Senator Grace Poe’s name will be included in the official ballots that will be used in the May 9 national and local elections, if the Supreme Court fails to resolve her disqualification cases by Feb. 1.
Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez said the agency will retain Poe as a presidential candidate when it begins printing the ballots on that date, if the court fails to render judgment on her petitions seeking to reverse the Comelec decision cancelling her Certificate of Candidacy for lack of the required 10-year residency and for not being a natural-born Filipino citizen.
“If they have not been eliminated with finality [by the court], then they stay on the list,” Jimenez told reporters.
But Senate President Franklin Drilon accused Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista of attempting to “railroad” the printing of ballots even if the Supreme Court has not yet ruled with finality on all pending disqualification charges, including those filed against Poe.
“I think Chairman Bautista knows better than to railroad the printing of the ballots,” said Drilon, who urged the Comelec chief to defer the printing until the Supreme Court has ruled on all the disqualification cases pending before it.
Jimenez insisted that Poe remains a candidate even while the cases against her remain unresolved.
“She’s already on the list. So, the question is whether these cases will be resolved in time to say with certainty whether she should stay on that list [or not],” the Comelec official said.
Jimenez explained that the Comelec is using a process of elimination in determining the final list of candidates whose names will be printed in the ballots.
“What we have is the list of people who filed their Certificates of Candidacy and [we] eliminate them as the elimination becomes final. From that huge list, we eliminate those that the Comelec has declared as nuisance, or if someone files a disqualification and they get disqualified with finality,” he explained.
The Comelec issued the statement a day after the Supreme Court started oral arguments on the petitions of Poe assailing the poll body’s decision to disqualify her.
The court has restrained the Comelec from implementing its decisions disqualifying Poe, preventing the poll body from removing her name from the list of candidates.
The Comelec has already moved the date of the printing of the ballots to Feb. 1, from Jan. 27, in order to give the agency more time to finalize the list of candidates.
But Drilon saw the Comelec’s plan as a gesture of disrespect to the Supreme Court.
“Pushing through with printing the ballots even before the court can decide on the disqualification cases is an utter disrespect to the Supreme Court and its jurisdiction on the matter,” Drilon said.
“The case is currently being heard by our esteemed justices. Why would Comelec Bautista want to pre-empt them? Why bypass our justices?” he asked.
Drilon noted that the Supreme Court is very much aware of the time constraints involved and of its Constitutional mandate.
He warned that Bautista’s insistence to rush the printing of the ballot will only trigger speculations about his partiality, which may affect him and the Comelec at this crucial time.
“What will the Comelec do if the Supreme Court upheld the Comelec en banc’s decision to disqualify Senator Grace Poe? Will the Comelec re-print the ballots? That will prove to be very costly and impractical,” asked the Liberal Party national vice chairman.
Asked if he was waiting for Poe’s disqualification, Drilon said: “What waiting? Don’t put words in my mouth. I am not passing judgment. I am just saying that the more prudent thing to do is wait for the Supreme Court to decide. That’s the more prudent thing to do.”
Meanwhile, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen has expressed a sympathetic opinion on the legal woes facing Poe, whose Certificate of Candidacy was cancelled by the Commission on Elections over her alleged questionable citizenship and lack of residency.
During the oral arguments on Poe’s cases before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Leonen posed question on whether it would be fair to deny Poe her right to become president just because she was abandoned by her unknown biological parents.
Leonen observed that Poe should not be faulted for her being a foundling.
“What did she do for her parents to leave her? She was a newborn baby and she did not have any moral volition at that point. It is completely the agency and moral decision of the parents to actually leave her behind,” Leonen said.
The youngest magistrate asked his colleagues to become “justices” more than “legalists.”
“The root word is not legal but it is just, meaning to say, we do justice in accordance with law, but if we can interpret law so that it can do justice then so be it. So we are not completely legalists,” Leonen explained.
Leonen also questioned the position of some of his colleagues that Poe should be compelled to look for her real parents or required to prove her parentage, such as through DNA testing, when ordinary Filipinos only need to show their birth certificate to prove their parentage and citizenship.
He noted that the government has recognized the right of Filipinos who went to work and live overseas to come back to run for public office.
“This is not about a simple foreigner wanting to become President of the Republic. This is about a balikbayan, a Filipino who grew up here who wants to come back, who wants to serve,” Leonen said
The justice said he could relate with Poe’s situation.
“I grew up without a father. It was difficult. I knew who my father was, but it was difficult. But I think of those people who don’t know their fathers but grew up with their mother also have a difficult time. Those who do not have a mother and a father and stay with their adoptive parents also have a very difficult time,” he said.
Leonen said he believes the court should allow Poe to run for President and allow the people to decide.
Meanwhile, all the six presidential candidates have pledged to participate in the Comelec’s “PiliPinas Debates 2016,” the first installment of which will be held on Feb. 21 in Cagayan de Oro City.
Bautista said that the camps of Vice President Jejomar Binay, administration candidate Mar Roxas, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, Senator Grace Poe, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and OFW Family Club party-list Rep. Roy Señeres have confirmed their earlier commitments to join the debates.
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