Poe allies trace ties that bind Comelec execs to LP
Allies of presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe said the three election commissioners who on Tuesday disqualified her from next year’s elections either did not know their law or were politically linked to her rivals.
In interviews conducted with radio stations in Bacolod and Iloilo cities on Wednesday, Sen. Francis Escudero said the moves to disqualify Poe were being orchestrated by her rivals—Vice President Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, or the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
Escudero said Estrella Elamparo, the lawyer who filed a disqualification case against Poe is connected with a law firm, which he said was used by former Defense Secretary Avelino “Nonong” Cruz in a case he filed against former associate Pancho Villaraza. Cruz and Villaraza were partners in the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco or CVC Law also known as “The Firm.”
“Nonong Cruz is, of course, with Mar (Roxas),” he further said in a text message to the Inquirer.
“She (Elamparo) is with Divina law firm which was the firm used by Nonong Cruz in the case he filed vs Pancho Villaraza,” Escudero said in a text message on Wednesday night when asked if Elamparo was connected to the LP.
Senate President Franklin Drilon earlier denied that Elamparo was connected with the LP, which is endorsing Roxas’ presidential bid.
On Tuesday, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Second Division, ruled favorably on Elamparo’s disqualification case, saying that Poe had submitted documents that belied she met the 10-year residency requirement of a presidential candidate under the Constitution.
The three other petitions are yet to be resolved on the qualification of Poe, a foundling, as a natural-born Filipino.
After her petition was granted by the Comelec Second Division, Elamparo immediately filed another motion seeking Poe’s exclusion from the ballot for next year’s elections.
“Her overeagerness is astonishing,” Escudero said. “Perhaps she is simply trying to gain publicity or attention to her cause given that, as a lawyer, she should know that the relief she is asking for is not in accordance with the law and rules of the Comelec,” he added.
Lorna Kapunan, a veteran lawyer and a senatorial candidate on Poe’s ticket, on Thursday scored the absence of seasoned election lawyers in the Comelec’s Second Division.
“Election law is an expertise, a niche; it takes years of practice in election law to be considered an expert. Sadly, none of the lawyers sitting in the Second Division fits the bill,” Kapunan said in a statement.
The division, composed of Commissioners Al Parreño, Arthur Lim and Sherrif Abbas, voted unanimously on Tuesday to disqualify Poe from running for President due to her lack of 10-year residency.
Kapunan recalled that Parreño, the division’s presiding commissioner, earlier admitted in media interviews that he was appointed for his expertise in information technology, not his knowledge in election law.
“The last job Parreño held before joining the Comelec was with the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board when Mar Roxas was secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications,” Kapunan said.
Lim, for all his years of law practice, was “never known to have engaged in election law,” Kapunan said.
As for Abbas, Kapunan said that his tenure as legal officer in the Civil Service Commission’s Cotabato office “may have given him a familiarity with civil service laws, but not election laws.”
‘Law on our side’
The lawyer said that when Poe’s disqualification case is elevated to the Supreme Court, “our justices may be better equipped to appreciate the elements of the case.”
“The law is on our side. Jurisprudence is on our side. And the people are on our side. This is a fight for our rights. We believe that when all is said and done, the law and the truth will prevail, and Senator Grace will be allowed to run for president,” Kapunan said.
Escudero, along with Poe’s senatorial candidates Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo and Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, made the rounds of radio stations and schools in Bacolod and Iloilo cities.
Colmenares challenged the Comelec commissioners to rule on the merits of Poe’s cases and uphold their independence since the seven commissioners are all Malacañang appointees.
“The issue here is the rights and interest of foundlings. Do these (cases against Poe) prove that it’s difficult to run for congressman or senator if you’re a foundling?” Colmenares said.
Drilon on Thursday expressed belief on the independence of Comelec. “By some stroke of chance, it’s the President who appoints but I believe the Comelec is independent and the term of office of its members are definite,” Drilon said in a radio interview.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said the move to disqualify Poe showed that the Aquino administration’s game plan is to reduce the number of opponents of Mar Roxas and increase his chances of winning.
“It’s a political reality, whether it’s about the Supreme Court decisions or Comelec decisions, these supposedly constitutionally independent bodies are swayed by those who appointed their members,” Tinio said. With reports from Nestor Burgos and Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas; Jerome C. Aning, Gil C. Cabacungan, Christine O. Avendaño and Maila Ager, Inquirer.Net, in Manila