Tatad’s lawyer: Misrepresenting COC is an election offense with penalties
SEN. Grace Poe could be jailed for committing a misrepresentation in her certificate of candidacy (COC), the lawyer for one of the petitioners who wanted her disqualified from joining next year’s elections said on Wednesday.
According to Manuel Luna, the counsel of former senator and The Manila Times columnist Francisco Tatad, the Comelec Second Division’s recent decision to disqualify Poe was based on an election offense that carries a penalty of “one to six years of imprisonment, disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage.”
“The President cannot even pardon [Poe] if found guilty without the concurrence of the Comelec,” Luna told reporters in a media forum in San Juan City (Metro Manila).
Tatad is one of the five petitioners who questioned Poe’s COC for President before the Comelec. All assailed Poe’s claim that she has satisfied the constitutional requirements on citizenship and residency.
The Second Division on Tuesday handed down its ruling on the petition of lawyer Estrella Elamparo who said all existing legal records negate Poe’s claim that she is a natural-born Filipino and that she has complied with the minimum 10-year residency requirement for one to be able to run for President.
Aside from Tatad and Elamparo, separate petitions were filed against the 47-year-old senator by radio commentator Rizalito David, former law dean Amado Valdez and political science professor Antonio Contreras.
David had also petitioned the Senate Electoral Tribunal to nullify Poe’s proclamation as among the winners in the 2013 senatorial elections on the same grounds. An appeal to reverse the tribunal’s 5-4 ruling dismissing the petition is pending.
Luna said he is confident that the poll body will rule in favor of the other petitions, given the dissenting opinion of the three Supreme Court (SC) associate justices in the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
Poe to remain in ballot
Regardless of a favorable or an unfavorable decision from the Comelec en banc, Poe’s name will remain on the official list of candidates and in the ballots unless a final disqualification verdict is handed down by the SC prior to the printing of ballots.
The Comelec spokesman, Director James Jimenez, also on Wednesday said it would be prudent and practical on the side of the poll body to include the senator’s name rather than exclude it, considering that the case will definitely reach the High Court, and nobody knows what the SC’s final verdict will be.
Elamparo also on Wednesday filed an “urgent petition to exclude” Poe from the official list of candidates and from the ballots.
Her petition to cancel the senator’s COC for President was granted by the Comelec Second Division in a resolution handed out on Tuesday.
Jimenez pointed out that the non-inclusion of Poe’s name in the ballot based on the Comelec en banc’s unfavorable decision would complicate things later if the SC would rule the other way around.
“It’s easier to ignore the votes cast for that person than to take [him]out of the ballot then later on find out that [he]should have been in the ballot in the first place. So it’s practical to include [Poe’s] name,” he said.
But Luna disagreed, saying it would be a violation of the Omnibus Election Code and the Rules of Court.
He explained that Poe’s name should be excluded from the ballot once the commission en banc ruled against her, “unless she is able to secure a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court.”
“The en banc should not be preempted. [Comelec] Chairman [Andres] Bautista can better shed light on that… Until they issue a resolution to that effect, we cannot say that she will be included or excluded. That is why I’m reserving my opinion because I’m respecting the action of the en banc at a proper time,” Luna said.
He added that the status quo remains simply because the decision of the Second Division is not yet final and executory while the First Division is yet to make a decision.
“We are pretty confident that the First Division will also side with us not because the Second Division has already ruled against her but because of the superiority of the arguments that we have presented,” Luna said.
In her urgent petition to exclude Poe, Elamparo pointed out that based on the timeline of the Comelec, it has to come up with the official list of presidential candidates on December 20, 2015, and printing of ballots will start by early January next year.
“While respondent may still opt to file a motion for reconsideration within five (5) days from receipt of the aforesaid resolution, petitioner respectfully submits that unless the 01 December resolution is reversed or restrained through a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court, the same should be respected and implemented by excluding respondent from the list of official candidates for the presidency and from the ballots,” she said.
According to her, the Comelec would be contradicting itself if after canceling respondent’s COC, it would still include Poe’s name in the official list of candidates and in the ballots, “as if it is anticipating its decision to be reversed.”
“More important, the exclusion of respondent from the official list of candidates and from the ballots would better serve the interest of justice,” she said.
Naturalized not natural-born
Luna said foundlings are considered as naturalized citizens and not natural-born ones and therefore could not be elected as President.
Poe, who was found abandoned in a church in Iloilo, has no known biological parents.
“Foundlings cannot in any way be a President or senator, unless you amend the Constitution. That’s the only way you can change the situation, that you need to amend it.
The Constitution enunciated jus sanguinis or law of the blood. You cannot create a natural-born citizen [in jus sanguinis]by creating legal fiction or by mere presumption,” Luna said.
Tatad’s petition questioned Poe’s claim that she’s a natural-born citizen.
“[Poe] cannot… [imply]or presume [that she is a]natural-born [citizen]. It should be established as a fact, by blood relationships [because of the jus sanguinis principle,]” he added.
In his petition, Tatad said “Poe is practically stateless, and that foundlings have no parentage,” because “the 1935 Constitution states that she is not a Filipino because of the jus sanguinis principle.”
“[Poe’s] arguments, which are based on the presumption that she is a natural-born citizen based [in turn]on international statutes for foundlings will not be applicable here in the Philippines,” Luna said.
