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‘Residency alone can decide Poe DQ’

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) need not resolve the citizenship issue against Sen. Grace Poe in ruling on her disqualification case, legal experts said yesterday.

Election lawyers Romulo Macalintal and Edgardo Carlo Vistan II said the high court could resolve the case by simply deciding whether or not Poe could meet the 10-year residency requirement for the presidency prior to the May elections.

They said a possible ruling upholding the disqualification of Poe based solely on lack of residency – as reports on the draft decision suggested – would not be a big surprise.

Poe had said she would accept whatever ruling the SC would hand down on her disqualification case, even if it would mean dropping out of the presidential race.

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, spokesman for Poe, said she would accept and respect the decision of the SC. 

“She has stated this on numerous occasions. She is confident though that in the end, the SC will see the merits of her legal arguments that she is a natural-born Filipino and has met the necessary residency requirement,” Gatchalian said.

Macalintal and Vistan believe it would be more practical for the high court to resolve the residency issue, which is much easier to settle, given the facts of the case.

“Citizenship merely involves legal interpretation while residency is factual or based on facts and evidence of residency. It is easier to prove or disprove the issue on residency because it is only a matter of counting the years and months when Senator Poe has been in the country,” said Macalintal, a known practitioner in election cases.

He said the reported draft decision could have a valid basis insofar as its silence on the citizenship issue is concerned.

The lawyer said there is no law pertaining to the status of foundlings as natural-born citizens.

“Since there is no law on foundlings, it is not for the court to make such law as its function is not legislative,” he explained.

Vistan shared this opinion.

“Perhaps, the justices realize that while the facts regarding the real parents of Senator Poe are not permanent, the lack of 10-year residency will not change,” Vistan said.

He expressed belief there is strong evidence to prove that Poe had failed to meet the residency requirement.

“Whatever the decision of the SC will be, all parties should be ready to accept it and abide by it,” he appealed.

Reports said the draft ruling upholds the Comelec disqualification of Poe for material misrepresentation in her certificate of candidacy by claiming she would meet the 10-year residency requirement before the May polls.

It was learned that the draft decision was silent on Poe’s eligibility as a natural-born citizen for being a foundling, since the justice-in-charge believes the SC can resolve the case without the need to rule on the issue.

Earlier, observers said among the probabilities is a middle-ground ruling that would declare Poe a natural-born citizen despite being a foundling, but affirm her disqualification in the presidential race for lack of 10-year residency as required in the Constitution.

In that case, Poe would be able to again run for president in the next elections in 2022.

Gatchalian said Poe refused to comment on the draft SC ruling.

“She is urging everyone to respect the SC and its members, and refrain from speculating because this only results to more confusion,” Gatchalian said.

Poe continued with her campaign this week, starting with a visit to Tuguegarao City, followed by Angeles and San Fernando in Pampanga.

 After a two-day break, Poe and her runningmate Sen. Francis Escudero would visit Zamboanga City tomorrow.

 Stolen SS number denied

Poe’s camp has denied a report that she used two social security numbers when she was living in the US.

Gatchalian said that there was no truth to the report that the presidential candidate used a dead person’s social security number.

Poe said the issue could be clarified and settled by asking the US embassy in Manila.

“I used one social security number with the name Grace Poe Llamanzares,” Poe said, at the same time hoping the issue was not part of dirty politics.

Gatchalian said the social security number cited in the news report was Poe’s student identification number when she was enrolled in Boston College.

“That number (005-003-1988) corresponds to her enrolment date into the college,” he said.

The mayor described the report as another mutation of the black propaganda against Poe. “The details of the news article are without basis and absurd,” Gatchalian said.

“It’s sad that our opponents’ desperation has caused them to come up with ridiculous stories meant to confuse the voters and tarnish the good name of Senator Poe,” he added.

Gatchalian said there was no reason for Poe to secure a fake social security number, as her stay in the US was legal.

Commitment to NPC

Poe was urged yesterday to reveal the commitments she made, if any, to the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and its founder and chairman emeritus, billionaire businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

Rep. Fernando Hicap of party-list group Anakpawis made the appeal three days after the NPC adopted Poe and Escudero as its presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Hicap said his group was concerned over possible commitments the two senators made to Cojuangco and his coalition in exchange for NPC’s endorsement.

He reminded the candidates that Cojuangco was associated with the late president Ferdinand Marcos and had control over several companies funded from the coconut levy of farmers.

Meanwhile, local NPC members in Negros Occidental are free to choose their own presidential candidates to support, despite the announcement of the party’s national leadership that it supports Poe and Escudero.

Kabankalan City Mayor Isidro Zayco, NPC Negros Occidental chairman, said they have an arrangement with the national NPC leadership that it’s going to be a “free zone” in the province.

Zayco is supporting Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II and his runningmate Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., former NPC Negros chairman, and Vice Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, also an NPC member, are supporting Roxas and Robredo. 

Rep. Evelio Leonardia, NPC chairman for Bacolod, and sixth district Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, also an NPC member, have yet to declare their bets in the elections. – With Marvin Sy, Jess Diaz, Danny Dangcalan, Christina Mendez, Ric Sapnu, Ding Cervantes

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