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Comelec properly exercised duty for ordering Poe DQ—SC justice

/ 06:18 PM March 09, 2016
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Supreme Court Justice Mariano Del Castillo. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has properly exercised its duty for ordering the disqualification of Senator Grace Poe in running for president in the upcoming elections in May, a Supreme Court associate justice said.

In his 70-page draft opinion, Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo said the Comelec has anchored its decision “on settled jurisprudence and fair appreciation of facts and it accorded the parties ample opportunity to be heard and present evidence.”

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Del Castillo refused to accept Poe’s claim of honest mistake when she entered “6 years and 6 months” in her 2012 certificate of candidacy (COC) for the 2013 senatorial race, which would have made her residency less than 10 years by May 2016 and ineligible to run for president.

READ: Comelec disqualifies Grace Poe

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“True, petitioner tried to correct her alleged mistakes through her public statements…. [But] this court cannot help but conclude that these public statements were for the purpose of representing to the general public that the petitioner is eligible to run for President since they were made at a time when she was already contemplating on running for the position,” said Del Castillo, faulting Poe for not making the correction “at the earliest opportunity before the proper forum.”

“These statements could even be interpreted as part of petitioner’s continuing misrepresentation regarding her qualification and eligibility to run as president,” Del Castillo added.

Del Castillo was the original ponente in the Poe cases, however, his draft decision became a dissenting opinion after the tribunal voted 9-6 in favor of the lawmaker. A new ponente has been designated to write the majority decision that allowed Poe to run for president.

In filling up her 2012 COC, Poe said she made an “honest mistake” because the wordings are confusing. Her camp told the court that Comelec’s action of revising the COC form can be considered as an admission that the previous COC formal was “unclear.”

However, Del Castillo said such defense is “totally unacceptable.”

“The change is a mere semantic exercise devoid of any serious significance,” Del Castillo said.

“Being the educated woman that she is, coupled by her brief but memorable stint in politics and relevant government experience, this Court finds it hard to believe that she misinterpreted the clear and simple import of the phrase “period of residence in the Philippines before May 13, 2013…” Del Castillo said.

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Regardless that Poe was not assisted by a lawyer at that time, the high court justice said the COC used plain and simple language that does not require someone with a legal mind to understand it.

READ: Grace Poe residency is ‘simple arithmetic’

The magistrate said the court should have concluded that Poe “knowingly made a false material representation in her 2015 COC sufficient to mislead the electorate into believing that she is eligible and qualified to become a president.”

On Poe’s citizenship, Del Castillo opted not to touch on the issue.

He said it would be “wise and prudent to withhold passing judgment at this time regarding” the matter.

“A loftier interest dictates that we take pause and exhaust all possible avenues and opportunities to critically study the issue,” he said.

He added that any “hasty ruling” could open the floodgates to abuse.

“We do not want to wake up someday and see our beloved country teeming with foreigners and aliens posing as natural-born Filipinos while the real natives are thrown into oblivion or relegated second or third class citizens,” Del Castillo said.

Poe’s search for her biological parents, according to Del Castillo, should not be time-bound and better than “creating a presumption that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen or creating a new specie of citizenship based on statistical probabilities.”

“Petitioner surely has biological parents. It is indeed surprising that these parents or any close relatives have not come forward to claim ties to someone so highly respected and recognized as one of the worthy leaders of this country,” he said. RAM

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TAGS: Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, Certificate of Candidacy, CoC, Comelec, Commission on Elections, disqualification, Elections 2016, residency, Senator Grace Poe
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