By John Paolo Bencito, Maricel V. Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta
FORMER Senator Richard Gordon revealed Tuesday that members of the ruling Liberal Party and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance had asked him to file a disqualification case against Senator Grace Poe.
“I was approached by members of UNA [and] some members of the Liberal Party. Some of my schoolmates in UP, some of my friends,” Gordon said on ANC’s Headstart program.
Poe, the frontrunner in the 2016 presidential polls based on recent opinion surveys, has been questioned on her status as a natural-born citizen—a requirement for being President—because she was a foundling.
Since she filed her Certificate of Candidacy, three suits seeking her disqualification have been filed.
Gordon did not identify the politicians who approached him, saying the Poe question would be decided by the Supreme Court either way.
Poe’s spokesman, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, said the Gordon revelation was proof that there was “a concerted effort to gang up on Senator Grace Poe and pull her ratings down through dirty politics.”
Poe has said the disqualification petitions do not faze her and was confident that she would overcome all of them.
Gatchalian added: “We know the law is on our side. And in the proper forum, we will face them and answer their allegations point per point.”
He said Poe is a natural-born Filipino and has met all the requirements for those seeking the presidency, including residency requirements.
He also guaranteed that the Poe camp would not respond with “dirty tactics” but raise the level of discourse to programs and platforms.
“We will see to it that when we campaign, we focus on our platform of good governance, inclusive growth and improving competitiveness,” he further said.
Gatchalian said they were not surprised by Gordon’s revelation, and praised the former senator as an “esteemed public servant” known for his integrity.
Gordon, who is also chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, is running for the Senate as a guest candidate of both the UNA and Poe’s ticket.
He said Poe thanked him for not commenting on the disqualification case filed against her before the Senate Electoral Tribunal which seeks to unseat her from the Senate.
In a statement, a spokesman for the LP ticket, Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, said the ruling party has not and will not authorize any person to engage in a smear.
Top Liberal Party stalwarts took the defensive on Tuesday after Senator Richard Gordon revealed that he was approached by people associated with the United Nationalist Alliance and the Liberal Party to file a disqualification case against leading presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe.
“Both the President [Benigno Aquino III] and Former Secretary [Manuel] Roxas [II] have given the Liberal Party clear marching instructions on how the campaign should be waged,” Quimbo said.
“We have always campaigned on Daang Matuwid [the straight path] [and] are focused on issues and our platform, not on personalities. Winning through a smear campaign will make governance difficult. We don’t want that,” he added.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, on the other hand, denied his links with Philip Lustre, the public relations man who spread the false rumor that Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte had throat cancer.
Castelo said he knows Lustre because he is a constituent and talks to him from time to time, but said he had no knowledge of his statements about Duterte.
Ramon Casiple of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in a text interview with The Standard said the Roxas camp “is the natural suspect” in the attacks against Vice President Jejomar Binay and Poe, as Roxas would benefit from their elimination from the presidential race.
Binay, Poe and Duterte have repeatedly pointed to Roxas and the Liberal Party as the group behind the smear campaigns against them.
The long-time political analyst added that the attacks on the other candidates, whether started by Roxas or not, can ultimately affect his candidacy.
“If it found an audience among voters, it may well produce an anti-Roxas sympathy vote,” Casiple said.
On the other hand, he said, this is unlikely to hurt his running mate, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo or the senatorial candidates in the LP lineup.
Poe’s running mate, Senator Francis Escudero, said Gordon’s revelations were making it “harder and harder to give the leaders of LP and UNA the benefit of the doubt.”
“When your leaders say one thing and do another, it does not speak well of their character nor of their capacity to lead the nation. Our people expect honesty, not doublespeak; integrity, not deceit,” Escudero said.
“C.S. Lewis said that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Not let’s try this and see if we can get away with it. If Mar believes that Grace is Filipino, he should explicitly tell LP members and supporters to stop making an issue of it. The same holds true for VP Binay, who also invited Grace to be his VP,” Escudero added.
After appearing on Headstart, Gordon issued a statement saying he did not say that the current disqualification petitions were due to partisan politics.
“I would like to think that those who called me about a disqualification case against Senator Poe did so in the context that her disqualification would mean my elevation to the present Senate. I wish to stress that I dismissed such talk out of hand, on the grounds of delicadeza. This was my consistent stance, whether those who discussed the matter were ordinary citizens, or politicians from the administration or opposition side,” Gordon said.
“I believe that the matter of Senator Poe’s qualifications for national office has already been referred to the proper legal venues, and I deem it counter-productive to say anything more about this issue, aside from the statements I have already made.”
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