Poe jumps for joy; SET scraps disqualification case
IN A VISIT to Biñan, Laguna province Tuesday, Sen. Grace Poe jumped for joy on hearing the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) decision.
“From the bottom of my heart, I wish to thank everyone who chose justice and upheld the rights of voters and abandoned children,” the senator told reporters.
Poe scored an early victory against moves to disqualify her in next year’s presidential election after the SET, voting 5-4, dismissed a petition seeking to oust her as senator on the ground that she is not a natural-born Filipino as required by the Constitution.
Poe’s supporters in the SET announced the ruling and hailed the quick vote in the tribunal’s meeting at Manila Polo Club, calling it a triumph for foundlings, echoing the senator’s position on the belated disqualification case filed by Rizalito David, a losing candidate in the 2013 senatorial elections.
The decision has not been released.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it would consider the SET ruling when it tackled four petitions questioning Poe’s citizenship and residency to run for President in the 2016 balloting.
The Constitution states that a presidential candidate should be a natural-born citizen and should be a resident for at least 10 years in the Philippines. An elected President takes an oath to uphold the Constitution.
Senators Loren Legarda, Vicente Sotto III, Cynthia Villar, Bam Aquino and Pia Cayetano voted to dismiss David’s disqualification case.
All Supreme Court magistrates in the nine-member SET—Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion and Antonio Carpio—voted to disqualify Poe, along with Sen. Nancy Binay. Her father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, is among the contenders against Poe in the 2016 presidential race.
“It was a vote of 5-4, five dismissing the petition of Mr. David, and four concurring with the petition of Mr. David,” Legarda told reporters.
“That means, five voted and gave consideration to the fact that, as a foundling, Senator Poe is natural-born Filipino,” she added.
David called the SET decision a “moral victory” and planned to go to the Supreme Court to question it. “It’s a pity that our senators failed to rise above their political nature.”
David has charged Poe with “material misrepresentation” in the 2013 senatorial race, while four other petitions in the Comelec want to disqualify her from the presidential race and have her certificate of candidacy canceled.
In the SET case, David’s camp is contending that Poe, then a baby, found in 1968 at a church in Jaro, Iloilo province, is stateless and is, thus, unqualified to hold public office.
Poe, an adopted daughter of the late actor and presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., had acquired American citizenship in October 2001, 10 years after marrying Filipino-American Neil Llamanzares.
She reacquired her Philippine citizenship in 2006, and in 2010 she renounced her US citizenship upon her appointment as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
David’s lawyer Manuelito Luna said the petitioner would file a motion for reconsideration. He has 10 days to do so, or the ruling will become final, Legarda said.
Commenting on the ruling, Luna expressed confidence that the Supreme Court would eventually overturn the ruling once elevated on appeal.
“We’ll have to peruse the decision first, but in the event it’s a political decision and the senators disregarded the Constitution, then on the strength of the ruling in the Lerias case, the Supreme Court will set aside the decision,” Luna said.
In ruling on a 1991 case filed by petitioner Rosette Lerias against the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and her rival for the Southern Leyte congressional seat at the time, Roger Mercado, the high court warned politicians against making political decisions in ruling on electoral protests, saying “they must resolve election controversies with judicial, not political, integrity.”
If the petitioner files an appeal, SET must rule on the case and release a decision with finality before Dec. 10, the deadline for the printing of ballots for the 2016 elections.
“I think this will have both legal and political implications. And more important, the most important I think, this will have a great implication on foundlings. This issue goes beyond Grace Poe,” Legarda said.
“This is important for adopted children who do not know where they came from,” she said.
Sotto, who is running under Poe’s slate and also a guest candidate at Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance party, echoed this and said via text messages: “All the foundlings and children in the orphanages triumphed!”
Media were barred from covering the SET proceedings, which took roughly two hours.
Cayetano said in a statement, “The case is still pending with us given that the petitioner has a right to file a motion for reconsideration.”
Cayetano and Legarda are expected to release separate opinions explaining their vote.
Legarda said the atmosphere was “very calm, short and friendly” during the voting, and that the members came in with their minds already made up.
“There were two decisions that were ready: One saying [Poe] is natural born, the other is just in case whatever happens. The two drafts either granted or dismissed the petition,” she said.
“The chair said raise your hands, who votes to grant the petition, who votes to dismiss it. Then they routed the majority ruling, which we then signed,” she said. “There was no debate unlike in the Senate. The lunch was longer than the discussion. In short, there was no need for a debate.”
“I decided to vote with the justices of the Supreme Court based on the Constitution and evidence presented,” Senator Binay said in a statement.
She said the SET case was not about her father and his presidential aspiration but about the “Constitution which each and every Filipino must uphold.”
Rico Quicho, a Binay spokesperson, said in a statement, “The Vice President enjoins everyone to respect the decision.” With reports from Tina G. Santos, Marlon Ramos and Christine O. Avendaño