Drilon presses SET on Poe
Senate President Franklin Drilon on Sunday urged the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) to expedite hearings on the disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe in order to reach a decision before the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy next month.
The SET on Monday opens oral arguments on the petition filed by Rizalito David, who lost the 2013 senatorial election, to unseat Poe, the front-runner in voter preference polls for the 2016 presidential election.
Having dropped the question on Poe’s residency last week, the SET—headed by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio—is expected to tackle the question of whether Poe is a natural-born Filipino.
In a statement, Drilon called for the immediate resolution of Poe’s case, saying the case against her raised “serious doubts” about her citizenship and “unavoidably, it also casts doubts” on the validity of her presidential candidacy.
“An immediate resolution of this case will benefit everyone, but it will help the [people] most, especially as they decide whom to vote for next year. If [these questions about Poe’s citizenship remained unanswered, the voters would be confused],” said Drilon, vice chair of the Liberal Party (LP), whose presidential candidate, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, is running behind Poe in the polls.
“The sooner the SET can decide, the better it will be for all,” Drilon said. He expressed hope that the tribunal would be able to resolve the case before the filing of certificates of candidacy, set for Oct. 12 and 16.
The Senate President noted the facts cited by Poe in her submissions to the SET:
She is a foundling.
In 2001, she was naturalized as a citizen of the United States.
In 2006, she filed with the Bureau of Immigration a sworn petition to reacquire her Philippine citizenship.
In 2010, she executed before a notary public in Pasig City an affidavit renouncing her allegiance to the United States and her US citizenship.
At no time after she executed the affidavit did she ever use her US passport.
In 2010, she assumed the position of chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
In 2011, she executed before the vice consul at the US Embassy in Manila an oath and reaffirmation of her renunciation of her US citizenship.
On October 2012, she filed her certificate of candidacy as senator.
“These are facts [that] can easily be stipulated by the parties involved. It is up to the tribunal to apply the provisions of the Constitution and the laws concerning the citizenship,” Drilon said.
Poe last night said she would not attend today’s oral arguments at the SET because the tribunal did not require her to be present.
In a statement, Poe said her lawyers would represent her in the oral arguments.
“The issues on citizenship that are to be discussed will be confined to purely legal ones as all the surrounding facts had been admitted by the petitioner,” Poe said.
“I believe [this will] give my colleagues who are SET members the full opportunity to ask all legal questions they wish to ask without any hesitation. This way the truth would be better served for the benefit of the public,” she added.
Sen. Vicente Sotto, who serves on the nine-member tribunal, said in a text message yesterday that the panel members could ask questions after the oral arguments.
Aside from Sotto and Carpio, the other members of the SET are Senators Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villar, Pia Cayetano, and Paulo Benigno Aquino IV, as well as Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion.
The SET opened hearings on Poe’s case before the senator declared her bid for the presidency last week. She has chosen Sen. Francis Escudero as her running mate.
Poe is an adopted daughter of of the late movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) and his wife, actress Susan Roces. She married Neil Llamanzares, a citizen of both the Philippines and the United States in 1991 and a decade later she renounced her Philippine citizenship as she was naturalized as a US citizen.
Following the death of her father in 2004, Poe decided to return home and reacquired her status as a natural-born Filipino, along with her three children in July 2006.
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