Comelec chair believes Poe committed ‘honest mistake’ in COC
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Andres Bautista is the lone dissenter among the commissioners who ruled to uphold the second division ruling canceling Sen. Grace Poe’s certificate of candidacy for president in the 2016 elections.
In his 53-page separate opinion on the petition filed by lawyer Estrella Elamparo, Bautista said he believed Poe did not commit material misrepresentation in her COC when she said she was a resident of the Philippines for 10 years prior to Election Day and was a natural-born Filipino.
The Comelec chair said that while he believed Poe failed to satisfy the 10-year residency requirement, he was “satisfied” with the explanation of the senator that she committed an “honest mistake” in her COC for president regarding the duration of her stay in the country.
“I believe that respondent’s declaration in her 2016 COC that she would have been a resident of the Philippines for 10 years by May 9, 2016 is false,” he said.
“However, I am satisfied with the respondent’s explanation in her motion for reconsideration that her ‘false’ statement in her 2013 COC was just due to an honest mistake which was supposedly caused by ambiguity in the said COC.”
The chair cited Poe’s defense that there was ambiguity in the phrase “period of residence to the Philippines before May 13, 2013,” where she interpreted it as to mean the date of the filing of the COC in October 2012.
Despite acknowledging Poe’s “honest mistake,” Bautista questioned the senator’s permanent intention to reside in the country as Poe applied for reacquisition of her citizenship only on July 10, 2006, or more than a year from the period she claimed she had started establishing her domicile in the Philippines.
The senator should have applied for the reacquisition of her supposed Filipino citizenship at an earlier date or to attempt to secure an immigrant visa or immigrant residence certificate, he said.
Providing an answer to his question, Bautista said Poe was “still contemplating whether to actually settle here or go back to USA.”
“It may show a lack of intention to actually permanently reside here in the Philippines but it does not manifest a deliberate act to mislead,” Bautista said.
Deliberate act to mislead is a ground to cancel a person’s COC, according to Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code.
On the issue of Poe’s citizenship, Bautista said she did not commit material misrepresentation with a deliberate attempt to mislead when she said in her 2016 COC that she was a natural-born citizen.
He said that in accordance to the earlier ruling of the second division, the issue on foundlings being natural-born citizens of the country “has not yet been definitively resolved and settled by the Supreme Court.”
“As a foundling who grew up in the Philippines immersed in its culture, language and traditions, it was but natural for respondent (Poe) to think of herself as a Filipino,” Bautista said.
Finding that Poe had no deliberate intent to mislead, misinform or hide a fact which would make her COC ineligible, Bautista voted to dismiss Elamparo’s petition.
However, he was outvoted by his fellow commissioners with five—Rowena Guanzon, Arthur Lim, Luie Guia, Sherriff Abas and Al Parreño—ruling to grant the petition canceling Poe’s COC.
Commissioner Christian Robert Lim inhibited from the case as he previously belonged to the same law firm with the petitioner. RC
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