It would be 5-1 and Grace Poe’s out.
This was the fearless forecast over the weekend of former elections commission chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on how the six members of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would vote on an appeal to reverse separate decisions of the poll body’s two divisions canceling the certificate of candidacy (COC) for President of Poe, an independent aspirant.
“Based on the voting in the divisions, we already know what will be the vote in the en banc, assuming nobody would change their votes,” Brillantes said.
He is the immediate past chairman of the Comelec.
The 76-year-old legal eagle led the poll body from January 2011 until his term expired in February this year.
An expert in election laws, Brillantes was counsel to many known politicians including the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., who also faced disqualification when he ran for President in 2004.
The younger Poe is facing multiple disqualification cases—all assailing her claim in her COC that she is a natural-born citizen and a resident of the country for 10 years.
The Constitution requires the nation’s President to meet the two conditions.
Petitioners wanting to disqualify Poe from next year’s elections argue that for being a f oundling with no known biological Filipino parents, she could not lay claim to being a natural-born citizen.
They also insist that based on her 2013 COC for senator, Poe is short of the 10-year residency requirement.
She has filed a motion for reconsideration before the en banc, appealing the 3-0 decision of the Second Division, which granted the petition of lawyer Estrella Elamparo to cancel her COC.
The Second Division ruled that Poe made a “material misrepresentation” in her COC when she said she has been a resident of the Philippines for “10 years and 11 months.”
The senator, in her appeal, claimed she made an honest mistake in filling up her 2013 COC as she has been a resident of the country since May 2005.
The Poe camp also appealed the 2-1 decision of the First Division granting petitions filed by former senator Francisco Tatad, former law school dean Amado Valdes and political science professor Antonio Contreras.
Both the First and Second Divisions ruled to cancel Poe’s COC for President.
The Comelec en banc will be handing down separate decisions on the two appeals as it junked a motion by Poe’s lawyers to consolidate the cases.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista earlier said they would not consolidate the cases as it is not mandatory on their part to make such move.
Commissioner Christian Robert Lim had announced that he will inhibit in the Second Division deliberations as Elamparo was an associate in a law firm where he was a partner when he was still in private practice.
Lim, however, will participate in deliberations of the First Division, which he heads.
Brillantes said the seemingly overwhelming odds against Poe will not be the end of her quest to reach Malacañang in 2016.
He added that the senator could still bring her case to the Supreme Court (SC) as a last resort.
Brillantes’ statement echoed what Poe’s supporters earlier said they are not expecting to get a favorable ruling from the Comelec and are readying to take the legal fight to the SC.
Sen. Francis Escudero, Poe’s running mate, said he expects the High Court would rule in her favor, considering that it already ruled on a similar case in 2004.
Escudero was referring to a disqualification case filed against Poe’s father, actor Fernando Poe Jr. or FPJ.
The senator acted as FPJ’s spokesman during the actor’s presidential campaign.
Escudero noted that if the SC in 2004 ruled to allow Poe to run for President, there is no reason why the high tribunal would have a different decision in the case of the actor’s adopted daughter.
The SC in its 2004 ruling said the decision on who will be the next President of the country should be left to the sovereign Filipino people.
“We should not leave to the unelected members of this court the power and right to decide who the next President will be. That decision is best left to the sovereign Filipino people,” Escudero quoting the SC decision said.
Meanwhile, Brillantes said while Poe failed to get a favorable ruling on her residency requirement, she won the citizenship issue particularly her being a natural-born Filipino based on the rulings of the divisions.
The Second Division ruling noted that Poe, who is a foundling, cannot be faulted for believing that she is a natural-born citizen and that the division cannot rule on allegations that she misled the Comelec for claiming that she is a natural-born Filipino.
Brillantes said with three members of the Second Division and one member of the First Division agreeing that Poe did not mislead the commission when she stated that she is a natural-born citizen, the senator already has four votes in the en banc.
The citizenship issue against Poe has been a major stumbling block for her presidential bid but she is not alone in her search for her biological parents.
Just recently a former judge from Bacolod City, offered a P300,000 reward to anyone who could offer solid and credible information which could help identify the biological parents of the senator.
Judge Jesus Nograles Rodriguez Jr. on Saturday announced that he and his friends will give P300,000 to anyone who will come forward and provide information that could help put an end to the citizenship issue of the senator.
Rodriguez clarified that his move is not politically motivated and that he is not even a supporter of Poe.
He said he just wants to help put an end to the issue.
Poe thanked the retired judge and all those who helped put up the reward to help find her biological parents.
“It is no secret that I have spent many years trying to find my biological parents. All foundlings want to know who their real parents are. All foundlings go through a difficult process, growing up—as a child, as a teenager and even as an adult—they wonder, they ask. I am no different. I went through the same ordeal. I have been yearning to know,” she said in a statement.
Poe added she had been to Iloilo several times and have met with relatives and family friends in an earnest effort to know the truth, even before the citizenship issue was brought out and is now being used by her opponents to question her qualifications for President.
“I have also maintained that there is a higher purpose to this, which is to fight for the equal rights of children. This is not just my fight to remain in contention for the presidency. The state should not discriminate based on circumstances of one’s birth,” she said.