Dissenting justices: SC ‘overstepped bounds’ in Poe ruling
The Supreme Court decision finally putting a collective seal of approval on Senator Grace Poe’s presidential bid still left hanging the questions on her citizenship and residency, a decision which, a Justice of the Supreme Court may have “overstepped the bounds” allowed them.
While the same nine justices maintained that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering the cancellation of Poe’s certificate of candidacy, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said still, only seven justices voted to rule in favor of Poe’s citizenship.
The seven Justices who opined that Poe is a natural-born Filipino are Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Associate Justices Presbitero Veleasco, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Mendoza, Marvic Leonen, Jose Perez and Francis Jardeleza. The five Justices against it are Carpio, Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Arturo Brion, Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas Bernabe. Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo declined from giving an opinion while Associate Justices Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and Diosdado Peralta disagreed with the majority when it proceeded to vote on the citizenship issue.
Under the Supreme Court’s internal rules, if all 15 justices deliberated and voted on a case, a majority of 8 votes is required in granting a petition.
Carpio said no justice inhibited from the case. He said Sereno interpreted the positions of Del Castillo, Caguioa and Peralta as non-participation and non-voting.
“This is egregious error,” he said.
“Since there is no dispute that there are only seven Justices who declared that petitioner is a natural-born Filipino citizen, there is clearly no majority vote on the issue of petitioner’s citizenship. Seven votes is less than a majority. Accordingly, there is no majority sustaining petitioner’s status as a natural-born Filipino citizen. In short, the issue of petitioner’s citizenship remains hanging and unsettled,” Carpio said.
The senior magistrate has also warned of possible repercussions of the ruling.
“The majority will allow a candidate with unsettled citizenship to be elected President… The ruling of the majority will lead to an absurd result…To allow a presidential candidate to run and be voted for despite the uncertainty of his or her citizenship status makes a mockery of the electoral process,” he explained.
“All qualifications of those running for the presidency must be resolved by Comelec prior to elections… Otherwise, all nuisance candidates must now be allowed to run,” he argued.
De Castro, Brion and Reyes agreed to this opinion.
In her separate dissenting opinion, De Castro believes that the ruling would jeopardize the conduct of the election and even stressed that a victory by Poe would not erase the questions on Poe’s eligibility.
“The delay in the ruling on citizenship will only invite instability in the conduct of the coming elections,” she pointed out.
Brion, in his 78-page dissent, hinted on a possible Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) case due to failure of the high court to settle the legal issues on Poe’s qualifications.
“No legal bar exists for a qualified petitioner to question Poe’s qualifications after the elections should she win,” he stressed.
Brion slammed the majority ruling, which he described as “gross violation of the law,” for “allowing the possibility of one who is not natural born Filipino wld occupy the presidency,”
“The majority gave the electorate a run around by allowing Poe to run w/o first examining if she is indeed qualified… Citizenship cannot be presumed, claimant must be able to prove she is a Filipino citizen,” he explained.
Brion said he cannot blame the Comelec and other complainants against Poe for feeling that the high court itself committed “grave abuse of discretion.”
“I do not and cannot begrudge the movants this feeling as I too feel that the Court has once again overstepped the bounds allowed us as fallible human beings entrusted with a trust sacred to the nation,” Brion said.
Reyes supported this position in the dissenting vote: “There is no majority ruling that Grace Poe is natural-born citizen. There is no majority ruling that foundlings found here are natural-born Filipinos.”
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and Philippine Bar Association (PBA), the two major organizations of lawyers in the country, have earlier expressed concern over the SC ruling, which they said could have repercussions on the stability of the country’s legal system. IDL
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