Comelec may defer to SET ruling on Poe

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) may suspend the hearing of the election offense complaint filed against Sen. Grace Poe at the poll body, pending a resolution of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) on the issue of her citizenship.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body’s Law Department had recommended the suspension of proceedings, citing the issue of “prejudicial question” on Poe’s citizenship, which is under the jurisdiction of the SET.

Bautista said the Comelec is still studying whether to adopt the recommendation of suspending the proceedings on the election offense until the SET resolves the case.

“She has already been proclaimed and the Law Department is of the opinion that as a senator, the jurisdiction (on the case) now belongs to SET in respect to her COC (certificate of candidacy) as a senator,” he said.

The complaint in the Comelec was filed last Aug. 17 by losing senatorial bet Rizalito David, who sought the filing of election offense against Poe for violating the Omnibus Election Code in relation to her citizenship.

David argued Poe had “misrepresented the facts of her being a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and that with respect to the period of her being a resident of the Philippines before the day of the elections which she sought to participate in and eventually won” in her COC.

David also filed the disqualification case against Poe before the SET.

Bautista pointed out the Law Department’s recommendation pertains to jurisdiction over Poe.

“What happens now is that two government bodies are assuming jurisdiction. The issues (in the two cases) are related, whether or not she is a natural born citizen. At this point, the Comelec en banc is studying what to do but that is the recommendation of the Law Department,” he added.

Bautista, however, said Poe could still file her COC for the presidential race next year despite the two pending cases.

“The acceptance of COC is ministerial on the part of the Comelec. Now whether or not they have all the qualification and none of the disqualification, then that will be acted upon if a case is filed against them. We think it won’t affect, per se,” Bautista said.  

During oral arguments on the case last Sept. 21, senior Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said Poe, having been abandoned as a newborn in a church in Iloilo with her parents unknown, could be considered a Filipino citizen but not a natural-born Filipino, which is a requirement by the Constitution for the presidency.

Her lawyer claimed Poe is a natural-born citizen under international law, which they said provides that a foundling follows the citizenship of the place where he or she was born.

On the other hand, Malabon Rep. Jaye Lacson-Noel urged Poe’s rivals to focus on gut issues and not on her supposedly questionable citizenship.

Noel said she considered the citizenship issue hounding Poe as “artificial,” since it was not raised when she ran for senator in the 2013 elections.

She added the issue is being used against her only now because “she is the presidential frontrunner.”

“Rather than discuss these issues, the other political camps are more focused on getting the presidential frontrunner disqualified rather than figuring out how to improve the lives of our people,” Noel said.

Noel belongs to the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which is emerging as the political vehicle for the presidential and vice presidential ambitions of Poe and her running mate, Sen. Francis Escudero.

In calling on candidates to discuss gut issues, Noel cited a June 2015 survey by Pulse Asia that showed that 47 percent of Filipinos were most concerned with inflation, which erodes their incomes, while 46 percent were concerned with workers’ pay.

She said wages, jobs and high prices were the issues considered urgent by people across geographic areas and socio-economic classes.

“If candidates were really concerned about the country, then they would focus on the real problems of our countrymen, like high prices and jobs,” Noel said.  – Jess Diaz

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