THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday denied a plea of presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe to give her 30 more days to comment on a disqualification case filed against her by a radio reporter.
The Comelec law department, through investigating officer, lawyer Jane Valleza, only granted the senator 10 days or until November 13 to appear before the commission for preliminary investigation and submission of her counter-affidavit and other supporting documents, as well as controverting evidence.
Complainant-lawyer Rizalito David, through counsel Manuelito Luna, had strongly opposed the one-month extension requested by Poe during oral arguments.
Counsel for Poe, lawyer Erwin Garcia, said Luna “opposed not on reason but based on length of time.”
“I requested it [extension]for purposes of formalities. The hearing officer gave us 10 days,” Garcia added.
In seeking the extension, Poe invoked Section 6 Rule 10 of the 1993 Comelec Rules of Procedure that governs preliminary investigations of election offenses.
Meanwhile, Poe admitted in a radio interview in the afternoon that initial DNA tests to identify her biological parents and establish her citizenship proved futile, as these came up with negative results.
“The DNA test is a long process because the samples taken were not only from one individual,” she explained.
According to her, the initial DNA tests conducted on the samples from two subjects did not match.
Poe, the frontrunner in most presidential preference surveys, initiated the process in September in a bid to prove that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen.
She is currently facing the disqualification case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal filed by David, a losing senatorial candidate.
David claimed that Poe is not qualified to be a senator because she is a foundling and that she is not a natural-born citizen.
The late cinema king Fernando Poe Jr., who also ran but lost in the presidential race in 2004, and his wife actress Susan Roces adopted Sen. Poe when she was a child.
The Poe family said their daughter had been found abandoned inside a church in Iloilo province in central Philippines.
The senator’s biological parents remain unknown to this day.
The Constitution states that “no person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding the election.”
Poe aid even if the DNA tests proved negative, she is still confident that she will win her case.
Her spokesman, Rex Gatchalian, said there are other tests still being conducted, and which Poe’s camp is still awaiting.
“Though the initial results were negative, there are more DNA results that are still being processed,” Gatchalian added. “It is taking more time than we anticipated.”
Gatchalian maintained that Poe is a natural-born Filipino because laws substantiate it.
“The laws are on all fours on this account, hence we are submitting the case for resolution,” he said. “As stated earlier, the DNA results would only add to our legal arguments that are grounded on the intent of the framers of our Constitution and international principles of law.”
Gatchalian expressed confidence that the election tribunal would sustain their legal position.
During Tuesday’s oral arguments on the case of Poe being not qualified to be a senator, David’s lawyer Luna submitted additional documents. These included a 1968 foundling certificate, 2006 birth certificate, petition for reacquisition of Philippine citizenship, questionnaire information on possible loss of US citizenship, 2010 affidavit of renunciation of US citizenship, 2012 certificate of candidacy for senator, Bureau of Immigration order and memorandum anent petition to reacquire Philippine citizenship, certifications issued by US government anent renunciation of American citizenship, travel records and US passport.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said Poe does not need to appear before the commission during the preliminary investigation.
But Luna said the Comelec chief might have been misinformed when he said Poe did not have to appear for the initial probe of the election offense case.
“It bears emphasis that on said incident/date, David will testify against her as ordered by the law department,” Luna said in a text message to the The Manila Times.
He explained that Poe’s non-appearance or non-submission of counter-affidavit is tantamount to a waiver on her part and the case would be resolved solely on the basis of David’s affidavit-complaint.
David’s case against Poe was for violation of Section 71 in relation to Section 262 of the Omnibus Election Code for alleged misrepresentation about the facts of her citizenship, period of residence in the Philippines before the 2013 polls and her eligibility to be elected as senator.
In his petition, he claimed that “when Llamanzares [Poe’s married name] falsely stated the facts in her COC (certificate of candidacy), she committed an election offense, and thus, may be proceeded against for a criminal prosecution under Section 262 in relation to Section 74 of the Omnibus Election Code.”
He cited Section 3, Article VI of the Constitution, which prohibits a person to run as senator unless he is a natural-born Filipino citizen and, on the day of the election, is at least 35 years of age, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.
David said Poe misrepresented the facts of her being a natural-born citizen and her period of being a resident of the Philippines.
Aside from the case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, the senator is also facing three disqualification cases before the Comelec.