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Poe finds SC ally in SolGen

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 05:07 AM January 15, 2016

Sen. Grace Poe may have found a major ally in her bid to be declared a natural-born citizen, which would clear the way for her to run for President in the May elections.

This possibility cropped up as the Poe camp geared up for oral arguments at the Supreme Court next week, where the candidate is expected to press the Supreme Court to junk the Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolutions disqualifying her from the race.

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The high court on Thursday ordered Solicitor General Florin Hilbay to stand “as the Tribune of the People” during the oral arguments on Poe’s petition against Comelec resolutions canceling her certificate of candidacy (COC).

Lot of weight

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Hilbay had begged off from serving as the poll body’s counsel in the case due to conflicting positions.

“The SolGen, being the Tribune of the People, can better explain the wisdom of the sovereign Filipinos in adopting the Constitution and its provisions in order to build a just and humane society and create a government responsive to their needs,” Poe’s counsel George Garcia said.

“To a certain extent, the SolGen now becomes a friend of the court, hence, his view on constitutional issues will carry a lot of weight,” Garcia added.

Garcia responded in the affirmative when asked if Hilbay’s presence in the proceedings might help the Poe camp assert her status as a natural-born citizen.

“Yes, of course. In fact, we will be using to our advantage the SolGen’s position on Sen. Grace Poe’s citizenship,” Garcia said.

Jan. 19 debate

The high court has ordered Hilbay to participate in the Jan. 19 oral arguments on Poe’s case questioning resolutions disqualifying her from the polls.

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Hilbay has already signed up as counsel for the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) in a separate but related case, in which he defended the latter’s ruling upholding Poe’s status as a natural-born Filipino.

“The Solicitor General, as the Tribune of the People, is directed to participate in the oral arguments despite his manifestation that he will not represent the public respondent in these consolidated cases,” the high court said in an advisory.

Hilbay will have 10 minutes to speak, next to Poe, who will be the first to address the high court.  A Comelec representative, also given 10 minutes, will speak third.

Four private respondents—who had petitioned the Comelec to disqualify Poe—would share 20 minutes.  They are former Government Service Insurance System chief legal counsel Estrella Elamparo, former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad, De La Salle University Prof. Antonio Contreras and former University of the East Law Dean Amado Valdez.

Separate case

Hilbay confirmed he would comply with the high court.

“Of course [I will appear],” Hilbay said in a text message. “I’ve been required by the Supreme Court to attend and participate as Tribune of the People.”

Hilbay represents SET as respondent in the petition that disqualified presidential candidate Rizalito David elevated before the high court after losing in his bid to undo Poe’s election to the Senate in 2013.

David alleged SET had committed grave abuse of discretion in upholding Poe’s status as a natural-born citizen.

Hilbay earlier manifested before the high court that he could not represent the Comelec in the separate case filed by Poe.

While the SET case concerns Poe’s qualifications in the senatorial race, it covers similar issues concerning her residency and citizenship, which are also in question in the Comelec case.

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TAGS: disqualification case, Elections 2016, Florin Hilbay, Grace Poe, Poe, Rizalito David, solicitor general
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