Senator given five days to get TRO
Sen. Grace Poe’s name would be stricken off the official list of candidates for President if she failed to get a temporary restraining order (TRO) or any other relief from the Supreme Court (SC) within five calendar days from date of receipt of the en banc’s disqualification order.
“They have to get a TRO once it is an en banc decision from the Supreme Court so that their names will not be removed from the list,” Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Juan Andres Bautista on Wednesday said after the promulgation of the en banc decisions affirming earlier resolutions by the First Division and the Second Division that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino citizen and failed to meet the minimum 10-year residency requirement.
Poe, in a statement, said she expected the ruling.
“I was not surprised with decision of the Comelec en banc. It was expected and I remain undaunted by it. I am a Filipino and qualified to offer myself as President of our country. The Comelec cannot change that, much less deprive our people of their right to choose our next leader.
“We will follow the process and the next and final battleground is in the Supreme Court. I am hopeful and confident that our magistrates, based on jurisprudence and precedents, will be objective and fair in their discernment of my case and, in the end, will let the Filipino people decide who our next President will be.
“Until the high tribunal’s final ruling is out, I remain a candidate for President of the Filipino people,” her statement read.
The First Division is headed by Senior Commissioner Christian Robert Lim with Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Luie Tito Guia as members. It handled the consolidated case filed by former senator Francisco Tatad, political science professor Antonio Contreras and former law school dean Amado Valdez. It earlier voted 2-1 to disqualify Poe.
In the First Division case, the commission en banc voted 5-2. Bautista and Lim dissented.
The Second Division, on the other hand, is headed by Commissioner Al Parreno as chairman with Commissioners Arthur Lim and Shariff Abas as members. It handled the petition filed by lawyer Estrella Elamparo and voted 3-0 to disqualify Poe.
But in the en banc, the commissioners ruled 5-1-1. The dissenting opinion was again cast by Bautista while Lim inhibited because Elamparo was an associate in his former law firm.
The Comele en banc is composed of Bautista, Christian Lim, Arthur Lim, Guanzon, Abas, Guia and Parreno.
Bautista explained that aside from a TRO, the SC may also issue a mandatory injunction or a status quo ante order, saying any of the three remedies would compel the Comelec to comply.
“But after everything has been said and done, come January we start printing the ballots. We will look at the state of affairs and look what orders come from the Supreme Court and we will follow [them],” the Comelec chief added.
Commissioner Lim clarified that five calendar-day rule includes holidays but if the last or fifth day falls on a holiday, it would be moved to the next working day as provided under Rule 27 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure.
“Whether or not the Supreme Court is in session, if there is no TRO, we have to remove them. We start editing on January 8,” Lim said. “From the technological standpoint, [in]January will start removing the names from the list.”
But counsel for Poe, lawyer George Garcia, questioned the five-day rule set by the Comelec, saying under the Omnibus Election Code, “it is 30 days from the decision.”
“According to the Rules of Procedure of the Comelec, it is only five days. Look at Section 257 of Omnibus Election Code, even the Constitution, it is 30 days from decision,” Garcia said, adding that if the Comelec would implement it immediately after five days, “we would include it in our MR to the Supreme Court to convince the court to issue a TRO.”
He said the five-day rule is based on Comelec procedure while the 30-day rule is based on substantive law.
“If there is a conflict between [Comelec] procedure and substantive law, the latter will prevail,” according to Garcia.
He explained that the Comelec decision is not executory and as such it could not remove the name of Poe pending final resolution by the SC.
Also according to Garcia, the Comelec procedure was also wrong because it did not consolidate all four cases, which would force them to seek two TROs from the SC.
But Bautista maintained that the en banc decision is executory within five days in the absence of a TRO from the High Court.
“Just because there is a pending case it is not a ground for us not to implement an executory decision of the commission en banc. There has to be an order from the Supreme Cort like temporary restraining order, mandatory injunction or status quo ante order,” he said.
Great disservice to the people
Meanwhile, the Gawa at Prinsipyo Coalition, in a statement, said it would be a grave disservice to Filipinos if the Comelec prematurely excluded Poe’s name from the list because she is clearly a natural-born Filipino and has been a resident of the Philippines for more than 10 years.
“While we are not surprised with the final outcome of the decision of the en banc on Sen. Grace Poe’s certificate of candidacy, we are surprised with the timing [of]this decision given that it is already the holiday season,” it added.
“Christmas is about hope. Do not kill our hope, dear commissioners, Keep Poe’s name in the ballot,” it added.
Palace hoping for fair ruling
Malacanang also on Wednesday expressed hope that the High Court will issue a fair ruling on Poe’s disqualification case.
“In our system of laws, decisions on qualifications of presidential candidates are made by the Comelec and are appealable to the Supreme Court as the final arbiter,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.
“We join our people’s hope and trust that any decision[s]that will eventually be rendered on the matter are imbued with fairness and justice,” he added.
With JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA and CATHERINE S. VALENTE