Sen. Grace Poe had no intention to deceive the electorate when she filed her candidacy papers for the highest elective position of the land.
Her lawyer, George Garcia, made this assertion in the 63-page pleading he filed on Monday afternoon with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as the senator’s camp formally sought a reversal of the Second Division’s ruling, which ordered the cancelation of Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC) for President in next year’s polls.
The Second Division promulgated its decision last December 1.
The Comelec en banc will deliberate on the motion and is expected to make a ruling by the time the poll body starts printing the ballots and election paraphernalia.
In his motion for reconsideration, Garcia said Poe did not commit “material misrepresentation” when she declared in her COC that she will have been a resident of the country for 10 years and 11 months on the day of the elections on May 9, 2016.
“[Poe] had no intention to deceive the electorate or to hide a fact of disqualification with respect to her period of residency in the Philippines,” he noted.
Garcia accused the poll body’s Second Division—headed by Commissioner Al Parreno with Commissioners Sherriff Abas and Arthur Lim as members—of “complete and utter disregard of the overwhelming evidence on record” and decided “contrary to applicable jurisprudence as to amount to a capricious and whimsical judgment.”
The 47-year-old Poe is running as an independent candidate for President. She led all pre-election surveys for President and Vice President for two quarters this year, dislodging the opposition standard- bearer, Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Poe—the adopted daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. and actress Susan Roces—is facing three disqualification cases before the Comelec, all assailing her claim to being a natural-born Filipino and number of years of residency in the country.
Garcia said the senator committed an “honest mistake” when she indicated in her COC in the 2013 elections that she is a resident of the country from November 2006. Garcia insists that Poe has been a resident of the country since May 2005.
Poe’s lawyers claim that the Second Division ignored documents that prove Poe’s intention to stay in the country for good since 2005.
They said the enrolment of her children in local schools and the purchase of a real-estate property are proof that she intends to stay in the Philippines.
“If the Second Division considered these pieces of evidence, it would have found that [Poe’s] statement that she will [have been]a resident of the Philippines for 10 years and 11 months by May 2016 is not false,” Garcia said.
“Meaning, we provided the evidence on all the requirements to establish domicile. Unfortunately, what the Comelec used against us was a single document, which we also provided, the COC [for senator]of 2012,” he added.
Poe’s lawyer pointed out that the COC is not an evidence to prove one’s domicile and has no bearing whatsoever on the petitions filed against the senator.
“It is a 1:100 [ratio]of evidence. How can you say their evidence has more weight than the evidence we presented? As what Sen. Grace Poe has said, if your declared height is 5’5” but truth is you are 5’6”, what is the truth? It is 5’6” because it is the truth,” Garcia explained.
He said Poe only acted “in good faith” when she declared in her latest COC that she has stayed in the country for the past “10 years and 11 months.”
“In indicating in her COC for President her period of residency in the Philippines to be ‘10 years, 11 months,’ [Poe] acted in utmost good faith, relying on Supreme Court pronouncements that a candidate is not stopped from proving her actual residency in the Philippines as a question of fact,” Garcia added.
Poe’s lawyers hit back at the Second Division for ruling that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino.
Garcia insisted that Poe is a natural-born Filipino even if she is a foundling, in accordance with pertinent provisions of the Philippine Constitution, customary international law and domestic laws.
Poe’s critics have argued that for being a foundling with no known biological parents, she could not claim being a natural-born Filipino.
The senator’s lawyer said the Comelec has no jurisdiction to rule on Poe’s eligibility as a presidential candidate as it should only act as an “enforcer” or “administrator” of election laws.
He added that that a presidential candidate’s qualifications could only be assailed before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal or PET, but only after elections are over or once the presidential candidate has been proclaimed as the winner.
“The power to pass upon the qualifications of a candidate for President who does not clearly fall under [pertinent Omnibus Election Code provisions], is not a power granted to the Comelec. The Constitution vests the sole and exclusive jurisdiction over questions relating to qualifications of the [candidate in]the Supreme Court sitting as the PET,” Garcia said.
Just answer DQ charges
Malacañang on Monday scored Poe’s camp for implicating the Liberal Party (LP) in what her supporters suspect to be a demolition job against the senator.
“It’s unfair, it’s unfair for them, for their camp to attribute it to our… to the Liberal Party… the President [Benigno Aquino 3rd] explained it sufficiently,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters.
According to him, the “best way” for Poe’s camp to settle the matter is to just face and answer the allegations squarely, especially the issues pertaining to her citizenship and residency.
“So perhaps the best way… like I saw partly [in]their press briefing, they said they have evidence to present [in connection with]the motion for reconsideration. So, let them just explain and present their case before the Comelec or before whatever tribunal that they are supposed to appear [in]and instead of just blaming everyone else for what’s happening to them right now,” Lacierda said.
At the same time, the Palace official added that they take “in good faith” all the issues concerning Poe, who was originally asked to run under the LP as the running mate of LP standard-bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd.
Lacierda particularly chided Poe’s running mate and fellow senator Francis Escudero for claiming that the administration is behind the smear job against her.
“[It] is really unfair for us, for this administration, to say that we’re behind all [these]campaign[s]to disqualify Sen. Grace Poe. We took it in good faith. The President took it in good faith [that]her concerns were being addressed already by the lawyers,” he pointed out.
Lacierda noted that neither the President nor the LP raised the issue on residency against Poe but the Binay camp.
“[It’s not our fault that there was a problem with her COC and about the residency requirement]… At the time when she filled that up, she was running as a senator. Did she have in mind that she was running for President three years after that, three years later when she filled that up? That’s not something for us to answer,” he said.
“What we’re saying is that we were not the ones who caused all this situation. Somebody raised that issue and it’s not the Liberal Party, it’s Congressman Toby Tiangco [from the Binay camp]who raised that issue. So don’t attribute to us the misfortune that Sen. Grace Poe is now experiencing,” Lacierda added.
Trillanes to the rescue
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th also on Monday said the citizenship and residency issues thrown against Poe are very shallow and are part of political propaganda.
Trillanes, an independent vice presidential candidate, compared the presidential debates in the United States with the debates that are happening in Philippine politics.
“These debates [in the US]actually are a form of commitment. If they commit to a particular policy issue, they will hold on to that. Here, we don’t have that. What we have is a debate on citizenship. It’s so shallow, very shallow,” he said.
Agreeing that citizenship is an important issue, Trillanes insisted that it is obvious that Poe is a Filipino, despite rumors saying her parents are foreigners.
He said Poe’s facial features are distinctly those of a Filipino.
Poe’s residency in the Philippines, according to Trillanes, started in 2005 when she “pulled out her children from the US and enrolled them here [the Philippines]” in that year.
WITH JOEL M. SY EGCO AND IZA IGLESIAS