A disqualification case was filed on Monday against Sen. Grace Poe before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for allegedly misrepresenting her qualifications when she ran for a Senate seat in 2013.
Radio commentator Rizalito David, a former legislative staff officer of former senator Francisco Tatad, filed the case.
He earlier filed a petition asking the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) to unseat her on similar ground.
In his 20-page petition, David said, “The material facts include her statement of being a natural-born Filipino citizen, her period of residence in the Philippines before 13 May 2013, and her being eligible for the office she sought to be elected to.”
According to him, the senator violated Section 262 in relation to Section 74 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) for allegedly misrepresenting the facts of her citizenship, period of residence in the country before the 2013 polls and her eligibility to be elected as senator.
“When Llamanzares falsely stated the facts in her COC [certificate of candidacy], she committed an election offense and thus may be proceeded against for a criminal prosecution under Section 262 in relation to Section 74 of the Omnibus Election Code,” David said as he used Poe’s married last name in his pleading.
David anchored his argument on a 2007 ruling of the Supreme Court in Lluz vs. Comelec which states, “In case there is a material misrepresentation in the certificate of candidacy, the Comelec is authorized to deny due course to or cancel such certificate upon the filing of a petition by any person pursuant to Section 78.”
David explained that although the law does not specify what would be considered as a material representation, the court has interpreted it in a line decision applying Section 78 of the OEC, when it stated, “Therefore, it may be concluded that the material misrepresentation contemplated by Section 78 of the code refers to qualification for elective office.
“This conclusion is strengthened by the fact that the consequences imposed upon a candidate guilty of having made a false representation in [the]certificate of candidacy are grave to prevent the candidate from running or, if elected, from serving, or to prosecute him for violation of the election laws…”
From the foregoing, David pointed out, “The SC emphasized that before any complainant can proceed to prosecute any criminal offense… the false representation must be material, such as the entries must pertain to qualifications of the candidate and not just innocuous matters such as professing or husband’s family name.”
David also cited Section 3, Article VI of the Constitution, which prohibits a person to run as senator unless he is a natural-born Filipino citizen and, on the day of the election, is at least 35 years of age, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.
He said Poe misrepresented the facts of her being a natural-born citizen and her period of being a resident of the Philippines.
“Having misrepresented two facts about her qualifications, Llamanzares naturally committed another offense when she categorically stated that she is eligible for the office she sought to be elected to,” David added.
He presented copies of Poe’s COC, petition for retention and/or reacquisition of Philippine citizenship and travel information in support of his petition.
David, moreover, mentioned that as a foundling, and under Section 3, Article IV of the 1935 Constitution, she can only be natural-born Filipino citizen from birth if her father is a Filipino citizen.
“However, there is no evidence that she has a known Filipino father. Thus, being a foundling, or a child with unknown biological parents at birth up to the present time, she cannot claim or acquire the status of a natural-born citizen,” the petition read.
Regarding her citizenship, David said that Poe is an alien from the time she went to the US in 1991 and became an American citizen in October 2001 and until she returned to the Philippines under the assumption that she reacquired Filipino citizenship in July 2006.
The benefits of the Citizenship Reacquisition Act, he pointed out, are only available for former natural-born Filipino citizens.
Popularity breeds criticsPoe’s growing popularity has placed the pre-election survey leader in a virtual fish bowl where all eyes are glued on her in the run-up to the filing of certificates of candidacy for next year’s elections.
But Poe’s supporters in the House of Representatives are unperturbed with the turn of events.
“I am convinced that she is qualified to run for President. If she is not doing very well in the polls, no one would bother,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., also vice chairman of the administration-backed Liberal Party, said.
Belmonte was referring to Poe’s emergence as a viable 2016 bet, with pre-election surveys showing she is ahead by her potential rivals by at least 10 percent both in the presidential and vice presidential races.
“Clearly, the move is to discourage her from seeking a higher position at the same time to harass her. To my mind, the petition has no legal basis,” said Rep. Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-BAP party-list, who was Justice secretary in the Ramos administration said.
Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list smells ill motive on David’s filing of disqualification cases against Poe.
“These cases are jokes designed to vex and embarrass Grace Poe personally as this always strikes her heart and very existence,” Batocabe said.