Solicitor General ordered to appear in Poe’s DQ oral arguments
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - January 14, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Solicitor General Florin Hilbay will have to appear on   Jan. 19 in the oral arguments on Sen. Grace Poe’s disqualification from the presidential race, although he had manifested that he would not represent the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered him to give his views on the case, not necessarily to submit a comment.

“The Solicitor General, as the tribune of the people, is directed to participate in the oral arguments despite his manifestation that he will not represent the public respondent in these consolidated cases,” read the five-page guidelines that the SC issued.

Hilbay will be given 10 minutes to present the  position of the Office of the Solicitor General on Poe’s eligibility for the presidency, independently of the positions of the Comelec, Poe and the four  petitioners against her.

Hilbay earlier manifested that the OSG would instead represent the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) in a separate petition of Rizalito David before the SC.

An insider revealed to The STAR that the SC justices intend to question Hilbay “on all relevant issues.”

“While the solicitor general has already submitted his view on the citizenship issue in his comment for the SET, he has not actually taken a position on the residency of Senator Poe and so it is a live issue which he has no legal conflict on,” the source said.

The SC has decided not to consolidate the SET and Comelec cases involving Poe.

In a comment on David’s petition, the OSG has   submitted its position on the citizenship issue and argued that the SET was correct in ruling that Poe is a natural-born citizen based on evidence like her physical features and circumstances surrounding her abandonment and discovery.

In the same guidelines issued yesterday, the SC also gave the other parties 10 minutes each to present their arguments before the interpellation of justices.

The oral arguments will focus on two main legal issues – whether Poe committed material misrepresentation in her certificate of candidacy for the presidency filed last October in claiming that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen and if she would meet the 10-year residency requirement before the May 9 polls.

Lawyers of parties appeared before the SC yesterday morning in the preliminary conference for the oral arguments.

Poe’s counsel George Garcia told reporters after the closed-door meeting that the parties were told to refrain from discussing merits of the cases in public.

“We were told that this is a very legal and technical issue, which should not be made a political issue,” he said.

However, the SC had not issued any gag order, he added.

They were told to “refrain from doing anything inside the session hall during the oral argument that might enflame the already very heated arguments,” he said.

During the meeting, SC justices manifested their intention to finish the proceedings immediately, Garcia said.

“Maybe the oral arguments would be done in one day because the SC would like to at least terminate everything right away, considering the timeline of the Comelec,” he said.

The four petitioners in the Comelec disqualification cases against Poe – former senator Francisco Tatad, De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras, former Government Service Insurance System counsel Estrella Elamparo and former University of the East College of Law dean Amado Valdez – also attended the conference. – With Non Alquitran



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