Settle Poe citizenship now, SC urged
THE SUPREME Court will again reconsider the controversial citizenship case of Sen. Grace Poe when it rules on a motion for reconsideration of the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s (SET) decision filed by the losing litigant, Rizalito David.
In a statement, lawyer Romulo Macalintal said that should the court rule before May 9 that Poe is not a natural-born citizen, making her not qualified to run for President, then the Commission on Elections (Comelec), on its own, may no longer count the votes cast for her, Macalintal said.
Macalintal said that if the court rules that Poe is a natural-born citizen, “then that settles this issue once and for all.”
“There is now the imperative need for the court to immediately decide on the pending appeal filed by David,” Macalintal said, adding that it was still unclear whether or not she was a natural-born Filipino citizen.
The SET ruled that Poe, as a foundling, was assumed to be a natural-born Filipino citizen.
“If the Supreme Court rules that she is not, then the Comelec, on its own or motu proprio, or even without any petition, could still disqualify her and all votes cast for her will not be counted, if the decision is rendered before the election,” he said.
Macalintal called the high court’s decision on Poe’s case “a classic example of a very complicated legal verdict” that an ordinary layman is not expected to fully comprehend.
“The decision did not categorically say that Poe is a natural-born Filipino citizen nor did it say that she has complied with the 10-year residency requirement to qualify to run for President,” the lawyer said.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno stated in her separate opinion that the only issue the court needed to resolve was to grant or deny Poe’s appeal to reconsider the decision of the Comelec to disqualify her on the ground that she made a “false material representation” in her certificate of candidacy (COC).
The high court reversed the cancellation of Poe’s COC, ruling that under Section 78, Comelec was “restrained” from going into the issue of qualifications. It said the poll body “cannot itself, in the same cancelation case, decide the qualification or lack thereof of the candidate.”
The majority also ruled that “the facts of qualification must beforehand be established in a prior proceeding or authority that he or she is not qualified, such prior authority being the necessary measure by which the falsity of the representation can be found.”
The court ruled further that since there was no “prior proceeding” where Poe was found ineligible or disqualified on ground of citizenship or residency, then the Comelec “cannot decide her qualification or lack thereof” under Section 78.
Macalintal said the 9-6 vote meant that nine Justices voted and signed the majority decision granting Poe’s petition while 6 members dissented.
However, Macalintal said “more confusion was added to an already confused legal situation” when Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio claimed that only seven justices voted on the citizenship issue, meaning the majority of eight required for a definitive ruling under the court’s internal rules was not achieved.
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