THE Supreme Court issued temporary restraining orders Monday to stop the Commission on Elections from disqualifying Senator Grace Poe and cancelling her Certificate of Candidacy for next year’s presidential election.
Responding to petitions filed by the senator, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno approved the issuance of the TROs, which would stop the Comelec from removing Poe’s name from the official ballot, Court spokesman Theodore Te said in a press briefing.
Under the court rules, the TROs would be subject to confirmation by the Court en banc when justices resume session on Jan. 12, 2016.
The Court also ordered the Comelec to answer Poe’s petitions within 10 days from the receipt of notice.
Oral arguments are set for Jan. 19, 2016.
Poe hailed the Court’s decision on the TROs, which came on the same day that she filed her petitions.
“I thank the Supreme Court for a just and compassionate decision. From the start, I put my full faith in the judicial process. The Comelec denied our people their choices in an open election but I am confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the truth and the spirit of the Constitution,” Poe said in a statement.
Poe also thanked the Court for acting on her petition despite being on recess for the holidays.
In her petitions, Poe sought the immediate issuance of TROs because the Comelec said its decision on two disqualification cases against her would be executory if she failed to secure a TRO within five days.
“This is a matter of extreme urgency. Through arbitrary, capricious, and seemingly orchestrated, acts over the past two months, the Commission on Elections has single-handedly imperiled the sovereign right of the Filipino people to elect the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines,” the petitions said.
Poe’s lawyer, George Garcia, said the five-day period on Poe’s case would have lapsed Monday.
In her two petitions, Poe asked the Court to reverse the decisions of the Comelec cancelling her Certificate of Candidacy, and instead allow her to run for President in the May 2016 elections.
Poe appealed to the Court to issue a TRO or status quo ante order enjoining the Comelec’s decision dated Dec. 23, 2015 granting the four petitions seeking to disqualify Poe from the presidential race on ground that she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen and for her failure to meet the 10-year residency requirement.
Garcia said they filed two separate petitions assailing the two resolutions issued by the Comelec’s First and Second Divisions, which were both affirmed by the Comelec en banc last week.
The Comelec’s First Division, in its decision on Dec. 11, disqualified Poe based on the petitions filed by De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras, former Senator Francisco Tatad and former University of the East College of Law dean Amado Valdez.
The poll body’s Second Division unanimously voted on Dec. 1 to disqualify Poe based on the petition of former Government Service Insurance System chief legal counsel Estrella Elamparo.
Poe’s petitions before the Court also questioned the timing of the release of the en banc’s resolutions on Dec. 23, saying that it was meant to ensure her immediate removal from the ballot for next year’s elections.
“Under these circumstances, Senator Poe humbly prays for the immediate intervention by this Honorable Court. She asks that the Comelec be enjoined without any further delay, from inflicting even more damage to her and the right of the Filipino people to choose their next President,” the petition read.
“The Supreme Court has the sole authority to decide on questions of qualification, and to uphold with finality the people’s right to choose the nation’s leader,” Poe said in a statement.
In her petition assailing the resolution of the Comelec First Division, Poe argued that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when, instead, of requiring Tatad to prove his allegation that she is not a natural-born citizen, placed the burden on her to prove she is born of Filipino parents.
“Senator Poe submits that the issue of whether a foundling is a natural-born Filipino transcends her candidacy for President. What is at stake in this case is not only a foundling’s right to run for high public offices, but the enjoyment of a host of even seemingly ordinary rights or positions which our laws reserve only for natural-born citizens,” the petition read.
“The reality that a foundling will be deprived of these simply because she was abandoned at birth, without any trace of her biological parents [a circumstance that is not of her own doing] is highly material in this case,” the senator added.
Poe also challenged the Comelec conclusion that she intended to mislead voters with the wrong information in her Certificate of Candidacy.
The Supreme Court is on recess until Jan. 10, but its rules allow the Chief Justice to act on urgent cases without holding a session of the justices.
The issuance of any temporary restraining order or status quo ante order must be upheld by the majority of the justices when they next convene.
In a text message, Poe’s spokesman, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian said the Court’s action would prevent “further damage to our democracy.”
“We are confident that in the coming days as the legal points are being threshed out, the SC will see the merits of our position that Poe is a natural-born Filipino and has met the required residency pre-requisite,” Gatchalian said.
Now that her case has reached its final battleground, Poe said all she is asking for is a fair consideration of the facts.
“We are confident the SC will honor previous jurisprudence on the rights of foundlings to a country and citizenship. I also pray that they will carefully look into the facts of my residence and my actual physical presence in the country,” said Poe.
Garcia, Poe’s lawyer, said they also filed a separate petition asking the three justices who voted against Poe in the Senate Electoral Tribunal to inhibit themselves from the proceedings.
The three magistrates are Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo De Castro and Arturo Brion.
Poe said she was hopeful that the Supreme Court will decide the same way it did in her father’s case in 2004 and let the people decide in a “truly democratic” election.
The Palace said the high court is the final arbiter in such cases.
“We join our people’s hope and trust that any decision that will eventually be rendered on the matter would be imbued with fairness and justice,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
Also on Monday, Gatchalian denied reports that her running mate Senator Francisco Escudero, was abandoning Poe.
Gatchalian said the partnership of the two independent candidates remains steadfast in working for a government that will push for inclusive growth.
“The Poe-Escudero tandem remains strong despite all the black propaganda being hurled against them,” Gatchalian said.
“These people have launched their attacks on Senator Poe and now have launched an offensive aimed at sowing intrigue within the Poe-Escudero tandem,” he said.
He said the recent story being circulated that Escudero has abandoned Poe is baseless and a barefaced lie.
“If the people behind this story plan to drive a wedge between the two candidates, they should stop wasting their time as the two candidates continue to fight this battle together, side-by-side,” he said.
Meanwhile, the pro-Poe Gawa at Prinsipyo Coalition said it welcomed supporters of the senator who stood by her in her hour of need but strongly condemned efforts by some quarters to break up the Poe-Escudero tandem.
“It’s unfortunate that a few infiltrators dispatched by the rivals of the tandem tried to join the gathering of supporters before the Supreme Court. We should be united in condemning the Comelec decision, instead of sowing intrigue,” the group said in a statement. With Sandy Araneta
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