MANILA — Despite being disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as a presidential aspirant in the May 2016 polls, Senator Grace Poe’s name will still be included in the list of candidates, as of now.
According to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, the name of the lawmaker will not be removed until the Commission en banc’s decision to cancel her Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) has been ruled with finality.
“Right now, her name is on the ballot as we speak. She is still in the list,” Bautista said in a press conference on Wednesday.
The Comelec has given Poe five days upon receipt of the decision to elevate the case to the Supreme Court (SC).
The poll body’s decision was received by the counsel of the presidential aspirant, Atty. George Garcia, Wednesday afternoon.
The lawyer questioned the timing of the issuance of the resolutions since the rulings were released while the High Court is on a holiday break.
“We would have hoped that the Comelec exercise judicial courtesy. They promulgated the decision on Wednesday but we have nowhere to go to since the SC is closed until Sunday,” he said.
Based on the five-day period, Dec. 28 (Monday) would be the last day for Poe’s camp to get a favorable order from the SC, otherwise the Comelec’s decision becomes final and executory.
“By Monday, they can remove the name of Senator Poe in the list of candidates if we don’t get a status quo ante order or a temporary restraining order,” Garcia said.
On Tuesday, the Comelec en banc denied the motions for reconsideration (MRs) of Poe that appealed the decisions of the Comelec First and Second Divisions.
The poll body officials, voting 5-1-1, upheld the decision of the Comelec Second Division on the petition of Atty. Estrella Elamparo.
Bautista has dissented while Commissioner Christian Robert Lim inhibited from the case.
On the other hand, voting 5-2, the Commission voted to support the ruling of the Comelec First Division on the petitions lodged by former Senator Francisco Tatad, former University of the East Law Dean Amado Valdez and De La Salle University Professor Antonio Contreras. Both Bautista and Lim also dissented.
The poll body chief explained, through a matrix presentation, how they voted unanimously in said cases that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino citizen.
“Members of the commission believe that Senator Poe is not a natural-born citizen,” Bautista said.
On the issue regarding her lack of a residency for 10 years, the en banc voted 5-1 in the Second Division case with Commissioner Luie Guia dissenting while there was a vote of 5-2 in the First Division case with Guia and Lim dissenting.
“In the Second Division case, only Commissioner Guia believed that Senator Poe met the residency requirement. But if you look at the First Division, it was 5-2, because both Commissioners Lim and Guia believe that Senator Poe met the residency requirement,” he added.
Meanwhile, on the issue that Poe deliberately intended to mislead the Comelec on her residency qualifications, four members of the Comelec agreed in the Second Division ruling while two dissented; while four members also agreed in the First Division decision with three dissenters.
On the question on whether Poe deliberately intended to mislead the Comelec on her being a natural-born citizen, four members agreed with the Second Division ruling with two dissenters; and four members supported the First Division ruling with two dissenting and one taking no part.
The Comelec en banc has voted unanimously in both cases that they have jurisdiction on them.
Based on the 30-page decision of the First Division, the Comelec en banc noted that Poe did not offer any new evidence in her MR that would warrant a reversal of the earlier ruling.
“All other issue raised by Respondent are mere rehash of the arguments already addressed and ruled upon by the First Division,” said the decision.
The poll body agreed with the First Division that Poe, being a senator, is deemed to have deliberately ignored her ineligibility as a presidential candidate and just opted to misrepresent herself as a natural-born citizen in her CoC.
They also did not accept her claim that it was an honest mistake in accomplishing her CoC for senator in the 2013 polls that is inconsistent with her CoC for president as far as her residency is concerned.
On the other hand, the 36-page ruling on the Second Division case, the commission en banc admitted that it would have been easier for the poll body to just adopt the vox populi mantra by allowing Poe to run for president and let the voters decide on her fate.
“But this, we cannot do. Not only because we are duty-bound by law to decide on cases brought before us. More so because no less than the people, through the Constitution, grant us this solemn duty. In applying the law, and disqualifying respondent, we are heeding the true voice of the people. From this task, we cannot desist,” added the Comelec.
The commission said the Second Division is right in holding Poe accountable in proving that she is a natural-born citizen despite being a foundling, to which she failed to do.
The decision also agreed with the Second Division that Poe is short of the 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates even if they consider July 2006 as the earliest possible reckoning point of her residency in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, supporters of Poe staged an inter-faith rally in front of the Comelec office in Intramural, Manila to protest the poll body’s decisions.
Dan Remo, convenor of the Kabataan Poe, said the rally is to show that they are united in praying for the help of the High Court in granting their candidate immediate relief.
“We pray that the Supreme Court will be fair and just by declaring Poe fully qualified to run for president,” he said.
The group is also hoping that the Comelec will not remove Poe’s name in the list of candidates until the SC issued a final ruling. Ferdinand G. Patinio/PNA/northboundasia.com