INDEPENDENT presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday accused her opponents, particularly resigned secretary Manuel Roxas II, of being behind a conspiracy to remove her from the presidential race by filing disqualification cases against her.
Indulging in a play on words, Poe said: “You know what they say, the decision was very liberal and it could mar the elections of 2016.”
Roxas, nicknamed “Mar,” is the candidate of the administration Liberal Party and the chosen successor of President Benigno Aquino III.
Responding to queries on who could be behind her disqualification cases, Poe in a news conference said Roxas and Vice President Jejomar Binay, the presidential candidate for the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, saying they would benefit the most from her disqualification.
She also said they had their own people file cases against her.
“You already know it. You already know the connections. You can see their operations. Who have connections with powerful law firms? Who do we know are longtime allies of those who ran before?” Poe said.
She traced Roxas’ connection to the powerful Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco law firm—with former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz acting as his adviser when he ran for vice president in 2010, and acting as his lawyer in his election protest against Binay.
Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the chairman of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, was also a member of the law office, also known as “The Firm,” and voted to disqualify Poe.
On the other hand, Poe said, it was UNA president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco and lawyer JV Bautista who first raised the residency and citizenship issues against her.
“Now, I’m being harassed. I’m just doing what I need to do to be able to go through the process, to be able to overcome this hurdle,” she said.
The senator seemed reluctant at first to name Roxas and Binay, and even ended the press conference abruptly, only to return a few minutes later.
Pressed if she was referring to Binay and Roxas, Poe said yes—then said she was talking only about those running against her.
“Its now up to you, but that’s what I’m saying,” she said.
Poe said she was not intimidated by the efforts to remove her, but said she was made stronger by the challenges in her way.
On Wednesday, the lawyer for former Senator Francisco Tatad, who filed a disqualification case against Poe, said foundlings are only naturalized citizens of the Philippines and therefore cannot be elected president.
Election lawyer Manny Luna said Poe, who was disqualified by the Commission on Elections 2ndDivision Tuesday night, could face a jail term of one to six years for the election offense of making a “material misrepresentation” in her Certificate of Candidacy.
“Foundlings cannot in any way be a president or senator, unless you amend the Constitution. That’s the only way you can change the situation,” he added.
A day after the Commission on Elections Second Division ruled in favor of her, petitioner Estrella Elamparo filed another motion to exclude Poe from the 2016 official ballot.
In a five-page resolution, Elamparo said that since Poe’s Certificate of Candidacy was denied due course, the Comelec can exclude her name from the official list of candidates in the 2016 ballots to avoid confusion among voters.
“While respondent may still opt to file a motion for reconsideration within five days from receipt of the aforesaid resolution, petitioner respectfully submits that unless the 01 December resolution is reversed or restrained through a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court, the same should be respected and implemented by excluding respondent from the list of official candidates for the presidency and from the ballots,” Elamparo, whose messenger filed the motion before the law department Wednesday, said.
Based on the timeline of the Comelec, the commission has to come up with the official list of presidential candidates on Dec. 10 and will start printing of ballots by early January 2016
Elamparo said she feared Poe’s camp would delay the proceedings until the senator’s name is included in the ballot.
“If she succeeds in delaying the case until after the elections, for instance, and her name is allowed in the meantime in the official list of candidates and ballots, the voters may be misled into voting for her thinking she is eligible or qualified,” Elamparo said.
“In her case, she is not just a nuisance candidate, she does not possess the required qualifications to begin with. Her exclusion from the list of candidates is thus even more imperative,” she added.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, however, said that it may be impossible for the poll body to exclude her from the ballot since the case has not been resolved with finality.
He said that it would be easier to just ignore the votes cast for that person than to take them out of the ballot.
“The more logical approach to that is, if a person has a pending motion with any body that might have an effect on the candidacy, and they’re put on the ballot, it’s easier to ignore the votes cast for that person, than to take them out of the ballot and then later on find out that they should’ve been on the ballot in the first place,” Jimenez said.
He said that it is too soon for the Comelec to decide since there are several cases pending against Poe that have yet to be resolved with finality.
“It’s too soon to write the end of this story,” Jimenez said.
In its ruling, the Comelec 2nd Division said Poe made a deliberate attempt to mislead or hide facts of her residency, which she declared as “10 years and 11 months” in her CoC.
Its basis for saying this was Poe’s CoC in the 2013 senatorial elections.
The Palace on Wednesday denied any involvement in the disqualification ruling, saying the Comelec is an independent body.
“You have to accord each and every individual the respect of their office, the independence that they carry because it is important to them as constitutional commissioners to maintain their independence,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
“As responsible government officials, we need to maintain the integrity of the institution. These are part of the constitutional framework of our democracy. They are independent minded commissioners. They made the decision on those points in the same way that SET, an independent tribunal, also voted,” he said.
Lacierda said SET, an independent tribunal, voted in favor of Poe.
“The respect for the rule of law cuts... both ways. Whether one is favored or not, we need to emphasize the rule of law and the respect for the rule of law,” he said. – With Sara Susanne Fabunan, John Paolo Bencito and Sandy Araneta
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