“The Philippines is not a signatory to any international statute on foundlings, and our country doesn’t follow the jus soli [law of the land]principle — if she keeps on insisting that, it will contradict our 1935 and 1987 Constitutions emphasizing jus sanguinis. It should be established as a fact, by blood relationships,” he added.
Tatad was among the personalities who strongly dismissed Poe’s claim that she is a natural-born Filipino, which is requisite for those seeking public office.
“Grace Poe’s only mistake is that she wants us to believe that she’s a natural-born Filipino when, in fact, she’s not. Poe is only a naturalized Filipino citize—she’s already stateless at birth,” he said.
Poe had submitted herself to DNA testing inearly October, hoping that it would help boost her argument that she is a natural-born citizen before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, which all turned out negative.
“There should be a physical blood relation, maybe that’s the reason why Senator Poe insisted that she will undergo a DNA test because she knows that the physical evidence of a natural-born citizenship is by a natural-blood relationship,” Luna said.
He added that Poe was not registered as a foundling in the separate old civil registry for foundlings—for her to be given an “accommodated type” of naturalization giving her a legal presumption that she is a naturalized citizen.
“Poe must have registered in the separate registry [for foundlings], it would be easy for her to acquire citizenship but still, as a naturalized citizen, not a natural-born [one],” Luna said.
Fight far from over
Poe also on Wednesday said she is not expecting a favorable decision from the other divisions of the Comelec handling her other disqualification cases but noted that her fight is far from over.
She likened her legal fight to a boxing match wherein she won round one when the tribunal dismissed the disqualification case against her, and lost round two after the Second Division ruled in favor of the petition seeking to cancel her COC for President.
Poe said she expects the other divisions of the poll body to have similar decisions, but said she is not bothered because she can still bring the case to the High Court if she fails to get a favorable decision from the Comelec en banc.
“ It is possible that we could lose our case in the Comelec but there is still the Supreme Court. What is important is I’m doing this because I don’t want anyone to be left behind,” she told a news forum.
Poe said she also expects to get a favorable decision from the High Court similar to the ruling it made on a disqualification case filed against her father, the late Fernando Poe Jr., when he ran for President in 2004.
She added that part of the court ruling on the disqualification case stated that the decision on who will be the next President of the country should be left to the sovereign Filipino people, not to unelected members of the court.
Poe said she is convinced that there is an “obvious and conscious” effort to remove her from the 2016 presidential race.
She added that the legal challenges she is facing stem mainly from the desire of some people to take her out of the presidential race because she poses a threat to their own dreams to be the nation’s leader.
“I just feel that’s somebody is behind it. Now, am I being harassed? I’m just doing what I need to do. To be able to go through the process, to be able to overcome these hurdles,” Poe said.
She, however, refused to name those whomshe suspects to be behind the disqualification cases but she noted that two of her rivals would definitely stand to benefit if ever she gets disqualified.
“Pero sabi nga nila masyadong liberal ang decision ng Comelec kaya nga para daw i-mar yung elections ng 2016 [Some are saying the Comelec decision is too liberal and could be part of the attempt to mar the 2016 elections],” Poe said with a pun referring to the Liberal Party and its standard-bearer, Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd.
Poe’s running mate Sen. Francis Escudero, in a statement, said the resolution of the Comelec Second Division is just a temporary setback as he sees Poe getting relief either from the Comelec en banc or the Supreme Court.
“We still have faith in our justice system. We believe that in the end, Senator Grace will be allowed to run not only based on international and domestic laws, but also based on the factual situation of the case,” Escudero added.
He expressed optimism that Poe will be able to attain a favorable decision either from the Comelec en banc or the Supreme Court.
“At the end of the day, laws are invented and created to achieve justice. I am of the firm belief that in the end, justice will still prevail,” Escudero said.
Poe’s lawyers also remain optimistic that the Comelec en banc will overturn the resolution of its Second Division.
George Garcia, in a statement, noted that the division completely ignored previous rulings of the Supreme Court that are applicable to Poe’s case and which should have been the bases in ruling that she fulfilled the 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates.
“We will convince the Comelec en banc that the Second Division erred in its resolution,” Garcia said, adding that they have until December 7 to appeal the Second Division ruling with the en banc.
Respect the law
Malacanang also on Wednesday appealed for “sobriety and respect for law” among all concerned parties in Poe’s disqualification cases.
In a text message, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda noted that the decision was arrived at “in the course of the constitutionally-mandated functions of the Comelec.”
“We understand that Senator Poe’s legal counsel will pursue and exhaust all remedies available to them, as is their right in this process,” Lacierda told reporters.
“We believe that sobriety and respect for the law and its processes are the best way forward for all parties concerned,” he said.
Vice Ppresidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand Marcos also on Wednesday told Poe to just keep going.
“Keep going…keep going. Huwag kang panghihinaan ng loob [Don’t lose heart] and just [keep in mind]that when you are doing the right thing, you will in the end succeed,” Marcos also told reporters Tuesday night.
He said he was not surprised at all by the verdict and expressed belief that it is still a long way to go before the issue would be finally settled as Poe’s camp has announced that it would appeal the decision before the Comelec en banc.
“[W]e leave it to the best of our legal minds to decide exactly what to do,” Marcos added.
When asked if the Comelec decision should alarm the opposition, he said it is expected and it is part of the black propaganda normally being employed by different groups.