Sen. Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares on Wednesday insisted that she is qualified to run for a higher elective position in next year’s elections as she debunked issues raised by the spokesman for the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) who claimed she fails to meet the residency requirement for anyone wishing to become the nation’s leader.
“Hindi totoo na ako ay hindi kuwalipikado. Kuwalipikado po ako pero hindi pa ako kandidato at hanggang ngayon, ang iba nga may commercial na, ako naman po ay nag-iisip at nagninilay-nilay pa [It’s not true that I’m not qualified. I am qualified but I’m not yet a candidate. While there are those who already have television and radio commercials on air promoting themselves, I’m still thinking about my options],” she told reporters.
Poe studied and lived in the United States and even acquired American citizenship, which she renounced when she went home for good after her actor-father, action star Fernando Poe Jr. or FPJ, died in late 2004.
She said she meets the Constitution’s 10-year residency requirement for candidates for President and Vice President.
“I was already here since 2005. My children’s school records would show that they were already enrolled in schools here at the time. Even the title to the house we acquired here would prove that. I wrote 6 months and 6 days in my certificate of candidacy in the 2013 elections because our house in the US was sold in April 2006. I thought then, the question might have been referring to that,” the senator said in Filipino.
Poe’s statement was sought by reporters on Wednesday, a day after Navotas City (Metro Manila) Rep. Tobias Tiangco, interim president of UNA, made a public statement that the senator is technically disqualified to run for either President or Vice President in the 2016 elections because she falls short of the residency requirement.
Tiangco denied that UNA was trying to convince Poe to be the running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay in next year’s elections.
When asked about his motive for questioning Poe’s qualifications, he was adamant that it was not about Poe’s rejection of a tandem with Binay but a matter of honesty that the senator has been repeatedly raising.
Poe signed the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee report that recommended the filing of plunder charges against Binay largely based on unexplained wealth because the Vice President has not been transparent in dealing with corruption allegations hurled against him.
Answering Tiangco’s allegations, Poe said, “Why did I declare in my COC (Certificate of Candidacy) that I was a resident of the country for 6 years and 6 months? Because that was my count before May 2013. The question did not indicate if it was by May 2013 or on May 2013.”
She added that by experience, she had to be prudent in providing information to the Comelec.
“That’s why I made October 2012 or the day of the filing of COCs as the end period of my actual residency,” she said also in Filipino.
“I’m not a lawyer but I’m honest and truthful. If you count the time I’ve been here in the country, I’m already way above the years that the law requires. So if the opposition says that I lack residency, there are many people who could attest that I’ve been here longer than what was required,” Poe added.
She admitted that she felt slighted by accusations that she was dishonest.
“Taglay ko po ang katotohanan, hindi po ako nagtatago sa inyo. Kaya nga po hindi ko kinakailangan magtago sa likod ng isang tagapagsalita [I have the truth and I’m not hiding from anyone. That is also why I need not hide behind the back of a spokesman],” she said.
Poe also admitted that the opposition’s tactics questioning her eligibility are pushing her to make a decision about her political plans.
“I admit that with all these happening, I’m constrained to spend more time thinking about my plans. I think my decision process was still at 50 percent, but now I’m being pushed to get closer to 100 percent,” she said.
When asked to comment about issues raised regarding her citizenship, Poe disclosed that Sen. Francis Escudero had suggested that she answer the question by saying, “Ako hindi Pilipino? Eh yung height ko nga, yung ilong ko Pilipinong-Pilipino [I’m not Filipino? My height and my nose are giveaways that I’m truly a Filipino].”
The Vice President said he had nothing to do with Tiangco’s statements against Poe.
In a radio interview, Binay said it was the congressman who told him that Poe was allegedly short of the residency requirement as early as two months ago.
“Sabi ko sa kanya, Toby, ‘wag ka nang nang makialam diyan, pabayaan mo na lang iba ang magsabi niyan. Eh kagabi nagulat ako, may nagsabi sa akin sinabi ni Toby ganito-ganito. Sa bagay na ‘yan kung bakit nasabi ni Toby e tanong niyo na lamang sa kaniya.
“Ayaw ko nang makisawsaw diyan and, unang-una mahal ko pa rin si FPJ. Maigi po ‘yun maraming kandidato para makapamili ang tao. Pangalawa, hindi ko ugaling, kababaeng tao pa naman, kumare ko pang buo ‘yan [I told him, ‘Toby, don’t meddle in that. Let the others says that.’ But last night I was surprised when somebody told me that that Toby already made a statement. In that case, as to why Toby still did that, just ask him directly. I don’t want to dip my hands into that. In the first place, I still love FPJ. It would be good if more candidates will come out so that the people would have more choices. Second, it’s not my style to pick a fight especially with women, and she’s even close to me],” he added.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI