Petitioner in Poe DQ case confident of victory

Aie Balagtas See, Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) is likely to strictly apply provisions in the Constitution and shun “sophisticated theories of interpretation” in a possible ruling upholding the disqualification of Sen. Grace Poe from the presidential race by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

A lawyer for a petitioner for Poe’s disqualification made the observation as he expressed confidence in getting the SC to decide against the senator’s eligibility to join the presidential race in May.

“I can sense that our position will be upheld by the SC. This is so because in constitutional cases, the Court would more often than not literally apply the Constitution,” Manuelito Luna, lawyer of petitioner former senator Francisco Tatad, said in a statement yesterday.

“Sophisticated theories of interpretation are not preferred – the Constitution being a people’s document rather than a lawyer’s document,” he stressed.

Luna, who participated in the oral arguments held by the high court on Poe’s case, insisted that “a literal reading of the text of the fundamental law is the safer approach.”

The lawyer said he believes the disqualification of Poe would be acceptable to a majority of Filipinos.

“Predictably, the majority of the people will never accept a former American with an American family in tow, running for president in this country,” he added.

The high court is expected to tackle and possibly rule on the case next Tuesday, March 8.

Reports said a draft SC ruling upholds the Comelec ruling disqualifying 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, however, that the alleged draft decision was silent on the issue of Poe’s being a foundling and possibly not a natural-born Filipino citizen. A magistrate has reportedly raised the possibility that they can rule on the disqualification case without having to tackle the citizenship issue.

In Zamboanga City during a campaign sortie, Poe rebuffed reports on her alleged meeting with former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano in Cagayan de Oro recently.

In a press briefing, Poe said dealing with the former Comelec chief would be an insult to the memory of her father, action star Fenando Poe Jr.

“If there’s anyone that he should avoid, it’s me,” she said, referring to the poll official who shot to notoriety when a recorded conversation between him and then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – about their supposed plot to manipulate the results of the 2004 presidential elections – was leaked to the media.

‘Less in life, more in law’

Being a foundling, Poe deserves all the help she can get under the legal system as “those who have less in life should have more in law,” her runningmate Sen. Francis Escudero said, citing a famous quote from president Ramon Magsaysay.

He said a decision favorable to Poe would recognize the inherent rights of foundlings to hold high office. It will also remove the social stigma hundreds of thousands of abandoned children suffer.

He lauded Solicitor General Florin Hilbay for defending Poe during oral arguments on her case.

In defending the natural-born status of foundlings, Escudero quoted Hilbay’s stand and called on the SC not to commit the error of interpreting the Constitution “without reference to history, structure and social context.”

“To deny foundlings the most fundamental of their political rights because their class is not expressly mentioned in the Constitution is a simplistic and lackadaisical way to interpret the Constitution,” the senator said, quoting Hilbay.

In Mandaue City in Cebu, Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II said opposition rival Vice President Jejomar Binay would greatly benefit from a disqualification of Poe.

While conceding that most of her supporters would likely swing to Binay in the event of her disqualification, he said he hopes to get a significant portion of the votes for her.

“I might gain a significant portion of the votes for Poe but the biggest chunk could go to him (Binay),” Roxas told reporters here.

Poe earlier accused the ruling LP of masterminding efforts to have her removed from the presidential race after she declined President Aquino’s offer to be the administration vice presidential bet.  – With Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero

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