INDEPENDENT presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe decried Thursday what she described as harassment by the Commission on Elections, which disqualified her from running for president at a time when government offices are closed for the Christmas holidays.
“It is very difficult to attend to all legal processes if government offices are closed,” Poe said in an interview over Channel 2’s TV Patrol.
“We are telling the truth, and doing what is proper. But indeed, they are harassing us,” added Poe, who garnered the most votes as senator when she ran in 2013.
In a text message to The Standard, Poe’s lawyer George Garcia said they will appeal the decision of the Comelec en banc to the Supreme Court on Monday, Dec. 28.
Despite the Comelec’s decision, Poe said she remained hopeful her name would remain in the official list of presidential candidates since the ruling can still be appealed to the Supreme Court.
“We are preparing well because I know that there are groups who are doing their respective actions to remove me in the list. Nevertheless, I am telling our people that the disqualification is not final. We are confident we will hurdle this because what we are giving is only the truth and what is proper,” Poe said.
Her spokesman, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian earlier slammed the “low-handed tactic” of announcing the disqualification during the holidays, and leaking the information to the press even before the decision was promulgated.
Both moves were aimed at putting Poe at a disadvantage, he said.
Poe’s running mate, Senator Francis Escudero, hit the Comelec for misleading the electorate and bullying Poe.
He accused the Comelec of pretending to be an independent commission when they have actually been acting as Poe’s inquisitor and persecutor. He said the Comelec is both wrong and unfair and a bully.
“Senator Grace Poe has been nothing but honest, candid, forthright and open with respect to her citizenship, nationality and residency to the Filipino people. She has answered every question with candor and honesty both before the Comelec and before the Filipino people. How dare they say that she deliberately attempted to mislead the electorate,” he said.
Escudero said the Comelec acted with dispatch on Poe’s disqualification even before it declared the candidate named “Lucifer” as a nuisance candidate.
He also said the Comelec refused to consolidate the four cases, which are all the same except for the names of the petitioners, if only to require Poe to answer in the two divisions of the Comelec and be disqualified, not only once but twice, and a third time by the en banc following what appears to be a well-written script.
The commission, he said, worked overtime to disqualify her a day before the holidays, thus giving her very little time to seek redress in the Supreme Court.
“Christmas is always a time for loving, sharing and giving. And it seems that the Comelec has imbibed the Christmas spirit by loving and sharing and being giving to the opponents of Senator Poe but not to her, not to us, and certainly not to the Philippine electorate,” Escudero said.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista on Thursday said he disagreed with his colleagues who said Poe deliberately misled the poll body through her Certificate of Candidacy, and believed her when she said she made an honest mistake in her 2013 CoC.
He also said it was natural for Poe to believe herself to be a natural-born citizen.
“As a foundling who grew up in the Philippines immersed in its culture, language and traditions, it was but natural for respondent [Poe] to think of herself as a Filipino,” Bautista said.
Critics of Poe questioned both her natural-born status and her period of residency in the country, which became the bases for four petitions to disqualify her.
Ruling on motions for reconsideration filed by Poe, the commissioners voted Tuesday night to uphold the decisions of the First Division, 5-2, and the Second Division, 5-1 to disqualify the senator.
In the 5-1 vote, Bautista was outvoted by his fellow commissioners—Rowena Guanzon, Arthur Lim, Luie Guia, Sherriff Abas and Al Parreño.
Another commissioner, Christian Robert Lim inhibited himself from the case as he previously belonged to the same law firm with the petitioner.
But Bautista said Poe applied to reacquire her citizenship only on July 10, 2006, or more than a year before she claimed she had started establishing her residency in the Philippines.
“I think she [Poe] was still contemplating whether to actually settle here or go back to USA. It may show a lack of intention to actually permanently reside here in the Philippines but it does not manifest a deliberate act to mislead,” Bautista said.
Both the First and Second Division decisions said Poe had deliberately committed “material misrepresentation” in claiming that she met the 10-year residency requirement to run for president.
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