Electoral tribunal to zero in on Poe’s citizenship
The Senate Electoral Tribunal on Friday junked the residency issue in the disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe.
During the tribunal’s preliminary conference at the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday, the members of the tribunal ruled to drop the residency issue against Poe after petitioner, Rizalito David, withdrew the complaint.
The withdrawal came after electoral tribunal chairman, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, asked David during the hearing if he is willing to drop the residency issue to enable the tribunal to focus on the citizenship question.
Carpio raised the residency issue in view of the prescriptive period provided for by tribunal rules, particularly Section 18, which states that a quo warranto case must be filed within 10 days after proclamation.
David then agreed with Carpio’s recommendation, paving the way for the withdrawal of the issue from the case.
“I accepted para mapadali na ang proseso [to hasten the process]in good faith,” David said.
David, however, insisted that under the 1987 Constitution, natural-born Filipinos are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire their citizenship, contrary to what Poe did when she renounced her Filipino citizenship and acquired US citizenship.
Aside from Carpio, the tribunal is composed of SC Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion, and Senators Loren Legarda, Vicente Sotto 3rd, Pia Cayetano, Cynthia Villar, Paolo Benigno Aquino and Nancy Binay.
The tribunal will continue with oral arguments on September 21.
Poe, who attended the tribunal conference, said her attendance was “sentimental.”
“Ito po ay replay ng nangyari sa aking tatay. Medyo sentimental nga po ang aking pagdalo ngayon [This is a replay of what happened to my father. My coming here is a bit sentimental],” she told reporters.
“Ako ay kusang nagpunta dito upang depensahan ang mga paratang laban sa akin, upang depensahan po ang aking sarili nang walang takot at direktang sinasabi sa kanila na ako ay isang tunay na Pilipino… replay ito ng nangyari sa aking tatay noong 2004 [came here on my own volition to defend myself against accusations and I’m here to directly tell the tribunal members that I am a true Filipino. This is a replay of what happened to my father in 2004],” the senator said.
The citizenship of Poe’s father, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., was also questioned before the Supreme Court.
The SC ruled that Poe Jr. is a natural-born Filipino citizen under the terms of the 1935 Constitution.
The younger Poe said the case against her is a mere ploy to prevent her from seeking higher office in 2016.
Poe’s lead counsel, Alexander Poblador, said the case is just a harassment suit to derail the political plans of his client.
The senator, who leads in pre-election surveys, is yet to categorically announce her political plans for 2016.
“The petition has more to do with what will happen in 2016 rather than her current seat in the Senate,” Poblador said.
He insisted that Poe is a natural-born Filipino and had met the residency requirement when she ran for the Senate more than two years ago.
“We have sufficient evidence to prove that Senator Poe met the citizenship and residency requirements for congressional candidates when she ran and won in the 2013 mid-term elections,” it was pointed out.
He argued that the disqualification case must be dismissed outright for late filing and forum shopping, stating that a similar case was also lodged by David with the Commission on Elections.
“Since Senator Poe was proclaimed on May 16, 2013, those who would want to question her qualifications had only until May 26, 2013 to file a petition against her,” Poblador said.
There was also proof that Poe intended to return and remain in the Philippines for good, which includes returning to the Philippines in the first half of 2005; enrolling her children in local schools in June 2005; purchasing a property in late 2005; construction of her family home in Quezon City in early 2006; and sale of their Virginia home in 2006.
Poblador argued that in the absence of contrary proof, a foundling like Poe is presumed to be Filipino.
“The presumption is that Senator Poe is a natural-born Filipino and the one who alleges the contrary must prove that she is not,” he said.
Poe, whose parents were unknown, was found abandoned inside the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral in Iloilo in 1968. She was later adopted by actors Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces.
No stopping Grace
Poe’s supporters in Congress say the senator remains a strong presidential contender even if the disqualification case against her will be resolved after the filing of the certificate of candidacy from October 12 to 16.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., as well as party-list Representatives Rodel Batocabe (Ako Bicol) and Gary Alejano (Magdalo), said this in reaction to tribunal member Sen. Vicente Sotto 3rd’s statement that Poe’s case could drag on until November.
“It [delayed judgment]won’t necessarily scare off her potential supporters. But they [in the electoral tribunal]should decide it soonest,” Belmonte added.
“I am confident that such baseless case will be dismissed not only based on technicalities but on substantive grounds. But above all else, a harassment case can’t and should not override the mandate given by the people. Vox Populi, Vox Dei [The voice of the people is the voice of God],” Batocabe said.
“After the filing of certificate of candidacy in October, Senator Poe would be an official candidate and it is the people who would be the best judge on whether she deserves to become the next President, regardless of the legal issues pending before the tribunal,” Alejano said in a text message.
“This is aside from the fact that I don’t believe she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen,” he added.