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'Daang Matuwid' coalition not surprised by SC justices' inhibition in Poe case

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines - The Koalisyon ng Daang Matuwid is not surprised by the inhibition of three Supreme Court justices from the petition challenging the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s (SET) decision to uphold Sen. Grace Poe’s eligibility to run in the 2013 polls.

The coalition's spokesman, Akbayan Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez, said the inhibition of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion showed that the country’s institutions are working properly. 

“The justices are members of the SET. They actually voted and were part of the decision-making process at the level of the SET. Now that that same decision is being appealed to the Supreme Court level, it would be awkward if they will be deciding on the decision that they themselves actually had a hand in crafting,” Gutierrez told reporters.

“Again, it (inhibition) is not surprising, it is very expected. It’s again a testament to the fact that our institutions are working,” he added.

Gutierrez said the Solicitor General’s support for the SET ruling that favored Poe was also expected. Poe is one of the rivals of administration candidate Manuel Roxas II in this year’s presidential race.

Voting 5-4, the SET denied last November the petition to remove Poe from office over her citizenship issue. The petition, filed by defeated 2013 senatorial bet Rizalito David, claimed that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino and should not remain in the Senate.

The four SET members who voted against Poe were Carpio, de Castro, Brion and Sen. Nancy Binay. Those who upheld Poe’s eligibility were Sens. Vicente Sotto III, Bam Aquino, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda and Cynthia Villar.

“It’s the position of one particular portion of the government and that’s the SET. The Solicitor General, as the lawyer of the SET, has to take that position,” Gutierrez said.

“At the end of the day, it’s the Supreme Court that will decide,” he added.

A high court resolution that required the SET and Poe’s camp to answer David’s petition within 10 days from notice said the three justices inhibited “due to prior participation in the SET.”

The justices did not say though if they will also inhibit from separate petitions seeking Poe’s disqualification from the presidential race over residency and citizenship issues.

In defending the SET’s decision, the Office of the Solicitor General said the tribunal correctly ruled that proof of Poe’s status as a foundling did not necessarily equate to the lack of proof of Filipino parentage.

The government counsel also cited the senator’s physical features and the circumstances surrounding her abandonment and discovery.

“What we therefore have, in lieu of a birth certificate evidencing Filipino parentage, are relevant pieces of evidence, properly admissible under the Rules of Court, that private respondent has, at least, a Filipino mother or Filipino father and, most likely, both,” Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said in a comment.

ACIRC AKBAYAN REP BAM AQUINO BRION AND SEN CASTRO AND ARTURO BRION DAANG MATUWID GRACE POE POE SET SOLICITOR GENERAL SUPREME COURT
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