The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday lifted all legal obstacles to the presidential run of Sen. Grace Poe, the first foundling to seek the country’s highest post.
With a vote of 9-6, the High Court said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) committed grave abuse of discretion when it disqualified Poe on the ground that she is not a natural-born Filipino.
Those who voted in favor of Poe were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Mendoza, Francis Jardeleza, Marvic Leonen, Benjamin Caguioa and Jose Portugal Perez.
Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo, Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas-Bernabe voted to disqualify the senator.
Perez was appointed the new ponencia since his 45-page separate dissenting opinion has become the majority ruling.
It will be the valedictory decision of Perez who is set to retire in December.
Del Castillo, the original ponente, pushed for Poe’s disqualification.
Two Comelec cases reached the SC–the complaints filed by Estrella Elamparo and Francisco Tatad, Antonio Contreras and Amado Valdez.
Another case against Poe is pending at the High Court–a petition for certiorari filed by Rizalito David who questioned the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) upholding Poe’s candidacy.
With the SC ruling on Tuesday, however, David’s petition may also be dismissed as it also questioned Poe’s citizenship.
Tatad refused to issue a statement on the high tribunal’s decision.
He said the National Transformation Council, made up of non-politically affiliated civic leaders and Catholic bishops and clergy, met Tuesday afternoon in Butuan City (Agusan del Sur) to discuss the issue.
Victory for all
Poe said the SC ruling is not only her victory but also of the millions of Filipinos who have been longing for a government that has sincere concern for the people.
While the decision is not yet final, she noted, there is now a big chance for the country to have real change and a government that will listen and provide the needs of its constituents.
“Ako po ay taos-pusong nagpapasalamat sa ating mga kababayan na hindi bumitiw at hindi nawalan ng tiwala at higit sa lahat ay nagdasal at nanalangin hindi lamang para sa akin kung hindi para sa hustisya [I wholeheartedly thank our countrymen who did not let go and who did not lose hope and who prayed not only for me but for justice],” Poe said in an interview with reporters on her way to the International Women’s Day celebration in Manila hosted by party-list group Gabriela.
She also thanked the High Court for choosing to side with the truth, justice and protection of the oppressed.
“To those who do not know their real parents but grew up with integrity and determination, we now have a chance to aspire big. But most important, to our poor and oppressed countrymen, this will be my mission: The government should protect and treat everyone equally,” the senator said.
Poe broke into tears upon learning of the SC decision.
Vendors who saw her when she arrived at Quiapo Church noticed that her eyes were swollen from crying.
The senator said her vehicle was approaching the church when she learned about the good news so she decided to make a brief stop at the church to pray before proceeding to the rally.
The Comelec said it respects the SC ruling.
“We have voted on that. Each one of us has our own stand on the matter. But after all that was said and done, I think we did our part, we did our job, and the Supreme Court has already ruled on the matter and we have to respect that,” Chairman Juan Andres Bautista pointed out.
Commissioner Arthur Lim congratulated Poe.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate her for this victory. While I wish her all the best, I can only hope for the sake of the country that this is not goodbye to the rule of law,” Lim said.
With WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL