COMELEC FIRST DIVISION CANCELS SENATOR GRACE POE’S COC FOR PRESIDENT

COMELEC FIRST DIVISION CANCELS SENATOR GRACE POE’S COC FOR PRESIDENT

MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has again slammed the door on the presidential bid of Senator Grace Poe after cancelling anew her Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for president in the May 2016 elections.

Voting 2-1, the poll body’s First Division has ruled in favor of the consolidated petitions to cancel the lawmaker’s CoC, noting that the latter committed material misrepresentation for claiming that she is a natural-born citizen and has met the 10-year residency requirement.

“In complete disregard of what is clear under the law, the Constitution and jurisprudence, Respondent declared in her CoC for President that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen, who is fully qualified to run and serve as President of the Philippines. The clarity of the law notwithstanding, Respondent chose to ignore and brush aside the Constitution and jurisprudence and misrepresent herself as a natural-born Filipino citizen, clearly in order to serve her purpose and suit her intent of running for the Presidency,” said the 49-page decision.

The ruling added, “This stark variance in Respondent’s declaration of her residence and her inconsistent statements in connection therewith are clear indications of her intent and attempt to deliberately misrepresent a material matter in her COC for President for the purpose of hiding of hiding her ineligibility and mislead the electorate. This glaring disparity proves that Respondent intended and attempted to conceal the material fact that she is ineligible to run for President for failure to meet the 10-year residency requirement.”

Comelec First Division head Commissioner Christian Robert Lim dissented in the ruling while the two members, Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Luie Guia voted to cancel Poe’s CoC.

As for the citizenship, the poll body noted that Poe failed to prove her direct blood relationship with a Filipino parent since her biological parents are unidentified.

It added that the respondent cannot assert to be a natural-born Filipino as provided in the 1935 and 1987 Constitution and conferred to those with natural-born citizenship status.

“Extending its application to those who are not expressly included in the enumeration and definition of natural-born citizens is a disservice to the rule of law and an affront to the Constitution. It will only open the floodgates to unqualified persons whose allegiance to our country is questionable. This we must never allow,” added the decision, which was promulgated on Friday.

On the other hand, the Comelec First Division also ruled that Poe failed to meet the residency requirement of 10 years, thus, disapproving her claim to have re-established domicile of choice in the Philippines.

It pointed out that her being an American citizen, her husband being a resident of the United States (US) as well as her frequent travels to the US using her passport all invalidate her claim that she had abandoned her US domicile and changed it to the Philippines.

“Assuming, however, that there are acts that reflect an intention to establish one’s domicile in the Philippines, the same regrettably cannot be given weight. This is because Respondent was still an American citizen and a foreigner at the time she allegedly commenced the re-establishment of her domicile or permanent residence in the Philippines,” the ruling said.

The petitioners on the consolidated petitions are former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad, former University of the East Law Dean Amado Valdez and De La Salle University (DLSU) Professor Antonio Contreras.

Meanwhile, Lim in his 81-page Dissenting Opinion disagreed with the decision, as he is convinced that the senator did not commit material misrepresentation on both issues.

He noted that Poe was able to show proof of her intent to permanently reside in the country as early as May 24, 2005 and that the Division does not have the mandate to rule on whether she is a natural-born citizen or not.

“On the issue of residency, both the Contreras and Valdez petitions failed to take into account that as early as May 24, 2005, the respondent was able to show actual, physical, and personal presence in the country, coupled with the intention of permanently residing herein. There is hence no material misrepresentation in the COC of the Respondent as to the number of years she has been a resident of the Philippines,” Lim said.

He added, “On the issue of citizenship, the Valdez petition did not squarely put in issue the fact that the respondent is not a natural-born citizen based on her re-acquisition of her Filipino citizenship… Consequently, no ruling can be rendered whether the respondent misrepresented her claim to being a natural-born Filipino citizen in her COC.”

The head of the First Division noted that the Tatad petition should have been dismissed outright since he filed for the disqualification, instead of the cancellation of her CoC.

“The Tatad petition cannot be treated as one to deny due course to, or cancel the CoC of the respondent since the basis of the action is not whether the respondent committed material misrepresentation, therein, but that she lacks the citizenship and residency qualifications required by law to become President. The Tatad Petition should have been dismissed outright for availing of the wrong mode to assail the qualifications of the respondent,” Lim explained.

On the other hand, Poe was given five days after receiving the copy of the ruling to file a motion for reconsideration (MR) before the Comelec en banc.

This is the second decision that a petition to cancel Poe’s CoC for president after the Comelec Second Division had granted the petition of Atty. Estrella Elamparo, to also cancel the presidential aspirant’s CoC. Ferdinand G. Patinio/PNA