SC dissent: Grace lacks residency eligibility

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Grace Poe lacks the 10-year residency requirement to run for president, according to a Supreme Court (SC) magistrate.

In a 70-page dissenting opinion obtained by reporters yesterday from an insider, Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was correct in canceling the candidacy of Poe for material misrepresentation on her residency eligibility.

Del Castillo, along with five other justices, voted to dismiss Poe’s petition seeking to overturn the unanimous Comelec ruling during deliberations on Tuesday.

Del Castillo, whose opinion was initially the draft ruling of the high court until outvoted by a majority of nine justices, rejected Poe’s defense of honest mistake when she entered “6 years and 6 months” in her 2012 certificate of candidacy (COC) for the 2013 senatorial race, which would have made her residency less than 10 years by May 2016.

Del Castillo believes that “these public statements were for the purpose of representing to the general public that the petitioner is eligible to run for president since they were made at a time when she was already contemplating on running for the position.”

“These statements could even be interpreted as part of Poe’s misrepresentation regarding her qualification and eligibility to run for president,” he said.

Del Castillo said Poe should have made the correction “at the earliest opportunity before the proper forum.”

The magistrate disagreed with the majority ruling, saying the high court should have concluded that Poe “knowingly made a false material representation in her 2015 COC sufficient to mislead the electorate into believing that she is eligible and qualified to become president.”

Del Castillo believes Poe failed to present evidence that would show she had intended to re-establish a new domicile in the Philippines prior to taking her oath of allegiance to the Philippines on July 7, 2006.

“Since the petitioner took her oath of allegiance in July 2006 and renounced her US citizenship in October 2010, both less than 10 years prior to the May 9 elections, she could no longer prove compliance with the 10-year residency requirement,” he pointed out.

Del Castillo said Poe’s claim was “shrouded in doubt” in light of her maintaining a house in the US, which she bought in 1992, and the subsequent purchase of a residential house in the US in 2008, three years after her claimed intent to remain in the country for an indefinite period of time.

Poe’s stay in the Philippines starting from May 24, 2005 was not permanent and could not be included in counting the length of her residency because she arrived here as an alien with a balikbayan visa, according to Del Castillo.

“It was merely temporary. At most, her stay in the Philippines would only be for one year (under Republic Act 6768). This only proves that her stay was not impressed with animus manendi, i.e. the intent to remain in or at the domicile of choice for an indefinite period of time,” he stressed.

The justice said Poe’s acquisition of a condominium unit in San Juan and a house and lot in Corinthian Hills, Quezon City did not establish domicile as it could just be for investment purposes, citing the February 2013 decision on Jalosjos vs Comelec.

Del Castillo believes Poe only renounced her US citizenship to meet the requirement for her appointment as chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

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