Chiz urges SC: Stop Comelec from ‘bullying’ Poe

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Francis Escudero yesterday urged the Supreme Court to cite the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for grave abuse of authority over what he called a hasty decision to disqualify Sen. Grace Poe from the presidential race.

Escudero also wants the poll body to explain how some commissioners seemed to have neglected evidence and instead resorted to “bullying” Poe regarding the disqualification orders issued against her.

Escudero hopes the SC justices will put the Comelec to task when the magistrates convene on Jan. 19 to hear the oral arguments on her petitions.

Escudero said certain actions of the Comelec, which led to its Dec. 23 decisions upholding Poe’s disqualification from the presidential race, “constitute grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”

“If it’s not bullying or harassment, I don’t know what it is,” Escudero said, referring to the Comelec ruling to disqualify Poe from the May presidential elections.

Escudero outlined the issues that may bolster their camp’s claim that Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion in Poe’s case.

He lamented how Comelec acted with dispatch on Poe’s disqualification ahead of the obvious nuisance candidates, naming “Lucifer” and “Intergalactic ambassador.”

Escudero noted how the poll body also refused to consolidate the four petitions against Poe, which are all the same except for the names of the petitioners, if only to require her to answer before the two Comelec divisions and “be disqualified, not only once but twice.”

“To top it all, the Comelec full commission threw out her appeal two days before Christmas,” he said.

Escudero added Poe was given a non-extendible period of five calendar days by the Comelec to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the SC, otherwise her name would be excluded from the official list of presidential candidates in the May 2016 polls.

“The Comelec worked ‘overtime’ in order for the en banc to disqualify her two days before Christmas and the holidays, thus giving her very little and difficult time to seek redress in the SC,” he said.

Like Poe, Escudero was grateful that SC magistrates led by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno made themselves available even during recess to grant Poe a much-needed relief.

In issuing two TROs in favor of Poe, Escudero said the SC has once again showed that it is just and impartial.

He also expressed confidence the high tribunal will ultimately rule in favor of his running mate, whom he maintained is qualified to run and be elected as the country’s next president.

The SC has ordered the Comelec to comment on Poe’s petitions within a period of 10 days and has set the oral arguments on Jan. 19.

Poe’s lawyer George Garcia said the SC could rule on the senator’s case as early as this month.

“I believe it would be since this is a case of transcendental importance. The Supreme Court will give priority on this,” he said.

The Supreme Court is expected to uphold the TROs when the magistrates convene on Jan. 12.

Poe’s camp has also moved for the inhibition of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion from hearing Poe’s case.

The three magistrates, as members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), unanimously voted to disqualify her as a senator on the basis of her being a foundling.

Garcia also filed a petition to consolidate the rulings of two Comelec decisions, saying all four petitioners were similarly questioning Poe’s natural-born status and residency.

No basis for inhibition

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, however, said there is no legal or factual basis for the three justices to inhibit from the case.

“The issues involved in the Comelec cases are different from those raised at the SET. The Comelec cases involved Poe’s COC (certificate of candidacy) for President where the issue is whether or not she lied or made a false representation in her COC that she is eligible as a candidate for president. The SET case was directly addressed to her qualification as an elected senator on the issue of whether or not she is a natural-born Filipino,” Macalintal pointed out.

Macalintal said it would not be proper to conclude that Carpio, Castro and Brion had already prejudged the Comelec cases just because of their dissenting opinion in the SET case.  

“More so if we consider the fact that in the Comelec cases, there is that issue of residency which was not tackled at the SET level,” he said.

Macalintal said the three magistrates could not even be compelled to inhibit in the petition of Rizalito David questioning the SET ruling favoring Poe despite being members of the tribunal and taking part in its earlier deliberations on the case.

Macalintal cited the Vera vs. Avelino case in 1949, which held that designation of justices in the electoral tribunals did not deduct “a whit from their functions as members of the Supreme Court, and did not disqualify them in this litigation.” 

Macalintal also cited the case of Libanan vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal in 1997 when it rejected the offer of three justices to inhibit from the SC petition involving the case they decided at the HRET.

“Clearly, it has been a standing policy of the SC to reject such offer of inhibition. And that is only proper so that said justices of the electoral tribunals could prove that they could always exercise the ‘cold neutrality of an impartial judge’ wherever or whenever they decide a given case,” he said.

And since the SC declares that such policy of no-inhibition shall apply “in all cases that may yet come before this Court,” then that should include Poe’s cases which are now before the SC for review, he explained.  – With Edu Punay




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