Disqualification case vs Grace finished by November – Sotto
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - September 20, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Vicente Sotto, a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), claimed yesterday that they could finish the proceedings of the disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe in November.

Sotto said the SET hopes to finish the proceedings by first week of November since they needed to hear and review the arguments of both the petitioner, defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David, and Poe.

The target date will be beyond the filing of the certificates of candidacy, set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from Oct. 12 to 16.

The SET will be convening at 2 p.m. today at the Supreme Court.

The SET recently junked the issue on Poe’s residency after the tribunal, chaired by Justice Antonio Carpio, decided to look into the issue on the citizenship of Poe, who acquired US citizenship in 2001.

Poe’s camp said she filed for dual citizenship in 2006, and was issued a new Philippine passport in 2009. From July 2006 to 2009, Poe was holder of two passports (US and Philippine) because she acquired dual citizenship.

Senate President Franklin Drilon called on the SET yesterday to decide immediately on Poe’s disqualification case to erase any cloud of doubt on her citizenship.

“I strongly urge the Senate Electoral Tribunal to expedite its hearings and immediately come out with a decision on the quo warranto petition against 2016 presidential aspirant Senator Poe,” Drilon said.

Drilon made the statement after Poe announced her presidential bid last week, followed by the endorsement of Sen. Francis Escudero as her running mate.

“The petition raises serious doubts over Senator Poe’s being a natural born Filipino and unavoidably, it also casts doubts on the validity of her candidacy in the upcoming presidential elections,” Drilon said.

Drilon, vice-chairman of the Liberal Party, said the immediate resolution of the case would not only benefit everyone, but also help the public as they decide whom to vote for next year. 

“If remained unanswered, these questions on Poe’s citizenship would only confuse the voters,” he added.

The LP is backing the presidential bid of former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II.

Meanwhile, the residency issue against Poe remains even after it was dismissed by the SET in a recent preliminary conference on the disqualification case against her, three legal experts said yesterday.

Pacifico Agabin, former dean of University of the Philippines College of Law, and Amado Valdez, also a former dean of University of the East law school, and litigation expert Raymond Fortun said the SET decision last Sept. 11 to drop the residency issue in the petition of David did not establish the eligibility of Poe for next year’s presidential election.

They said the SET dropped the residency issue only in relation to Poe’s eligibility in the 2013 senatorial polls, which was the subject of the disqualification case, and that there is a higher residency requirement for a presidential candidate.

The SET has decided, upon agreement with parties, not to touch the residency question anymore due to a rule requiring the filing of disqualification petitions based on residency within 10 days from proclamation of the candidate.

It did not rule on the merits of whether or not Poe met the two-year residency requirement when she ran for senator in 2013.

For the presidency, on the other hand, Article VII Section 2 of the Constitution requires a presidential candidate to be a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding an election.

Agabin and Valdez both believe that the residency issue could again be raised when Poe files her certificate of candidacy next month after her declaration last week to seek the presidency.

“Later on, after Poe files her COC next month, the residency issue against her can once again be revived, no longer for her senatorial bid but for her presidential bid,” Agabin said.

Valdez agreed, saying the residency issue when applied to Poe’s senatorial and presidential eligibility should be treated separately and differently.

“Even if the SET has dropped the residency issue on the present case, her presidential bid is still left hanging because of another possible disqualification case that could be filed against her next month,” Valdez pointed out.

“It will be a new disqualification case once she files her certificate of candidacy for president,” he stressed. 

Valdez explained that Poe, who migrated to the US as a college student and earned citizenship there, still needs to prove that she has been a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years before the May 2016 elections.

“The residency must be in the concept of having domicile in the Philippines. She cannot have two domiciles, one here and another in the US,” the law dean explained.

“It is only when she abandoned her US citizenship that she could be considered a resident in the Philippines for purposes of the elections,” Valdez added.

Fortun believes that Poe has the burden to establish the doctrine of animus revertendi or the intention to permanently return to his or her domicile.

He said he expects the case to reach the Supreme Court. – With Edu Punay   

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