THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday terminated oral arguments on three petitions seeking the disqualification of Sen. Grace Poe in next year’s presidential elections.
The cases filed by former senator Francisco Tatad, De La Salle University political science professor Antonio Contreras and former University of the East law school dean Amado Valdez are now deemed submitted for resolution after Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, chairman of the 1st Division, ordered them and Poe’s lawyers to submit their respective memoranda on December 3.
The 1st Division did resolve the Poe camp’s petition to consolidate all cases filed against the 47-year-old senator.
Lim said all three petitions should submit their separate memorandum but there would only be one decision.
A fourth disqualification case filed by lawyer Estrella Elamparo is with the Comelec 2nd Division.
At Wednesday’s oral arguments, Poe’s lawyer George Garcia argued that all three petitions were outright dismissible for lack of jurisdiction on the part of the Comelec.
“This commission is bereft of any jurisdiction. The Supreme Court [SC] is very emphatic that before the Comelec took cognizance of a case it should first determine as to whether the proceedings are proper under its rules,” Garcia told the 1st Division.
He explained that the petition for disqualification is government by Section 16 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) and Rule 25 of the Comelec Rules of Procedures, which, Garcia pointed out, do not cover the points raised by the petitioners.
Garcia said under Section 16 of the OEC, one can be disqualified for vote-buying, terrorism, violation of statement of contribution and expenditure and even dual residency, while Rule 25 has been declared illegal by the SC.
“The SC said Rule 25 is illegal because Rule 25 confers a remedy…The Comelec by mere enactment of rules of procedures or remedy can’t remedy the situation because Comelec is not Congress and only Congress can create such remedy,” he added. “In this particular case, the Tatad petition should be dismissed outright.”
According to Garcia, all three petitions also did not say that there was malice or deliberate intention to commit lies or falsehood on the part of Poe.
He said the law is very specific on who should be disqualified and the question of not being a Filipino or non-compliance with the residency requirement was not among them.
The ssues raised by the petitioners, Gacia pointed out, can only be raised with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) if Poe wins the presidential race.
“If she wins, they can question Poe in the PET. They can file a petition for quo warranto with the PET. They should first allowed her to run and file thereafter a petition for quo warranto with the PET,” Garcia explained.
The process, he said, is similar to that undergone by a petition of Rizalito David before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, which was filed after Poe won as senator.
Former law dean Valdez explained that Republic Act 9225 or the Dual Citizenship Law, which Poe used as basis for her reacquisition of Filipino citizenship, does not include the status of natural- born because “the natural-born status must be uninterrupted.”
Valdez said Poe interrupted her status when she renounced her Filipino citizenship in 2001, adding that the “problem was that when she reacquired her Filipino citizenship, she still maintained her American citizenship.”
“So from 2001 to 2006, she was an alien. From 2006 to 2010, she was both a Filipino and an alien,” he noted.
Tatad’s lawyer, Manuelito Luna, said it was clear based on evidence that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino citizen and did not meet the 10-year residency requirement even as he admitted that the senator can be considered a naturalized Filipino citizen.
Luna added that Poe cannot claim to be a natural- born Filipino because she failed to establish her blood ties with her biological Filipino parents.
He pointed out that the senator’s claim to Filipino citizenship anchored on international law is a violation of the Constitution, which determines citizenship by blood or “jus sanguinis.”
Luna said the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, which says a foundling has a citizenship, was signed only in 1990 and “cannot be retroactive” in the case of Poe.
Contreras argued that Poe’s residency, regardless of the date she reacquired her Filipino citizenship in July 2006 or renounce her American citizenship in October 2010, fell short of the 10-year residency requirement.
Contreras said “this is not the first time Poe misrepresented herself”, adding that when Poe bought a lot and a condominium in the Philippines in 2006, she claimed to be a Filipino when she was still an American citizen at the time.
During the arguments, Poe’s counsel admitted that Poe still used her US passport five times after reacquiring her Filipino citizenship in 2006, and only stop using it after she has renounced her American citizenship in 2010.
Garcia, however, said that there is no law prohibiting a dual citizen from using his or her foreign passport.