SC issues TRO on Poe DQ
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - December 28, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – With just a few hours before the disqualification of Sen. Grace Poe from the presidential race was to take effect, the Supreme Court ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday to temporarily stop enforcing its ruling barring her from running for president.

Even while the high court is on holiday recess, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno issued temporary restraining orders (TRO) enjoining the Comelec from implementing the disqualification ruling of its two divisions against Poe.

In a press conference, SC spokesman Theodore Te explained that the Chief Justice issued the orders upon recommendation of two justices to whom the two petitions for TRO filed by Poe earlier in the day were assigned.

The TROs, effective immediately and until further orders, allow Poe to keep her slot in the ballots to be printed by the Comelec in early February, Te said.

Under court rules, the TROs would be subject to confirmation of the full SC when justices resume session on Jan. 12, 2016.

In the same orders, the high court directed the Comelec to answer Poe’s petitions within 10 days from receipt of notice.

The court also set the case for oral argument on Jan. 19, 2016.

Poe filed her petitions for TRO through her lawyers led by George Garcia earlier in the day.

The lawyer explained there was urgent need to issue the TRO as the Comelec order would become executory should a disqualified candidate fail to secure a restraining order from the court within five days from promulgation of the ruling on disqualification.

“This is a matter of extreme urgency. Through arbitrary, capricious and seemingly orchestrated acts over the past two months, the Commission on Elections has single-handedly imperiled the sovereign right of the Filipino people to elect the 16th president of the Republic of the Philippines,” read the petitions filed at 10 a.m.

Garcia said they were not able to immediately file the petitions because of the holidays last week.

He added that if the high court fails to resolve their plea for a TRO on time, it could always issue a status quo ante order that would keep Poe in the running for the presidency.

While the SC is on holiday recess, the chief justice may issue a TRO or status quo ante order upon recommendation of the justice in charge of the case – but subject to confirmation of the full court in its next session on Jan. 12.

Poe’s petitions were included in the regular raffle of cases yesterday and assigned to Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo and Marvic Leonen, according to an SC insider.

Leonen is also the justice in charge of a related petition of Rizalito David questioning the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) ruling that declared Poe a natural-born Filipino eligible for the 2013 senatorial polls.

Poe’s camp has also asked the High Tribunal to reverse and set aside the separate resolutions of the Comelec’s First and Second Divisions canceling her certificate of candidacy (COC) due to misrepresentation on her citizenship and residency in the country.

The Comelec First Division canceled Poe’s COC due to questions on her citizenship and residency status raised by former senator Francisco Tatad, De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras and former University of the East law dean Amado Valdez.

The poll body’s Second Division, on the other hand, canceled Poe’s COC based on a petition filed by lawyer Estrella Elamparo stating that Poe failed to meet the constitutional requirement of a 10-year residency for presidential candidates.

“The Comelec gravely abused its discretion when, instead of requiring private respondent (Elamparo) to prove, in the first instance, her allegation that Senator Poe is not a natural-born citizen, it placed the

burden on Senator Poe to prove that she is born of Filipino parents,” Garcia said in their petition.

“But the only way that private respondent can prove that Senator Poe committed a false representation, with the intent to deceive is for her to prove that Senator Poe indeed was born of alien parents, and hence cannot be a natural-born citizen,” Poe’s lawyer pointed out.

But even before the SC order, Elamparo filed at around 3 p.m. a manifestation objecting to Poe’s plea for TRO and status quo ante order.

The former Government Service Insurance System chief counsel cited “the long standing jurisprudence that no one has a vested right to any public office, much less a vested right to an expectancy of holding of holding public office.”

Earlier, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the SC may consolidate the Comelec and SET cases of Poe.

“There is a possibility that the SC would consolidate the SET and Comelec cases to expedite their resolution since they involve similar issues,” he said.

Thankful, hopeful

Reacting to the SC issuance of TROs, Poe expressed gratitude to the chamber, calling its move “just and compassionate.”

“From the start, I put my full faith in the judicial process. The Comelec denied our people their choices in an open election but I am confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the truth and the spirit of the Constitution,” Poe said.

“We are confident the SC will honor previous jurisprudence on the rights of foundlings to a country and citizenship. I also pray that they will carefully look into the facts of my residence and my actual physical presence in the country,” she added.

Her running mate Sen. Francis Escudero also praised the SC for its decision.

