Sen. Grace Poe virtually rode an emotional roller-coaster on the day the Senate Electoral Tribunal convened on Tuesday to decide her fate.
Just as the nine-member tribunal were cloistered in a conference room at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City (Metro Manila), Poe’s voice cracked as she addressed the crowd that gathered to see her in the flesh in a public market in Calamba City (Laguna).
The previous day, she admitted to reporters that she was jittery and nervous on how events would turn out.
The electoral tribunal was deciding on the quo warranto petition of radio commentator Rizalito David, who assailed Poe’s qualification to sit in the Senate.
David claimed that Poe failed to meet the natural-born citizenship requirement mandated by the 1987 Constitution.
He argued that being foundling, the senator could not be considered a natural-born citizen.
Sources said Poe’s close advisers had made a headcount and the numbers did not look good. They reportedly expected the voting to go 5-4 against the 47-year-old senator, who is running for President in next year’s elections.
“[Senator] Nancy [Binay] was a giveaway. She’ll vote for her disqualification. Justice [Antonio] Carpio had telegraphed his views on the case and the two other justices [Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion] were expected to go with him. And then there was Bam [Aquino], the cousin of the President [Benigno Aquino 3rd] and a member of the Liberal Party,” a source of The Manila Times said. “The other members of the [electoral tribunal]are her fellow senators. They won’t let her down.”
A few hours later, Poe’s mood shifted. She reportedly even jumped for joy after she was informed that the verdict was out–it’s 5-4 as expected–but in her favor.
Speculations were rife that it was Aquino’s vote that the tide for Poe.
Bam Aquino 4th — son of Paul Aquino, the youngest brother of the late former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. — voted to dismiss David’s petition together with Senators Vicente Sotto 3rd, Loren Legarda, Pia Cayetano and Cynthia Villar.
Liberal Party [LP] spokesman Romero Quimbo was quick in saying that the turn of events is proof that the administration party had nothing to do with the disqualification cases filed against Poe, who leads all pre-election surveys for President and Vice President.
“The [tribunal’s] decision erases all doubts about the credibility of the different processes that her candidacy is facing. It likewise clearly establishes that the Liberal Party is not part of any conspiracy to have her disqualified, as some have been spreading. The lone LP member of the [tribunal], Sen Bam Aquino, voted in her favor,” Quimbo said.
“Observe the voting. It was Senator Bam’s vote that became decisive in her favor,” he added.
Aquino 4th on Wednesday maintained that the LP never tried to influence him in making a decision on Poe’s case.
“In fairness to the party, they did not try to influence me. They gave me the space to make a very important decision,” he said.
When asked if he had difficulties coming up with the decision considering that disqualifying Poe would somehow benefit LP standard- bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd, Aquino replied that he adheres to the principle of “daang matuwid” (straight path), which is to do what is right and fair.
Aquino 4th said Poe’s case would not only affect her but also thousands of foundlings in the country.
“Foundlings currently and in the future will not have the same rights as natural-born citizens if I sided with the view that foundlings are not natural-born citizens,” he explained, saying he voted against Poe’s disqualification for the sake of the foundlings.
“Hindi ko makuhang bumoto sa isang desisyon na makakaperwisyo sa mga abandonadong mga bata [I cannot allow myself to vote on a decision that could bring harm to abandoned children],” Aquino 4th said.
The tribunal’s ruling is appealable within 10 days.
David said he would elevate the case to the Supreme Court.
His lawyer, Manuelito Luna, said they will formally appeal the ruling on Monday.
The case before the electoral tribunal is separate from the five disqualification cases filed against Poe with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Petitioners in the Comelec cases questioned Poe’s citizenship and residency indicated in the certificate of candidacy for President.
Yacap party-list Rep. Carol Lopez warned Poe that the fight is far from over.
“[The tribunal] is not the final arbiter. The Supreme Court is the one to define the letters of the law on this issue,” Lopez pointed out.
David’s counsel Luna said the dissenting opinion of the three justice-members of the tribunal will have a “big impact” on the pending Comelec cases.
He added that they are expecting the Comelec to resolve the cases late this month or not later than the second week of December.
Poe’s cases were submitted for resolution last November 13.
Under the Comelec’s rules of procedure, the commissioners must resolve the case within 15 to 30 days.