President Benigno Aquino 3rd himself is getting confused over the eligibility of independent presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe, whom he once aggressively pursued to be the Administration’s vice presidential candidate in next year’s elections.
The point of “confusion” lies in Poe’s repeated use of her US passport even after she has supposedly renounced her US citizenship, Aquino said in an interview with the Philippine media in Italy.
Referring to the recent decision of the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) Second Division disqualifying Poe from running on the grounds that she lacked the required length of residency in the Philippines, Aquino told reporters:
“Hindi ako SET (Senate Electoral Tribunal), hindi ako Comelec, pareho silang independent bodies. Hindi rin ako Supreme Court. Pero parang nakikita ko ‘yung logic ‘nung sinasabi rito, [I’m not the SET, I’m not the Comelec – both of which are independent bodies. I’m also not the Supreme Court. But I think I see the logic in what they say about this matter.”
“There’s clarity, and at the same time it leads to so many more questions. And siguro [perhaps], in a sense, this particular problem is not up to my decision, [not]up to me to decide on,” he added.
The President said he has read the 35-page decision of the Comelec Second Division on Poe’s case three times while on a visit to Europe, but still was “not clear on some points.”
Another confusing point, he said, apart from Poe’s use of her American passport, is a document issued by then Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez Jr., which refers to Poe as having been born to Filipino parents and, therefore, presumed to be a natural-born Philippine citizen.
However, Aquino said, given that Poe is a foundling and has not established the identity of her parents, he wonders how she plans to prove their nationality.
Reminded about his earlier attempt to convince Poe to be the running mate of the Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd, the President said he was not aware at that time of Poe’s repeated use of her US passport.
“At the time that we discussed this, it wasn’t as detailed as what is presented here. For instance, ‘yung mga trips ‘nung ‘09, I don’t think we discussed that. She kept telling me that she had a panel of lawyers who had studied the matter and they were ready to answer any and all questions and I took it at face value,” he said.
Aquino said as of now, he has sought a briefing from Justice Secretary Alfred Caguioa, Executive Secretary Paquito Ocha and other lawyers, about Poe’s eligibility.
Denies LP involvement in DQs
Meanwhile, Aquino denied that the LP was behind the disqualification cases against Poe, pointing out that the Administration had wanted her to join the ticket.
“Ipaalala ko lang, ang tagal naming nililigawan si Grace and, for that matter, Senator [Francis] Escudero, to be part of the Administration ticket. Now, having said that, ‘di ba parang ipinapaalala sa atin ng mga kapartido natin ang unang naglabas nito spokesperson ng UNA [United Nationalist Alliance], si Toby Tiangco raw,” he pointed out.
“So, siyempre, kung ikaw ang nagkaroon ng unfavorable ruling, para bang saan kaya nagmula ito?” Aquino added.
Grace Poe in ballot
Pending the final ruling by the Supreme Court on the various protests against her candidacy, the name of Sen. Grace Poe as presidential candidate should be included in the ballot, former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said.
“Finally, all protests against the candidacy of Sen. Grace Poe will eventually go to the Supreme Court. Unless the high court rules swiftly, the Comelec has no other choice but to finalize the ballot. I urge the poll body to include her name in the ballot,” Brillantes told a forum on Saturday.
The Second Division of the Comelec has ruled 3-0, declaring Poe’s residential requirement defective. “Now, the case is elevated to the en banc. Regardless of the decision, the case is again appealable before the Supreme Court,” he said.
“The SC has to move fast, resolve the issue immediately before Dec. 15,” he added.
He said the election body should not wait for the final decision of the SC to decide whether to include Poe in the 2016 ballot.
Three cases against Poe are pending before the Comelec. The case at the Senate Election Tribunal has been decided in Poe’s favor, though the complainant, Rizalito David, said he plans to question the decision at the Supreme Court.
Poe’s lawyers said they will appeal the unfavorable case decided by the Comelec’s Second Division on Monday and hence, the case will go to the en banc.
Meanwhile, more hurdles are ahead for Poe. Lawyer Estrella Elamparo has filed a motion to exclude her name from the 2016 ballot. The motion is still pending.
Brillantes said the Comelec is now rushing the final list of candidates so that printing of the ballots could start. Officially, the election period starts on Jan. 10, 2016. On Feb. 9, the campaign period for President, vice president, senators, and partylists begins. For local government bets, March 25 is the start of the campaign.
“By Jan. 15, printing of the ballots will commence. So, that’s it. No more alterations. But of course, the configuration of printing plates should have been finalized weeks before then,” he said.
The Comelec’s Second Division ruled that Poe lacked the required 10-year residency rule for a candidate for President.
Poe, in her certificate of senatorial candidacy (CoC) in 2012, wrote that she had been in the country for six years and six months. The disparity appeared when just recently, in her CoC for President, she said she has been residing in the country for 10 years and 11 months instead of nine years and six months.
“When she returned in 2005, she did not renounce her US citizenship. In 2006, she finally applied for dual citizenship. If you do a count, she has been a resident for nine years only. But, she does not know how to count. It was an honest mistake. Committing a mistake is different from telling a lie. She did that in good faith. Was there a false representation in her CoC?” asked Brillantes rhetorically. He added that Poe’s lawyer, George Garcia, can ably handle the case.