Palace on Poe DQ case: Petitioners not connected with admin

Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - December 12, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday denied it was getting rid of the rivals of the administration’s presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II, saying those seeking the disqualification of Sen. Grace Poe from the presidential race do not have links with the government.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that while President Aquino appointed some of the commissioners of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), they decide on their own in cases involving candidates.  

Valte said it was easy to make allegations that there was a “pattern of getting rid of rivals,” as former senator Richard Gordon puts it, but these were baseless allegations.

She noted that the residency and citizenship issues against Poe were first raised by Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, interim president of opposition party United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

This happened after Poe beat Vice President Jejomar Binay, UNA’s presidential candidate, in the pre-election surveys for president.

Valte also noted that the petitioners seeking the disqualification of Poe – former senator Francisco Tatad, De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras, former University of the East College of Law dean Amado Valdez and former Government Service Insurance System legal counsel Estrella Elamparo – were not allies of the Aquino administration. 

She said Tatad and Contreras were known critics of President Aquino and Malacañang did not have a relationship with Elamparo.

“It is clear who these people are. They have their own reasons (in filing disqualification cases against Poe). Let us not connect them with the administration because it is quite a hard sell already,” she added.

Malacañang made the statement after Comelec Commissioners Luie Tito Guia and Rowena Guanzon of the First Division on Friday granted the petitions of Tatad, Contreras and Valdez to disqualify Poe due to residency and citizenship issues, just days after the Second Division granted Elamparo’s petition.

In the 49-page resolution, Comelec’s First Division ruled that Poe had committed “material misrepresentations” on her certificate of candidacy for president concerning her citizenship and residency. The division also cancelled her COC.

But First Division presiding commissioner Christian Robert Lim submitted an 81-page dissenting opinion against Poe’s disqualification.

Valte pointed out that Lim is an appointee of the President and yet Lim dissented in the ruling against Poe.

“So how do we say the Comelec is being controlled or influenced? I think the facts will bear themselves out that these allegations are mere allegations and do not have any basis,” she added.

‘Deep regret’

Meanwhile, Guia has admitted that he voted to disqualify Poe with “deep regret.”

“To be asked to disallow a leading candidate for president from continuing as a candidate is one difficult challenge that every election dispute adjudicato can ever face…It is with deep regret that we have to resolve the petitions this way,” Guia said in a concurring opinion on the decision of the Comelec First Division to disqualify Poe.

Guia also said that the “urge and temptation to resolve these petitions via the principle of vox populi vox dei (voice of the people is the voice of God) as proposed by many is hard to resist. Many have suggested that we should just brush aside the legal issues involved and leave the matter on whether the respondent can be a president of the country to the voters.”

But Guia maintained that in deciding against Poe, he was constrained by his duty and mandate to decide cases within the bounds of his authority.

“We merely performed what the Constitution mandates us to do…What needs to be emphasized, however, is that in a constitutional democracy, respect of the Rule of Law is important and indispensable. Rule of Law revolves around the respect of the Constitution and validly enacted statues,” he added.

He explained that the First Division found that Poe, “under Philippine Constitution, cannot consider herself as a natural-born citizen.” As defined in the Constitution, natural-born citizens “are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.”

Guia could not agree with Poe’s argument that she should be presumed to be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines considering that she was found within Philippine territory.

“How we wish we could make said presumption. Regretfully, we cannot. To do so would provide what the Constitution clearly does not,” he said.

Regarding Poe’s residency, Guia said that he was not convinced that in May 2005, Poe had the “intention to stay in the Philippines permanently.”

“It was important to note that she was still a United States citizen in May 2005. The probability that she still has, at the back of her mind, the intention to go back eventually to the United States persists in the absence of additional proof to the contrary,” he explained.

“Technically she still maintained allegiance to the United States in 2005 of which she was a citizen at that time, not to the Philippines up until her petition for reacquisition of citizenship was approved on July 18, 2006…Her intent to reside in the Philippines permanently and to abandon her domicile in the United States were therefore not yet evident at that time,” he added. – With Sheila Crisostomo


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