Comelec asks SC to lift TRO on Poe DQ

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday defended before the Supreme Court (SC) its decision to disqualify Sen. Grace Poe in the presidential elections in May.

In a 73-page comment filed by Commissioner Rowena Amelia Guanzon, the poll body asked the high court to dismiss the petitions filed by the senator assailing the rulings of its two divisions to cancel her certificate of candidacy (COC) for the presidency due to misrepresentation on her citizenship and residency eligibilities.

Insisting that Poe “deliberately and intentionally misrepresented” her qualifications for the presidency, the Comelec also asked the high court to lift the temporary restraining orders (TROs) it issued on the assailed rulings.

The Comelec stood by its finding that Poe’s claim in her COC that she would have a total residency of 10 years and 11 months in the country by election day on May 9 was “false and misleading.”

“The facts and evidence submitted by the parties and based on existing laws and relevant jurisprudence support the conclusion that (Poe) failed to comply with the 10-year residency requirement for the elective office of President of the Republic of the Philippines,” the commission argued.

Per Comelec’s computation, Poe reacquired her domicile in the country only on Aug. 31, 2006, which means her residency eligibility would still fall short by about three months.

As for Poe’s citizenship eligibility, the poll body also maintained that her claim of being a natural-born citizen was a misrepresentation.

“A foundling does not fall under the definition of citizens under Section 1, Article IV of the 1935 Constitution. Respondent, thus, cannot qualify as a natural-born citizen. The provision also contains no provision or indication, express or implied, that a foundling is a natural-born citizen and/or qualifies as an exception to the above rule,” Comelec argued.

“The provision of the 1935 Constitution is clear. The letter of the law is unmistakable. And it is settled in our legal system that where the law is clear and unambiguous, there is no room for construction, only application,” it added.

The Comelec stressed the burden of proof lies with the claimants of Philippine citizenship, who cannot be accorded presumption under the law.

“It is already settled in our jurisprudence and laws that we follow the principle of jus sanguinis (right of blood) with respect to natural-born citizenship… Unless Petitioner can show that a foundling with no known parentage or definitive blood relationship is an exception to the requirement of jus sanguinis, her claim that she is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines does not stand,” the Comelec said.

The Comelec also reiterated it has jurisdiction to rule on the citizenship issue of Poe despite a July 18, 2006 order from the Bureau of Immigration that granted Poe and her children a reacquisition of Filipino citizenship.

The poll body also rebutted the argument of Poe that it disregarded an earlier finding of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) that Poe is a natural-born Filipino.

“The ruling of the SET with respect to her citizenship does not negate and overturn, nor preclude, the finding made by the Comelec that (Poe) is not a natural-born Filipino… The decision of the SET does not bind the Comelec. It is not a legal precedent. The SET ruling cannot circumvent nor does it preclude the Comelec from making a contrary conclusion based on applicable law and jurisprudence,” it pointed out.

With these arguments, the Comelec said it did not commit grave abuse of discretion in disqualifying Poe – contrary to her allegations in her petitions.

Guanzon later told reporters that she and fellow commissioner Arthur Lim would represent the Comelec during the oral arguments in the cases on Jan. 19 after the Office of the Solicitor General decided to represent the SET instead.

“We already filed the comment of the en banc (full session of the Comelec)... The Comelec has decided that me and Commissioner Arthur Lim will defend our rulings during the oral arguments,” she said.

The Comelec official also explained that they decided to comply with the original deadline for filing of comment because the high court had not yet acted on their motion for a five-day extension.  – With Sheila Crisostomo



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