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