“I thank and commend the SC for issuing the TRO in order to uphold justice and to ensure that, despite all the black propaganda and negative efforts of her opponents... Grace Poe is, and remains, a candidate for president,” Escudero said.

He said he remains “hopeful that the SC will soon make this restraining order permanent and put the Comelec in its rightfully disdainful place in the annals of our history.”

“I trust that our magistrates’ unquestionable wisdom and integrity will once and for all settle questions  surrounding Senator Poe’s qualifications to seek the highest post in the land,” he said.

Poe’s spokesman Mayor Rex Gatchalian said the SC decision was a confirmation of Comelec’s grave abuse of authority in handling Poe’s cases.

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the administration would like to “join our people’s hope and trust that any decision that will eventually be rendered on the matter would be imbued with fairness and justice.”

“In our system of laws, decisions on qualifications of presidential candidates are made by the Comelec and are appealable to the Supreme Court as the final arbiter,” Coloma said.

No change in timeline

The Comelec said the SC issuance of TROs would have no effect on the poll body’s timetable since Poe’s name has not been removed from the list of candidates anyway.

“Comelec has been given 10 days to comment and I think the oral arguments have been set for Jan. 19. Right now I guess all that is left for the Comelec is to comply with the order of the court,” spokesman James Jimenez told reporters.

He said the overall effect of the TROs would “probably be minimal.”

“Remember when we started loading the (names of candidates) in the Election Management System, we left the name of Senator Poe,” he said.

But he said he is not sure yet what would happen in the final editing of the EMS on Jan. 19 and 20.

“Yes, we set a final editing period and there will be oral arguments on the 19th which is right in the middle of that period. But as we’ve seen, these things can happen. Things can change and we have to just be ready for whatever happens,” he said.

Meanwhile, a group backing the candidacies of Poe and Escudero said it is condemning efforts by some quarters “to break the formidable Poe-Escudero tandem.”

“From the very beginning, the Poe-Escudero ticket is the team to beat as shown by various nationwide pre-election surveys, but it has also been the subject of incessant vilification campaign in an attempt to erode their popular mass support,” the Gawa at Prinsipyo Coalition said in a statement.

Earlier during the filing of Poe’s petition, about a hundred of her supporters gathered outside the SC compound on Padre Faura street to protest what they said was the “abandonment” of Poe by Escudero.

“It is unfortunate that a few infiltrators dispatched by the rivals of the Poe-Escudero tandem tried to join a gathering of Senator Poe’s supporters in time for the filing of petitions before the Supreme Court to contest the disqualification rulings of the Commission on Elections. We should be united in condemning the Comelec decision, instead of sowing intrigue,” the Gawa at Prinsipyo Coalition said.

“The fact that it coincided with Senator Poe’s filing of petitions validates our suspicions of orchestrated efforts to take her out of the presidential race, confuse the public and sow dissension between and among their supporters,” it said.

The coalition said it is confident that “the High Court will not allow politics to cloud its judgment on the issue and will rule based on the merits of Sen. Grace Poe’s petition, existing international and local laws and long established jurisprudence.”

“We strongly believe that our Supreme Court justices will side with the truth and will allow us, the voters, to choose the next leaders of this country,” the group maintained.

Earlier yesterday, members of a group calling itself Philippine Crusaders for Justice (PCJ) led by secretary general Joe Villanueva alleged that Escudero betrayed Poe when he convinced her to run, knowing she would be disqualified in the end.

“We pity Sen. Grace because Sen. Chiz abandoned her in the disqualification cases when he is supposed to be the campaign strategist and primary counsel of Poe,” Villanueva told reporters.

Carrying placards branding Escudero as “Ahascudero,” “Boy Laglag” and “Boy Abandon,” the group recalled that the senator also supposedly abandoned the tandem of President Aquino and Mar Roxas in the 2010 elections to support Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay instead.

“It is disgusting that certain groups continue to destroy our candidates – first individually and now as a tandem. The recent story being circulated that Sen. Chiz has abandoned Sen. Grace is baseless and a bare face lie,” Gatchalian said in a statement.  – Marvin Sy, Jess Diaz, Christina Mendez, Sheila Crisostomo, Aurea Calica

ACIRC COMELEC COURT ESCUDERO GRACE POE JAN ORDER POE SENATOR SENATOR POE SUPREME COURT
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