Comelec sues for time in Poe case

THE Commission on Elections  asked the Supreme Court  Tuesday  for more time to respond to the petition filed by Senator Grace Poe seeking to overturn the poll body’s decision to disqualify her from running for president in 2016.

The request came a day after the Office of the Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court to uphold the Senate Electoral Tribunal finding that Poe is a natural-born Filipino citizen, a view diametrically opposed to the Comelec’s decision to disqualify her on the basis of her citizenship and her residency.

In its manifestation to the Court, the Comelec said it received a copy of the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order on Dec. 29, 2015, which required it to submit comments on Poe’s petition within 10 days, which expires  Jan. 7, 2016.

Sen. Grace Poe
But on Jan. 4, the OSG filed a manifestation saying it could no longer represent the Comelec.

“Thus, the Comelec seeks the indulgence of the Supreme Court for an additional period of five days... or until  Jan. 12  within which to submit its comment,” the Comelec said.

In a comment  Monday, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, the government’s top lawyer, asked the Supreme Court to sustain the SET ruling that declared Poe a natural-born Filipino, saying the electoral tribunal did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it ruled it her favor.

Poe on Tuesday thanked Hilbay and 10 other OSG lawyers for recognizing her status as a natural-born citizen, describing their stand as “a big deal.”

Poe has filed two petitions with the Supreme Court to challenge the Comelec’s decision to disqualify her from the 2016 presidential race on the basis of her citizenship and alleged failure to meet the 10-year residency requirement.

The Comelec’s First Division cancelled Poe’s Certificate of Candidacy in response to petitions filed by former Senator Francisco Tatad, De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras and University of the East law dean Amado Valdez. The Comelec’s Second Division took the same action based on a petition filed by lawyer Estrella Elamparo.

The Comelec en banc subsequently upheld both divisions, leading Poe to challenge its decision before the Supreme Court.

“The Comelec placed on Poe the burden of proving that she is a natural-born Filipino instead of placing it on petitioners (Tatad, Contreras, and Valdez),” Poe’s petition said.

Poe, a foundling, was found in a church in Jaro, Iloilo and was adopted by celebrity couple Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces.

In her petition, Poe also said the Comelec disregarded international law and international human rights agreements signed by the Philippines that granted foundlings citizenship from the countries in which they were found.

Poe also took the Comelec to task for refusing to consider the evidence that she presented to reestablish her residency in the Philippines as early as May 24, 2005.

Poe also said that “the Comelec acted whimsically and capriciously in concluding that Poe’s statement in her CoC regarding her residency is false simply because it differed from the entry in her CoC when she ran for senator in 2013.”

Poe, meanwhile, has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition of Rizalito David to overturn the SET decision in her favor.

In her comment, Poe said the SET did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it said she was a natural-born citizen and therefore eligible to run for the Senate in 2013.

She said the SET correctly held that she is a natural-born Filipino on the basis of the presumption of descent from a Filipino parent, derived not only from the Rules of Court but also from international law.

She also asked the Court to dismiss David’s petition for lack of merit, and rejected his argument that she should not be declared a natural-born citizen simply because the 1935 Constitution was silent on the citizenship of children with unknown parents.

She said the SET correctly considered the generally accepted principles of international law with respect to the citizenship of foundlings, and noted that 60 countries recognize the presumption that a foundling is a citizen of the country where he or she was found.

Poe said it would be unconstitutional and a violation of the equal protection clause to discriminate among children on the basis of certainty of parentage, adding that children regardless of filiation are inherently equal.

She said this principle is supported by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Poe said the SET’s reliance on legal provisions supporting the proposition that a foundling found in the Philippines is presumed born of Filipino citizens is justified not only by law, but the principles of equity and fairness.

She said it was David’s burden to prove that she is not a natural-born Filipino.

Poe also maintained that she validly re-acquired her natural-born citizenship when she took her oath of allegiance to the Philippines. She also said her renunciation of US citizenship could not be considered to have been recanted because she never used her US passport after her recantation.

Poe said David’s reliance on the dissenting opinion of the three Supreme Court justices who are SET members was “unavailing.”

The three magistrates—Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo—De Castro and Arturo Brion—who voted to grant David’s petition, have already inhibited themselves from the case that David had filed with the Supreme Court to question the SET decision.

A spokesman for the administration’s standard bearer, Manuel Roxas II, said the OSG decision was “not suprising.”

“The SET case became the first to be raised to the Supreme Court, and obviously, the SolGen is duty-bound to defend the SET as a government institution,” said Roxas’ spokesman Rep. Barry Gutierrez. “I wouldn’t make too much of it.”

He added that the OSG comment showed that government institutions were working.

“We should not put malice or meaning just because the solicitor general is doing its job to defend the SET,” he added.

Gutierrez said, however, that Poe should prepare her defense against the Comelec decisions to disqualify her, saying that these had “a very, very clear constitutional basis.”

But Poe said she remained confident that the Supreme Court will act fairly as the final arbiter of the law, and said the three justices who voted against her in the SET showed prudence in inhibiting themselves in the review of the case.

Poe’s running mate, Senator Francis Escudero, said the OSG’s position bolsters their belief that the Comelec was wrong and decided unfairly against Poe.

He said the OSG comment submitted to the Supreme Court ran contrary to the Comelec’s decision to cancel Poe’s certificate of candidacy.

“The solicitor general, the statutorily appointed lawyer of the Philippine government, and 10 other solicitors are of the firm belief that Senator Grace Poe is a natural-born Filipino. This is vindication for the majority of the SET, who were criticized by some sectors for deciding supposedly based on political and emotional considerations,” Escudero said.

“No less than the OSG recognizes that the Constitution and its framers never wanted to discriminate against foundlings and that foundlings were always meant to be natural-born Filipinos—which is what Senator Grace has been saying all along,” he added.

Poe’s lawyer, George Garcia, urged the three Supreme Court justices in the SET case to inhibit themselves as well in the Comelec cases. With John Paolo Bencito

Topics: Comelec , Supreme Court , Grace Poe
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