THE senior justices of the Supreme Court (SC) who were asked by Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares to inhibit themselves from deciding on her disqualification cases are standing their ground and will participate in the hearings.
According to The Manila Times sources, Senior SC Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Arturo Brion maintain that Poe’s disqualification case will be decided by the high court based on its merits and that the three justices will participate, deliberate and vote on the issue.
The case involves the Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision disqualifying the senator from running for president in 2016 due to questions about her citizenship and residency.
Two Comelec cases have been elevated to the SC. These are GR No. 221697 entitled Poe vs. Comelec and Estrella Elamparo and GR No. 221698-700 entitled Poe vs Comelec, Francisco Tatad, Antonio Contreras and Amado Valdez.
The cases disqualify Poe as a presidential candidate for the May 2016 elections due to her American citizenship and Philippine residency being short of the 10-year period required. In both cases, Poe is the petitioner after the Comelec has disqualified her, which compelled the senator to ask the SC for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the poll body’s decision canceling her certificate of candidacy (COC).
However, the only case in which Carpio, De Castro and Brion shall inhibit will be in the case of Rizalito David vs Poe and the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), since the three magistrates participated in and ruled for the ouster of Poe as a sitting senator due to her American citizenship. In this case, Poe is the respondent since she won before the SET.
One SC source told the Times that the three SC justices will not inhibit in the two Poe cases in the high court for the simple reason that the case against Poe in the SET questions her qualification as a senator while the Comelec case questions her qualifications as a presidential candidate.
Another source pointed out the many differences between Poe’s case from the SET and the one from the Comelec in terms of the parties involved, facts of the case, and the specific reliefs sought.
“The Comelec and SET cases have different parties, different tribunals of origin, different election years, different elective positions, different reliefs prayed for SET is to disqualify as a sitting senator, Comelec is to disqualify as presidential candidate,” the SC source said.
In the event that the three SC justices do recuse themselves, it would mean that the SC en banc or the 15 magistrates of the high court shall decide on the Comelec’s disqualification of Poe and only 12 justices shall participate in the deliberation and voting on Poe’s case coming from the SET.
Poe has already lodged a motion for inhibition against the three justices before the high court, but the recusal shall be voluntary in nature.
With this, all the 15 SC justices are expected to vote on January 12, 2016, the first SC en banc session for the year, whether or not the TRO issued by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno should be confirmed by the majority of the SC justices.
The TRO was issued by Sereno since the SC was on recess at the time the petition was received. It was issued upon the recommendation of the ponente of the cases, namely Associate Justices Mariano Del Castillo and Marvic Leonen.
Leonen is also the ponente in a separate case emanating from the SET.
In Poe’s petitions before the SC, through lawyer George Garcia, she seeks to set aside a reversal of the rulings of the Comelec’s First Division, which disqualified her on the natural-born Filipino requirement, and the Second Division, which disqualified her also on the citizenship requirement as well as the 10-year residency requirement.
On the other hand, in a petition for certiorari filed by David, he assailed the ruling of the SET declaring Poe natural born “despite the absence of proof of blood ties to a Filipino father or mother.”
David questions Poe’s reacquisition of her Philippine citizenship, which is considered an act showing that she is a natural-born Filipino even after she had applied for and declared herself a US citizen.
Poe has said that she is a foundling from Iloilo, adopted by celebrity couple Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces. She later migrated to the United States but eventually returned to the Philippines and was elected senator in 2013.
Voting 5-4, the Senate Electoral Tribunal denied David’s petition to disqualify Poe as senator. Five of the SET members voted to recognize the rights of an adopted child and to uphold Poe’s status as a natural-born Filipino.