INDEPENDENT presidential bet Sen. Grace Poe admitted on Thursday that she would not have been facing obstacles to her candidacy had she agreed to accept the Administration party’s offer for her to run as the running mate of its standard-bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd.
Poe, however, said she does not regret her decision to seek the presidency, but she believes questions on her citizenship and residency would on her citizenship and residency would not be raised if she chose to take the easier path and run with the administration party.
While there will be others who will still file a case against her in case she agreed to run for Vice President, she added, they will not be as persistent in blocking her path as her detractors at present are.
“But I’m ready to face it. It is part of the challenge of being a candidate for President,” Poe told a news conference.
She is facing five disqualification cases at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) filed separately by radio commentator Rizalito David, lawyer Estrella Elamparo, former senator Francisco Tatad, De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras and former law school dean Amado Valdez.
The Comelec Second Division already ruled on Elamparo’s petition and ordered the cancelation of Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC) for President for her failure to meet the 10-year residency requirement of the 1987 Constitution.
Poe is set to file a motion for reconsideration on Monday before the Comelec en banc.
The other three petitions are being handled by the poll body’s First Division.
The senator pointed out that when she was being courted by two prominent political parties (Liberal Party and United Nationalist Alliance) her residency and citizenship were not an issue to them.
“But it is good that these issues came out so that I will have a chance to prove to our countrymen that I am a natural-born Filipino,” Poe said.
The senator during the news conference also took the opportunity to assure Filipinos that she is still a presidential candidate and even if the Comelec already ruled to disqualify her, the Supreme Court still has the final say on the case.
“What is important is that my name will not be removed from the ballot in order for you [voters]to have a chance to choose,” she said.
Poe expressed confidence that the High Court will render a favorable decision on her case similar to its decision on the disqualification case filed against her father, the late Fernando Poe Jr., when he ran for President in 2004.
The senator also admitted that her life would be easier if she would just back out from the race even before the campaign season starts but doing so would mean abandoning the aspirations of those who put her where she is now.
“I fight for the rights of the foundlings. Like the rest of you, they, too deserve recognition as natural-born citizens of our country. Like you, they too have rights second to none. Like you, they too deserve to occupy their rightful place in society. Like you, they too deserve an equal opportunity to serve our people and our country. And oh yes, I’m sure you have not forgotten, I too, am a foundling,” Poe said.
She thanked each senator-member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal—Vicente Sotto 3rd, Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th and Pilar “Pia” Cayetano—who voted for her and argued that foundlings born and raised in the Philippines are not naturalized or stateless, but natural-born citizens of the country who deserve similar entitlements, services and protection from the state.
Poe’s lawyer George Garcia said the Comelec should look beyond the COC and consider the other pieces of evidence her camp submitted to prove her “fact of residence” such as passport markings, tax identification number, purchase of property in the country and enrolment of her children in Philippine schools.
Garcia noted that out of the 400 pages of documents and pieces of evidence they submitted to prove that she has been a resident of the Philippine since 2005, not a single document or piece of evidence was discussed or considered by the Second Division.
Instead the division used Poe’s 2012 COC as the only basis for its decision to disqualify the senator.
No jumping ship
Senatorial candidates under the Poe ticket would stay with her through thick and thin.
In a joint statement, Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, former Makati City Vice Mayor Edu Manzano, lawyer Lorna Kapunan, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, former senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Richard Gordon, Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Samuel Pagdilao, Pasig City (Metro Manila) Rep. Roman Romulo and former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople expressed their continued full support to Poe.
“I am confident that Sen. Poe’s baptism of fire will soon be over. The Comelec en banc still has to rule on her motion. Her battle is not yet over until the High Court says so. She still has legal ammunition to back her up on this,” Pagdilao, a retired police general, said.
“The Comelec’s decision disregards the long line of precedents from the Supreme Court frowning upon disqualification cases based on sheer technicalities that tend to disregard the right of the sovereign people to [choose]their preferred leaders,” Kapunan said.
Romulo cited Poe’s intention to acquire a new domicile of choice (animus manendi) by her returning to the Philippines in the first half of 2005, the enrollment of her children here in June 2005, her purchase of a property in late 2005 and the construction of her family’s home in Quezon City in early 2006.
“Senator Grace Poe is qualified to run as President. I believe that the rule of law will reign in this process. In a democracy like ours, the electorate’s voice should decide. Sovereignty resides in the people, we must allow them to be heard,” Romulo said.
Colmenares argued that the Comelec decision reflects the social injustice under the Aquino administration.
“Efforts to bar Sen. Poe from running mirror the lack of social justice under the present dispensation. It shows the lack of an even playing field in this country especially when one is considered a threat to the administration,” he said.
Moreno said the Comelec panel trained its guns on Poe rather than on weird “candidates,” including one who claims to be an intergalactic earth ambassador and Lucifer.
“The disqualification cases were filed against Sen. Poe for the other camps to gain unfair advantage and deprive the voters of a chance to choose a competent and honest leader in fair elections. Of all those who filed for President, it was her case that was resolved first,” he noted.
Ople said Poe’s commitment to the legal process and full faith in the integrity of the country’s institutions will bail her out in the end.
“I believe that Sen. Poe should be allowed to run for the highest office of the land and be judged by the Filipino electorate on the basis of competence, vision and platform of leadership,” she added.