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New disqualification case filed vs Poe in Comelec

grace poe

Senator Grace Poe. FILE PHOTO

THE CAMP of Sen. Grace Poe on Monday decried the “dirty tactics” being employed by her opponents to scupper her presidential candidacy as an ally of her late father brought a petition to disqualify her from next year’s race for Malacañang.

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Former Sen. Francisco Tatad filed a petition for the disqualification of Poe in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Monday, alleging that Poe was not a natural-born Filipino citizen and that she did not meet the 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates.

It was the second petition for disqualification filed against Poe in the Comelec, citing the same grounds raised in the first case brought against the senator by former Department of Justice Prosecutor Estrella Elamparo on Oct. 16.

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Tatad served in the Senate from 1992 to 2001 and made a comeback bid as part of Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino of Poe’s father, the late movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ), in the 2004 general elections but lost.

He was also the press secretary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos who read the proclamation of martial law on national television on Sept. 23, 1972.

Although brought by an ally of FPJ, the case filed by Tatad did not surprise Poe’s camp, which said it expected her opponents to try to eliminate her from next year’s presidential race.

Poe, 47, leads mainstream candidates Mar Roxas of the ruling Liberal Party and Vice President Jejomar Binay of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance in the latest voter preference polls for the presidential election.

Her running mate, Sen. Francis Escudero, said Monday that he would not be surprised if one of her rivals turned out to be behind the disqualification cases brought against her.

 

‘Dirty tricks’

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Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, a spokesperson for Poe, said Tatad’s petition was “baseless” and part of “dirty tricks” employed by Poe’s opponents to thwart her presidential candidacy.

Gatchalian said the disqualification cases were the handiwork of “sinister minds” responsible for the “premeditated and concerted efforts to condition the minds of the public that [Poe] will be disqualified.”

A petition seeking Poe’s ouster from the Senate is awaiting resolution by the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET). Also questioning her citizenship and residency, the petition was brought by Rizalito David, who lost the 2013 senatorial election and is one of the 130 candidates for President in next year’s elections.

Poe’s camp has said it knows who is behind the attacks on her. Reminded about it Monday, Escudero said Poe’s lawyer, George Garcia, was “looking into it.”

“But I will not be surprised probably if one of the foes of Senator Poe in the presidential race will be shown to be behind this harassment,” Escudero said.

He underscored the importance of discovering who was behind the attacks on Poe, saying that while the question of her citizenship was a small issue for voters as shown by the polls, it could lead to the withholding of support by some political leaders, who may be waiting for the resolution of the cases.

Going to high court

That will not come soon. Escudero said the Comelec could either suspend proceedings on the disqualification cases and wait for the resolution of the case in the SET or proceed with the two cases since the petition in the SET was a separate case.

But whoever loses in the SET or in the Comelec will surely go to the Supreme Court, which has the “final say” on the matter, he said.

“I’m sure these cases will go to the Supreme Court before the elections,” he said.

Tatad’s lawyer, Manuelito Luna, said Elamparo’s petition may be dismissed, as it was filed at the close of the five-day registration of candidates in violation of Comelec rules of procedure.

Elamparo wants Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC) for the presidency to be canceled because she allegedly lied about her citizenship and residency.

Under the rules, such petitions must be filed any day after the last day of candidate registration but not later than the date of proclamation.

The offensive against Poe centers on uncertainty about her parentage. She was found in a church in Jaro, Iloilo province, shortly after she was born in 1968 and was adopted later by FPJ and his wife, movie actress Susan Roces.

She married a Filipino-American and became a US citizen but renounced her American citizenship when she returned to the Philippines after the death of FPJ in 2004. She says she has been living in the Philippines since 2005.

 

Breach of Constitution

In his petition, Tatad said the Comelec would uphold a “grievous violation of the Constitution” if it did not disqualify Poe from the presidential election.

“Anyone who aspires to be President should first of all be a candidate of the Constitution,” Tatad told reporters after filing his petition at the Comelec.

“As President … you should at the very least be truly and absolutely loyal to the Filipino nation and one test of loyalty is being, from birth, a Filipino citizen,” he said.

Luna said Tatad’s petition, if sustained by the Comelec, would have a more serious consequence—Poe would be permanently barred from running for any public office.

“There’s a world of difference between a petition for cancellation of COC and a petition for disqualification in so far as the effects are concerned. Ours would be a deeply impacted result if ever we will win the case as compared to the petition filed by Attorney Elamparo,” Luna said.

He said the cancellation of COC was not a “substantial remedy” as Poe may raise the defense of “good faith” in claiming that she was a natural-born Filipino.

“But in this particular case, good faith or bad faith is immaterial because she herself admitted that she is a foundling,” said Luna, who is also a lawyer for David, who wants Poe ousted from the Senate.

Bloodline unknown

In his petition, Tatad said Poe could not be considered a natural-born Filipino because her parents were unknown.

“Considering that respondent’s bloodline is unknown, it is incumbent upon her to prove that she is a Filipino, that is, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, as mandated under the Constitution,” Tatad said.

He also pointed out that based on Poe’s COC submitted to the Comelec for the 2013 senatorial election, the senator would have a residency of “nine years, five months and several days, shy of the minimum of 10 years” required by the Constitution.

“But if the [Comelec] were to consider the period she actually acquired her new domicile in Quezon City—the [United States] was her old domicile of choice—which was sometime in 2010 or 2011, it would only reach five or six years,” he said.

“In any event, even if her residency claim is sustained, she would still be disqualified to run for President on account of lack of citizenship,” he said.

Asked if he was working for someone for the disqualification of Poe, Tatad replied: “This is a constitutional act. This is also a political act. But … from the very beginning, I was the one who raised this issue. For a long time, I was virtually alone until [David] came into the picture.”

‘Unfounded accusations’

Gatchalian said the “unfounded accusations” against Poe were evidently aimed at derailing her presidential candidacy.

He said Poe would present documents proving that she had satisfied the requirements for presidential candidates.

“These documents will answer these suits on all fours and will bear her out,” Gatchalian said.

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