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Grace: I’m qualified to run for president

Sen. Grace Poe answers questions at the Senate yesterday on claims by critics that she is not qualified to run for either president or vice president in next year’s elections. Manny Marcelo

Poe hits back at UNA over residency claims   

MANILA, Philippines - While she has not yet declared her plans for the 2016 elections, Sen. Grace Poe seemed in a combative mood to face issues being hurled against her by the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.

Speaking before reporters at the Senate yesterday, Poe denounced what she described was a desperate move by the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay to question her eligibility to run for higher office due to residency requirements.

“What was most insulting to me was for them to say I am not honest because I am not qualified (to run for higher office) and I did not state it. I am qualified but I am still not a candidate. I will address all of this when I file (my certificate of candidacy) and this would be my answer,” she said.

“But I will admit that because of all these developments… Whenever I go out and they ask me how far along I am in making a decision, I would say around 50 percent but now they are pushing me closer to 100 percent,” she added.

Poe stressed that she has always been forthright about every issue raised against her and does not need to “hide behind spokespersons.”

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She explained that her answer “six years and six months” as period of residence in the Philippines in her COC when she ran for senator in 2013 was based on the date she sold her house in the United States, which was sometime in April 2006.

She stressed she has been living in the Philippines since January or February 2005, or shortly after the death of her father on Dec. 14, 2004.

Poe noted that the tactic being employed by UNA was the very same used by enemies of her father, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., when he ran for president in 2004.

“These were the same issues they threw at FPJ. Where do all this come but from the same people who supported FPJ before,” she said.

She also questioned the timing of the allegations, as she just recently signed the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee report recommending the filing of plunder raps against Binay and other Makati City officials.

Poe had recently rejected Binay’s offer to be his running mate in the coming polls.

Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista dodged questions from the media on whether Poe is not qualified to run in either the presidential or vice presidential race next year.

“At this point, it’s still hypothetical because Poe is not yet a candidate,” Bautista said.

“We will act on it once the proper petition is filed with us,” he added, noting that the filing of certificates of candidacy will be in October.

Honest mistake

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said Poe’s declaration in her COC “is not decisive in determining whether or not she could comply with the residency requirement for President or VP.”

Macalintal said Poe could claim honest mistake, just as former first lady Imelda Marcos did during the 1995 elections.

He explained as of October 2012, Poe was a resident of the Philippines for six years and six months and the additional period from then until the May 2016 elections, which is three years and seven months, would give her a total of 10 years and one month residence.

Marcos ran for representative of the first district of Leyte in 1995 and wrote in her COC that she had been a resident for only seven months, which was short of the one-year residency requirement.

But upon proof of Marcos being a resident of Leyte since birth, Macalintal said the Supreme Court ruled that “the fact of residence and not a statement in the COC ought to be decisive in determining whether or not an individual has satisfied the Constitution’s residency qualification.”

Marcos further alleged then that she committed an honest mistake because she thought the question pertained to the period of residency prior to the filing of the COC.

Former Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes also said Poe is qualified if ever she finally decides to run for the presidency but said the opposition may tie up the issue with Poe’s citizenship.

“The residency being referred to in the COC is actually on the domicile and not the actual physical residence. Domicile means you may not be physically there but there remains your intent to return,” Brillantes said.

Poe had earlier explained that she renounced her US citizenship even before she chaired the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board in 2010.

“The question will then be: Who is her real father? Even if she was born here but her father is a foreigner, it means she is also a foreigner,” he said.

But Malacañang is confident that Poe will be able to answer issues against her.

“Obviously, we are nearing 2016 and I suppose you can’t help that issues like this come out,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press briefing. “But in this regard, we are quite sure that the good senator will be capable of answering these questions that are being thrown at her.”

Valte refused to comment if UNA was feeling threatened by Poe’s possible candidacy.

Last Tuesday, UNA interim president and Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco claimed Poe was not qualified to run for president or vice president in next year’s polls because she was six months short of the 10-year residency requirement under the 1987 Constitution.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines national president Vicente Joyas and two former law school deans – Pacifico Agabin of the University of the Philippines and Amado Valdez of the University of the East – yesterday expressed belief that Tiangco raised a valid point in questioning Poe’s qualifications.

UP law professor Harry Roque Jr. likewise told The STAR that Poe can no longer run for a higher post next year because “she herself apparently declared length of her residency, which was tantamount to an admission.” – With Mayen Jaymalin, Edu Punay, Jess Diaz, Michael Punongbayan, Aurea Calica, Paolo Romero

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