SC asked to reverse SET ruling on Poe

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe has reached the Supreme Court (SC).

Rizalito David, a losing senatorial candidate in the 2013 polls, asked the SC yesterday to overturn the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) dismissing with finality his disqualification case against Poe.

In a 74-page petition, David asked the high court to reverse the majority decision of the SET that declared Poe as a natural-born Filipino eligible for her Senate post.

“Clearly, the SET majority misinterpreted the Constitution, the laws, procedural rules and jurisprudence in giving effect to non-binding international (laws) and in acknowledging the flawed theory of citizenship by legal fiction,” David told reporters in an interview.

Accompanied by his lawyer Manuelito Luna, David said he is confident of winning the case in the SC, where justices know the law better than the five senators who approved the assailed SET in a “political decision.”

He alleged that the five senators who voted in favor of their colleague – Vicente Sotto III, Loren Legarda, Pia Cayetano, Cynthia Villar and Bam Aquino – violated the Constitution and the Lerias doctrine, which warned politicians who are members of the electoral tribunals against partisan voting.

In dismissing his appeal last week, the five senators maintained their position that Poe should be considered natural-born despite being a foundling based on customary international laws providing right of every human being to a nationality and the state’s obligations to avoid statelessness and to facilitate the naturalization of foundlings.

“How can you deny the political affiliations of those senators with Grace Poe? Sen. Sotto is a known close friend of her family while Sen. Legarda was running-mate of her father in the 2004 elections,” he argued.

David alleged that the five senators violated their oath of office as he dared them to resign from their posts should he win in the SC case.

He insisted that the dissenting opinion of the minority in the SET composed of Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Arturo Brion and Sen. Nancy Binay was the correct interpretation of the law.

The dissenting members believed that the Constitution precedes customary international laws and that the rules on natural-born eligibility should be strictly applied.

They said Poe, being a foundling, could be considered only as a naturalized Filipino and not qualified for national elective posts unless she is able to trace her biological parents and prove that either of them is Filipino.

“We believe that the Supreme Court will agree with the wisdom of the three honorable justices in the SET,” David stressed.

David reiterated his position that Poe is not a natural-born citizen as required by the Constitution of candidates for national elective posts, citing “absence of proof of blood ties to a Filipino father or mother.”

He also questioned Poe’s reacquisition of her Philippine citizenship.

Unfazed by challenges

Poe’s spokesman, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, expressed confidence the SC would uphold the SET’s decision.

“We respect the prerogative of  Mr. David to appeal the SET decision to the Supreme Court. Likewise, we are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the decision of the majority of the members of the SET,” Gatchalian said.

“Clearly, on two occasions, the members studied the merits of the position of Sen. Poe and deemed that she is a natural-born Filipino. They saw wisdom in the legal arguments raised by Sen. Poe,” he added.

“Furthermore, as stated before, how can the decision of the SET be political in nature when the members (who sided with the position of Sen. Poe) come from different political parties,” Gatchalian said.

Poe herself remains unfazed by the latest challenges to her presidential run.

In a statement, Poe said there is no turning back from the presidential race until all questions surrounding her candidacy are resolved with finality by the Supreme Court.

At the same time, she also appealed to voters to be vigilant against attempts to subvert the will of the people to choose their own leaders.

Poe, who is running as an independent candidate, assured her supporters that she would continue with her campaign to build a government that is accountable, transparent and dependable to help the people achieve genuine inclusive growth and global competitiveness.

She said the various attempts to disqualify her as a candidate for the highest position in the land are meant to weaken her support base by confusing the public.

Poe’s legal counsel George Garcia has asked the Comelec as a whole to reverse the resolution of its Second Division cancelling Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC) for president on grounds that it did not reflect the accurate number of years she has been residing in the country.

Garcia said Poe complied with the 10-year residency requirement, a fact that he said was completely ignored by the three-member Second Division despite their submission of 400 pages of documentary evidence to support her position.

Garcia said the resolution of the Second Division was rendered in “complete and utter disregard of the overwhelming evidence on record” and “contrary to applicable jurisprudence as to amount to a capricious and whimsical judgment.”

Reminder to Poe

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. reminded Poe that it was President Aquino’s endorsement that enabled her to win a Senate seat in the 2013 elections and that she got her first government job under the administration as chairperson of the MTRCB.

“In the 2013 elections, which served as a virtual mid-term referendum on daang matuwid, the Aquino administration received an overwhelming vote of confidence from the people with nine senatorial candidates of the administration coalition headed by then erstwhile MTRCB chairperson Grace Poe in the winning column,” Coloma said.

“For the past five years, Senator Poe had identified herself with the government’s priority reform programs on inclusive growth anchored on daang matuwid that have resulted in poverty alleviation, increased employment and improved revenue collection,” Coloma added. – Christina Mendez, Delon Porcalla












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