MANILA, Philippines – If Philippine elections take a longer time than the US polls, blame it on politicians who never admit their loss – and yes, men and women who practice election law.
Take it from a top election lawyer himself, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr, who shared some lessons from the US presidential elections that ended Wednesday, November 7. US President Barack Obama won a second term while his rival, Mitt Romney, immediately conceded.
ELECTION LAWYER. Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr says complex legal processes, which election lawyers like himself take advantage of, prolong elections in the Philippines. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II
“Dito, hirap na hirap tayong magpa-concede eh. Tatlong taon na after the elections, nag-aaway pa tayo. Walang gustong magpatalo. Doon, kalalabas lang ng resulta, 'pag nakita na nila, nagko-concede na," Brillantes told reporters.
(Here, we find it hard to make politicians concede. Three years after the elections, we still contest its results. No one wants to lose. There, once the results come out, once the politicians see these, they immediately concede.)
He added that election protests rarely happen in the US, unlike in the Philippines.
"Walang mga election lawyers doon. Dito, malaking hanapbuhay ang election law, kaya hindi lang kasalanan ng mga kandidato 'yon. Kasalanan pa ng mga election lawyers, kagaya ni– kagaya ko, noong nagpra-practice," the jovial Brillantes added, eliciting laughter.
(There are no election lawyers there. Here, election law is a thriving business, so it's not just the fault of the candidates. It's also the fault of election lawyers, like – like myself, when I was practicing.)
He said resolving election cases is a "very tedious process" in the Philippines. "That's why the practice of election law is very lucrative," Brillantes said in Filipino.
“Hindi lang mahaba ang mga batas, mahaba pa ang mga resolutions. Masyado pa tayong magagaling mag-interpret lahat, kanya-kanya tayo," Brillantes added.
(Not only are the laws long, the resolutions are, too. We are all too good at interpreting issues, we each have our own takes.)
He noted the issue facing actor Aga Muhlach, a congressional candidate in Camarines Sur, on whether he has resided long enough in the area to represent it in Congress.
"Isang isyu lang, gaya ni Aga Muhlach, pag-aawayan natin nang matagal 'yan. Dapat 'yan settled issue na 'yan. Ang tagal tagal na niyang residence, registered voter [issue]. Paulit-ulit na 'yan," said Brillantes.
(Just one issue, like Aga Muhlach's, we would argue about that for a long time. That should have been a settled issue. We've long been talking about issues like residence, registered voters. That has always recurred.)
A veteran election lawyer when he was named to the Comelec, Brillantes used to advise prominent candidates like the late Fernando Poe Jr.
Unlike in the Philippines, the US' Wednesday electoral process ended on D-Day itself. Obama delivered a speech, where he thanked Americans for making him a "better president."
Americans also celebrated in the Philippines, led by US Ambassador Harry Thomas. He hosted an election day event at SM North Edsa, Quezon City.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III also wrote a letter to congratulate Obama.
“The President of the Philippines recalled how 4 years ago, President Obama’s message of hope resonated with the American people and the world, marking the beginning of the long road back for one of the world’s greatest countries," said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs also congratulated the reelected US president. – Rappler.com