Mandamus and impeachment: A democratic call for government action

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vivafilipinas05162023-41TNTrio, the group and the letter T stated twice, stand for truth and transparency.

Trio is a group of three individuals united for the purpose of executing a common act for a common purpose. The individuals are Augusto “Gus” Lagman, former commissioner-Commission on Elections (Comelec), former president-National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), columnist-Manila Times, “Let’s Face It”; Eliseo Rio, Jr., retired brigadier general, former secretary-Department of Information and Communications Technology, former chairman-Comelec Advisory Council, Electronics and Communication; and Franklin Ysaac, former president-Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex), owner-Franklin Financials, banking and finance technology consultancy, retired banker. They have a common purpose — to uncover the Truth and demand transparency on official governmental action (the Comelec’s).

TNT is a powerful substance called “trinitrotoluene,” a combination of nitroglycerine and other chemicals. TNT is commonly known as an explosive.

The chemical process that results from its ignition causes an explosion. That, in another sense, TNT can stand for Truth and Transparency is a coincidence, but appears more to be a divine confluence in meaning because the revelation of truth through transparency in one’s action can ignite a most explosive event, a conflagration that may roar into a full-scale revolution that can consume the entire nation.

With that in mind, TNTrio is a most appropriate play on letters and words as it relates to what it wants to achieve.

The Trio is asking the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines, in a most democratic way by filing a special civil action called mandamus, to command Comelec to preserve all data records and transmission logs supporting the vote count in the May 9, 2022 Philippine national elections.

The action of mandamus in the Philippines is a transplant on Philippine law and jurisprudence. Mandamus, a Latin word meaning “we command,” is a judicial writ issued by a court to an inferior tribunal, a public official, an administrative agency, a corporation, or a person demanding the performance of a specific obligatory act under the law or a statutory duty. It was first used in English courts in the 17th century and migrated to the courts in the American colonies.

Marbury v. Madison (1803) is the landmark US SC on mandamus, which established for the first time that federal courts have the power to overturn an act of Congress on the ground that it violates the US Constitution. The Philippine judicial system is heavily influenced by US laws in resolving constitutional and legal matters. Philippine courts often cite American case law in deciding cases with similar factual elements and legal issues.

TNTrio’s petition for mandamus is asking the Philippine SC to command Comelec and the telecom companies to preserve the transmission logs in connection with the May 2022 elections and for Comelec to provide digital copies to the petitioners. It was triggered by TNTrio’s incredulity at the results shown in the transparency server that more than 20 million votes have been transmitted by 8:02 p.m. on May 9, 2022, one hour after the closing of the polls, and suspicion that cheating might have occurred in the counting of votes due to a constant difference of about 40 percent between the votes of the two leading presidential candidates. The main objective of TnTrio is to prevent the destruction of evidence that might be useful and crucial in future cases.

If the SC grants the mandamus petition, it will enable TNTrio, composed of information technology experts in their own rights, to determine the validity and legitimacy of the results shown in the transparency server and demonstrate to the public whether the person who was proclaimed as the supposed winner is legitimate or fake. If an examination of the transmission logs would show that no 20 million votes were transmitted by 8:02 p.m. of May 9, 2022, a big dark cloud of doubt would hang over the legitimacy of the declared president of the Philippines. The Trio is representing the entire Filipino electorate and the whole Filipino nation at large, whose daily lives are constantly affected by the acts of a declared president whose legitimacy might be in question.

The SC has ordered the Comelec and the telecom companies to comment on the TNTrio’s petition for mandamus. However, Comelec failed to do so within the 10-day period given by the SC. This prompted retired Lt. Col. Leonardo Odoño to threaten to impeach the Comelec commissioners for betrayal of public trust. Unfortunately, by law, the case has to pass through the Philippine Congress. A lawmaker has to sponsor the impeachment case, have it go through approval by the House in a plenary session and transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial.

Whatever the legal formalities are, the impeachment case is a perfect follow-through for the mandamus petition of the explosive Trio. As in a motor car, mandamus is the spark that ignites the engine and impeachment is the step that accelerates the car into motion.

The movers are the TNTrio and Ret. Lt. Col. Odoño, with the help of Atty. Mel Magdamo, an IT professional and a former senior lawyer from the Comelec.

Anyone who closely followed the daily coverage of the election process would recall how the numbers came out from the counting being done by the Comelec at that time. You could see the pattern in the numbers that were coming out. Every day that you tuned in, your eyes would grow wider at each count, in disbelief over the outrageous numbers. That early, postings on social media from people who know technology expressed the same growing incredulity that you would have on the results of the counting that was taking place.

When it ended, there was no public outcry about what took place. It was disgusting. You’d feel hopeless that the general public looked resigned and calmly took the numbers that came out. And then, the proclamation and inauguration of the declared president that followed was peaceful and looked like a normal and regular event that usually follows a national election. But you couldn’t stop fuming inside, and could only express disgust and helplessness with close friends who shared your belief of the fraud perpetrated on the unfortunate Filipino people.

With the twin actions of Mandamus and Impeachment, the movers want the formal action to gain traction, whip up support from the people, and ignite public protests.

That the Trio discovered each other at those critical times in the electoral results process is fortuitous. That they decided to unite as a combined force which resulted in their having filed a formal mandamus petition is divinely inspired. As things are unfolding, their discovery of each other at those crucial moments may as well be pre-ordained.

Thankfully, there are activist groups like Malaya International that exist and persist to fight. On the periphery, too, are concerned citizens who are bound by a common desire and fire to continue to help and fight. They kicked off by initiating an online forum that advocated for the pending Mandamus and Impeachment cases and provided the movers a platform to explain the issues.

(About the author: Alenn Nidea lives in New York City, NY. He is a Philippine attorney registered with the Office of Court Administration, New York State. He works as a financial professional and pursues an advocacy providing legal consulting services to the Filipino community in Queens, New York City.)

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