Poe remains on the ballot for now – Comelec

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Despite her disqualification by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from next year’s presidential race, Sen. Grace Poe remains in the list of candidates for the meantime.

In a press briefing, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body voted to uphold Poe’s earlier disqualification by the First and Second Divisions but did not have her name removed from the list of candidates.

“Right now, her name is on the ballot as we speak. She is still in the list,” he said.

Bautista declined to say what would happen when the five-day period given to her to secure a relief from the Supreme Court expires on Monday.

He said various legal interventions from the Supreme Court are available for Poe, including temporary restraining order, status quo ante order or mandatory injunction.

In separate resolutions, the Comelec rejected Poe’s motions for reconsideration (MRs) on the disqualification rulings of the Second and First Division in Dec. 1 and 11, respectively.

The commission voted 5-2 in favor of the ruling of the Comelec First Division, with Bautista and Commissioner Christian Robert Lim dissenting. This involves the consolidated petitions filed by former senator Francisco Tatad, De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras and former University of the East College of Law dean Amado Valdez.

The poll body voted 5-1-1 – with Bautista dissenting and Lim inhibiting – to uphold the ruling of the Second Division on the petition filed by former Government Service Insurance System chief legal counsel Estrella Elamparo.

Bautista explained that they unanimously agreed that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino citizen.

On the issue that she lacked the 10-year residency requirement in the Second Division case, only  Commissioner Luie Tito Guia believed that Poe met the requirement. But for the First Division case, Guia and Lim dissented.

On allegations that the senator had the “deliberate intent to mislead” on her residency, four backed the Second Division ruling to disqualify her while two dissented.

For the First Division ruling, four agreed while three dissented.

Bautista said that on the issue that Poe had deliberately misled the people on her citizenship, four upheld the Second Division while two dissented.

On the other hand, four backed the First Division ruling while two dissented and one inhibited.

In its 30-page decision on the First Division ruling, the Comelec said Poe was not able to offer new evidence that could convince them to reverse her disqualification.

“All other issues raised by respondent are mere rehash of the arguments already addressed and ruled on,” it said.

The Comelec affirmed the First Division ruling that Poe had committed material misrepresentation when she declared in her certificate of candidacy for president that she is a natural-born Filipino.

It ruled that Poe also committed material misrepresentation in her COC when she declared that she would be a resident of the Philippines for 10 years and 11 months by election day on May 9, 2016.

In the 36-page resolution on the Second Divison ruling, the Comelec cancelled Poe’s COC.

The poll body, however, admitted that deciding on the cases was not easy.

“Lest it be left unsaid, it is not an easy task to weigh the rule of law as against the voice of men. It is indeed very tempting to rid our hands of this burden and simply allow respondent – a popular presidential candidate – to run in the elections and let the vox populi decide on her fate and ultimately, the fate of the motherland,” the ruling said.

“But this we cannot do. Not only because we are duty bound by law to decide on cases brought before us; more so because no less than the people, through the Constitution, grant us this solemn duty,” the Comelec said.

“In applying the law, and disqualifying respondent, we are heeding the true voice of the people. From this task, we cannot desist,” it added.

23 candidates

Bautista also said 23 presidential aspirants were included in the initial official list of candidates in the May 2016 local and national polls.

Bautista also noted that out of the 19 aspirants for the vice-presidential post, only six have turned out to be qualified.

“It’s final. There are six candidates for vice president,” he announced in a press briefing, referring to Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo and Sens. Gregorio Honasan, Francis Escudero, Antonio Trillanes IV, Alan Peter Cayetano and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Bautista said their names would be loaded into the election management system (EMS) containing the list of candidates and voters as well as the polling precincts, among other information.

The 23 presidential candidates were among the 130 individuals who filed their certificates of candidacy.

He said the list may still be trimmed down as they “have yet to serve the decisions to the other candidates who were found to be nuisance.”

“Many of them could not be reached because they live in the provinces,” he said. The Comelec said it’s possible that the figure could go down to “single digit.”

Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said information in the EMS may still be edited from Jan. 8 to 16 before it is submitted for approval by the commission from Jan. 18 to 20.

“We are not yet loading the final list. What we are loading are the initial lists . They can be edited until prior to the printing of official ballots from Jan. 26 to April 12,” he added.  

Meanwhile, University of the Philippines-Diliman Student Council chairman John Paulo de las Nieves has asked the Comelec to cancel the COC for president of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

In a 23-page petition, Nieves said that Duterte’s COC is invalid because the COC of Martin Diño, which the mayor used for his presidential bid, was defective.

“There was no bonafide candidate that the respondent could validly substitute for. Martin Diño was not a bonafide candidate within the contemplation of our election laws,” he noted.

Nieves argued that Diño’s filing of COC was “meant to circumvent election laws by merely extending the non-extendible period to file COC for the position of president, an act meant solely to benefit respondent Duterte.”

“Respondent Duterte filed a substitute COC for the position of president which is different from the position stated in the withdrawn COC of the candidate he is supposedly substituting for,” he added.

Nieves was referring to Diño’s COC where he indicated that he was running for mayor of Pasay City and not for president.

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