THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) law department is set to decide on a complaint against Sen. Grace Poe that she allegedly perjured herself when she filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) for senator in 2012.
During Friday’s resumption of the law department’s preliminary investigation of the election offense filed against the senator by radio commentator Rizalito David, both their lawyers agreed to submit the case for resolution.
“We stipulated that the annexes or evidence attached in the counter-affidavit [of Poe]are the same, Since they are common annexes, they are existing, the preliminary investigation is deemed terminated and submitted for resolution. Both counsels jointly manifested that the case is now submitted for resolution by the law department of the Comelec,” said David’s counsel, Manuelito Luna.
Under the Comelec’s rules of procedure, a case should be decided within 15 to 30 days from the date of submission. The law department’s decision will then be submitted to the Comelec en banc for a final ruling.
6 years in jail
Luna clarified that the case they filed against Poe is not a disqualification or a cancelation case, but an election offense charge, which, in a worst-case scenario, may result in Poe’s imprisonment of up to a maximum jail term of six years even as she would not lose her seat in the Senate.
“There’s a maximum jail term, if I’m not mistaken, of six years but no unseating. She will not be unseated. The unseating will only occur if we are favored before the SET [Senate Electoral Tribunal] in so far as her senatorial position is concerned,” David’s lawyer added.
Luna explained that regardless of a favorable or unfavorable final decision on Poe’s case, no appeal could be made whether with the Supreme Court (SC), the Comelec or the electoral tribunal. He claimed that what can be brought to the SC is a petition for certiorari or grave abuse of discretion complaint.
The High Court may issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or preliminary mandatory injunction if it finds the petition meritorious.
Poe’s counsel, George Garcia, maintained that his client is a natural-born citizen and only committed an honest mistake when she wrote on her COC for senator that she was a resident of the Philippines for six years and six months prior to the May 2013 elections.
In her COC for President, she wrote 10 years and 11 months as her residency period.
Garcia said the new evidence they submitted to the Comelec would bolster their claim that Poe did not lie or misrepresent herself.
He pointed out that the country’s adoption law only allows adoption of natural-born Filipino citizens and since she was adopted by actor Fernando Poe Jr. and wife Susan Roces, the senator is a natural- born Filipino citizen.
Garcia presented Department of Foreign Affairs records showing Poe was issued passports four times and was also granted dual citizenship by the Bureau of Immigration.
“She cannot be granted dual citizenship if she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen and [if she is just]a naturalized Filipino citizen. The Supreme Court has said dual citizenship is only applicable to natural-born Filipino citizens,” he explained.
Garcia disclosed that they would file another petition reiterating an earlier appeal to the Comelec law department to temporarily suspend its proceedings until the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the SC have come up with decisions on Poe’s citizenship and residency issues.
“What will happen later if the SC or the [electoral tribunal]will say that Poe is natural-born citizen? Then the case at the Comelec law deparment would be dismissed because it means Poe did not lie,” Poe’s lawyer pointed out.
He said if an unfavorable decision is made against Poe, the fact that a foundling like her is a citizen of the country where she was found will still hold.
“The best approach really is to wait for the Supreme Court decision,” Garcia added.
He said Poe’s case is the first in the history of jurisprudence.
“The Supreme Court has not made any pronouncement on such matter, meaning that pronouncement [on Poe’s case]would become the jurisprudence in similar situations in the future. This is very important, this is a question of law. A case of first impression,” Garcia added.