SET votes on Poe case next week

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) is set to decide next week if Sen. Grace Poe is a natural-born Filipino when the body rules on the disqualification case against the frontrunner in the 2016 presidential elections.

The nine-member SET, tasked to resolve election cases against senators, has set on Nov. 17 its voting on the disqualification petition filed by Rizalito David in relation to Poe’s election as senator in the 2013 polls.

The date was agreed upon during the SET meeting last Friday in a hotel in Manila, according to the tribunal’s secretary Irene Guevarra.

The meeting was set on Nov. 17 - supposedly a non-working holiday due to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the country - to beat the deadline of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for printing the ballots that would be used for next year’s polls.

SET is composed of six senators – Loren Legarda, Pia Cayetano, Bam Aquino, Cynthia Villar, Nancy Binay and Vicente Sotto III; and three magistrates of the Supreme Court –Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion.

In the hearing last Friday, they discussed the negative results of the DNA tests conducted on Poe and probable relatives.

In earlier oral argument, Carpio commented that Poe - being a foundling - is not a natural-born citizen qualified for electoral post unless she proves that her biological parents are Filipinos.

Poe’s camp said the DNA test was conducted to prove that either of her biological parents is a Filipino citizen.

An adopted daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. and actress Susan Roces, the senator admitted that she had been trying for years to find out who her biological parents were.

Disqualification cases citing similar issues on Poe’s citizenship and residency have been filed before the Comelec last month, seeking her disqualification from the presidential race.

Meanwhile, a political analyst said yesterday the negative findings on the DNA tests might have no effect on Poe’s presidential bid as the Filipino people have long accepted her as a natural-born Filipino citizen when they elected her senator.

University of the Philippines professor Ronald Simbulan said that people have long considered Poe as a natural-born Filipino citizen when they voted for her in the 2013 senatorial elections in which she garnered more than 20 million votes, the most number of votes ever recorded in history for a senator.

“Those questioning her being a natural born Filipino, I think it’s too late in the day because that has been settled when she ran for senator. That is because the qualification of a senator which requires natural born status is the same. She got the most number of votes in history, more than 20 million votes in 2013 so it is now evident that people have accepted that she is a natural born Filipino citizen,” he stressed.

“The DNA, it does not mean anything because they just took the chance precisely because she is a founding, she does not know her lineage, her family and she was just taking chances,” he explained.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the SET should come out with a decision on Nov. 17 or even earlier because it will likely be elevated to the Supreme Court. - With Mayen Jaymalin, Jess Diaz

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