Lacson had legal standing to challenge Arroyo’s 2004 poll victory, but he did not

Fernando-Poe-Jr.-Panfilo-Lacson-Gloria-Macapagal-Arroyo
President Gloria Arroyo with Senator Panfilo Lacson and Fernando Poe Jr. during a 2004 "unity mass" (Credits: Inquirer.net)

In our previous post, we outlined factors that led to Fernando Poe Jr.’s (FPJ) narrow loss to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the 2004 presidential elections.

First is his inability to present a clear platform of governance to the electorate. There’s also the failure of his camp to join forces with Senator Panfilo Lacson, whose candidacy siphoned votes away from FPJ.

Lastly, this failure to unify forced the influential religious sect Iglasia ni Cristo to endorse Arroyo, which may have eventually gave her the winning margin.

Now, the lingering question is, did Arroyo really win? The final tally of the National Board of Canvassers showed  her winning by 1.1 million votes over Poe.

And, as pointed out by Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Solita “Winnie” Monsod in an October 2005 column titled “Truth is, Arroyo won,” Arroyo’s win was predicted by exit polls conducted by four major media organizations. Monsod endorsed Jesus is Lord leader Eddie Villanueva during that year’s presidential race.

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President Gloria Arroyo with Senator Panfilo Lacson and Fernando Poe Jr. during a 2004 “unity mass” (Credits: Inquirer.net)

Nevertheless, Poe’s camp challenged Arroyo’s victory through the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) just a little over three weeks after her inauguration.  His election protest has barely started when he suddenly died December 14, 2004 following a heart attack.

His wife, veteran actress Susan Roces, filed a motion for her to be declared as a substitute protestant, but the Supreme Court, in its capacity as the PET, junked her bid.

“We have allowed substitution and intervention but only by a real party in interest. A real party in interest is the party who would be benefited or injured by the judgment, and the party who is entitled to the avails of the suit,” the High Court explained in its decision on Poe vs Macapagal-Arroyo (PET Case #002).  The full text of the SC decision can be read in this link

As a consequence, the SC also dismissed Poe’s poll protest “on the ground that no real party in interest has come forward within the period allowed by law, to intervene in this case or be substituted for the deceased protestant.” 

In his 14-page ruling in behalf of the SC, Justice Leonardo Quisumbing explained that based on the law, only the 2nd and 3rd placers in a presidential race as well as the vice presidential candidates have legal standing to pursue an election protest.

That leaves then-Vice President Noli de Castro and Senator Panfilo Lacson as the only two persons eligible to push a case before the PET. De Castro, being a running-mate of Arroyo, did not do anything as regards Poe’s complaint.

Of course, his victory in the vice presidential race was challenged by his rival Loren Legarda. That protest was junked in early 2008 on two grounds: 1) the total votes in the areas where Legarda sought a recount is not enough for her to overtake De Castro. And 2) she effectively abandoned her protest when she ran and won a Senate seat a year before. Read PET’s decision on Legarda vs. De Castro here.

Being a 3rd place finisher in the 2004 presidential race, Lacson had legal standing to substitute for FPJ in his poll protest against Arroyo. He chose not to. It is easy to understand why.

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Panfilo Lacson, former senator and current rehabilitation czar (Credits: Inquirer.net)

What benefit will he get from pursuing such a costly legal battle? If a deceased FPJ will eventually be declared as the true winner in the 2004 race and not Arroyo, it is not likely that Lacson instead will become president.

Had GMA been unseated, it is De Castro that will assume the presidency, following the constitutional rule on succession. It is doubtful if the opposition would like that outcome.

Despite the wide perception among a lot of Filipinos that Arroyo cheated in 2004, the fact of the matter is, such claims has never been proven conclusively. Things would have gone differently had Poe not died, but we cannot live forever on “what ifs” and “what might have beens.”

Some readers of The Filipino Scribe may be asking about the significance of writing a two-part series about this topic. It is clear that Grace Poe and her supporters are using the controversy surrounding the 2004 presidential elections to bolster her standing ahead of the 2016 polls.

Rather than continuously beating a dead horse, Poe’s backers will be better off preparing the freshmen senator as a potential candidate. Make her knowledgeable on relevant issues instead of shrouding her in her dad’s ghost eternally.

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*Relevant documents about the “Hello Garci” scandal were lost when a fire razed the old COMELEC office back in 2007

*According to a scholar from the University of the Philippines, the more probable results of the 2004 presidential elections ranges from a GMA win of around 156,000 votes or less, to an FPJ win of around 84,000 votes or less.

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About Mark Madrona 1191 Articles
Mark Madrona is a prize-winning blogger, online journalist, and educator from the Philippines. Previously a book editor, he is now teaching communication subjects for two public universities in Manila. His blog The Filipino Scribe won 3rd place in a blog competition organized by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP). In 2015, it was one of the finalists in the 2015 Lasallian Scholarum Awards for Best Online Feature Article in Youth and Education. He also won the Best Blog Award during the 2011 Population and Development Media Awards, the youngest recipient of that recognition. Know more about him here: http://www.filipinoscribe.com/about/.

1 Comment on Lacson had legal standing to challenge Arroyo’s 2004 poll victory, but he did not

  1. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (born April 5, 1947) is a Filipino politician who served as the 14th President of the Philippines from 2001 to 2010, as the 12th Vice President of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001, and is currently a member of the House of Representatives representing the 2nd District of Pampanga. She was the country’s second female president (after Corazón Aquino), and the daughter of former President Diosdado Macapagal. Arroyo is also the first duly elected female Vice President of the Philippines.

    Dizon, Ma. Cristina Claire S.
    Holy Angel University
    RIZAL F-332

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