THE Commission on Elections on Tuesday night disqualified Senator Grace Poe, the frontrunner in opinion polls for next year’s presidential race, saying she was guilty of material misrepresentation in her Certificate of Candidacy.
In a resolution, the Comelec 2nd Division granted the petition of Estrella Elamparo to deny due course to Poe’s COC.
“Based on the Constitution, law, and jurisprudence, and viewing it solely from the legal perspective, shorn of emotional and other extraneous considerations, we are led to no other result than to grant the petition and find respondent Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe Llamanzares committed a material misrepresentation,” said the 2nd Division, chaired by Comelec Commissioner Al Parreño.
“Accordingly, the Certificate of Candidacy for President of the Republic of the Philippines in the May 9, 2016 national and local elections filed by respondent Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe Llamanzares is hereby cancelled,” the 2nd Division said.
In its ruling, the Comelec said Poe made a deliberate attempt to mislead or hide a fact in her residency, which she declared as “10 years and 11 months” in her COC.
It mainly cited Poe’s COC in the 2013 polls, when she ran for senator, as making her a resident of the Philippines for only nine years and six months up to May 9, 2016.
“In short, the declaration of ‘10 years and 11 months’ in her present COC for President was intended to hide the fact earlier stated under oath in her 2013 COC for Senator that she had actually resided in the Philippines since November 2006. In her present COC for President, she made it appear that she has been a Philippine resident since May 2006 so as to meet the residency requirement of 10 years for said office,” the decision stated.
“All told, respondent’s deliberate action of contradicting the sworn data earlier given in her 2013 COC betrays an indubitable attempt to mislead or misinform the electorate and hide from them the fact that she is actually not compliant with the requirement prescribed in the Constitution that a candidate for president of the Philippines should have been a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding the election,” it added.
As for the issue of her citizenship, the Comelec noted that while Poe did not commit material misrepresentation, she still failed to prove that she is indeed a natural-born citizen.
“Even if the wordings of (international) conventions are deemed to have declared that a foundling found in the Philippines is a natural-born Filipino citizen, these international conventions cannot supplant or override the Constitution, which requires a bloodline to a Filipino parent to confer the status of being a natural-born Filipino citizen,” said the commission.
“Consequently, it stands to reason that respondent’s claim in her subject COC that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen is false,” it added.
The Comelec stated that they would have wanted to declare that Poe is eligible, but had to follow what the law stated.
“We would have wanted to declare the respondent eligible to seek the highest position in the land within the gift of our people. After all, she is not only popular, she is potentially, a good leader,” the resolution stated.
“However, it is our bounden duty to resolve this case by applying the Constitution, law, jurisprudence, and none other,” it added.
The division is composed of Commissioners Al Parreño, Arthur Lim, and Sheriff Abas.
Poe’s lawyer, George Garcia, said they were caught by surprise by the swift decision of the Comelec’s 2nd Division.
“Definitely, we will be filing a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec en banc,” Garcia said.
Aside from the petition of Elamparo, Poe is also facing three other disqualification cases at the Comelec 1st Division on the petitions filed by former University of the East Law dean Amado Valdez, former senator Francisco Tatad, and De La Salle University Professor Antonio Contreras.
On Dec. 3, Poe’s camp is scheduled to submit its memorandums on the cases before the 1st Division, which is composed of Commissioners Christian Lim, Luie Guia, and Rowena Guanzon.
Poe said Tuesday night she was disappointed by the Comelec ruling, but said that was not the end of the process.
‘‘I will continue to fight for the rights of foundlings and the fundamental right of the people to choose their leaders,” said Poe, who is the frontrunner in all presidential surveys.
“I maintain that I am a natural-born Filipino and have complied with the 10-year residency requirement based on settled applicable jurisprudence,” she added.
Poe said her critics will use any excuse to exclude her, much like they tried to do when her father, the late Fernando Poe Jr., ran for president in 2004.
In the process, she said, the disqualification cases will disenfranchise the people.
“They show a lack of trust in the ability of Filipinos to make the right decision,” Poe added.
She added that she was confident that the Comelec en banc “will side with the interest of the people.”
Her spokesperson, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian said Poe will remain a presidential candidate in the upcoming 2016 elections.
“The senator is confident that she will stay a candidate [for president] until 2016,” Gatchalian said.
He told Poe’s supporters and followers not to be scared because the law is on their side because the senator is a natural-born Filipino citizen.
He also said “what happened today is not a disqualification” but merely the decision of the 2nd Division.
“We have legal remedies. There is an appeal. We will definitely appeal,” he said.
He also said they can prove that Poe has met all the requirements for running for public office.
Poe’s running mate, Senator Francis Escudero, said she can still file an appeal before the Comelec en banc. Whoever loses in the en banc can then make an appeal before the Supreme Court, he added.
Earlier, the camp of Poe expressed hope the Comelec would defer to the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, which dismissed the disqualification filed against her.
The Palace, which had failed to recruit Poe as the running mate for the Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II, declined to comment on the Comelec decision.
“We haven’t seen the decision yet,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, in a text message. With Sandy Araneta and Rio N. Araja
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