo ang mga botante, dapat ideposito nila sa isang kahon bago sila umalis at 'wag nilang gagalawin sapagkat pwede 'yang gawing batayan ng vote buying," Poe told the lawyers.
(We can only keep watch once voters get their recept. They should deposit it in a box before they leave and no one should be allowed to tamper with it because it can be a basis for vote buying.)
The senator said Comelec should clarify what their policy will be for voting receipts. She also asked if it is possible to allow mobile phones inside precincts so voters can take photos of the ballots.
As for her victory at the SC, Poe slammed critics who are dismissing the decision allowing her to run for the presidency. (READ: Carpio: To allow Poe's bid is a 'mockery' of polls and Grace Poe lacks 10-year residency – Del Castillo)
"Ngayon nilalabas, binasura daw ng Korte Suprema ang batas, [pero] dapat binibigyan ng boses ang walang boses (Now they're saying the Supreme Court trampled on the law, but those without a voice should still be heard)," she added. – Rappler.com
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