THERE is no guarantee that the four disqualification complaints filed against Senator Grace Poe will be resolved by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) with finality before the commission starts printing official ballots next year.
“We will exert our utmost effort. Pero siyempre, mahirap sabihin na sigurado (But of course, it is not definite). It would depend on the arguments, among other matters,” Commissioner Luie Tito Guia told The Manila Times. “We will take our position. We will agree or disagree and thereafter it would go to the en banc.”
Guia however gave assurances that the commission will decide on the cases with utmost care.
All of the petitions seek to stop Poe from running for president in 2016 on the ground that the senator is not a natural-born Filipino citizen, a requirement laid down by the Constitution for anyone aspiring to be president.
Three of the cases against Poe filed by former Senator Francisco Tatad, former UE Law Dean Amado Valdez and Dela Salle political science professor Antonio Contreras pending before the Comelec’s First Division are up for resolution. The petition filed by Estrella Elamparo is being tackled by the second division.
Guia said Tatad, Valdez and Contreras have been directed to file their respective memorandum on December 3. Thereafter, all three cases will be deemed submitted for resolution.
The Comelec official said regardless of the decision of the first division, the petitioners or respondent may elevate it to the commission en banc and then to the Supreme Court (SC).
He explained that if Poe wins her case in the Comelec, her name will be included in the ballots but if not, she may seek a court remedy or a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the high court.
If the Supreme Court issues a restraining order, the Comelec will be compelled to include Poe on the ballots pending the court’s final decision on her disqualification case.
Poe’s counsel George Garcia agreed with Guia’s statement, saying that any decision of the Comelec division can be appealed to the en banc.
“Sa en banc mabagal yun. Puwede abutin hanggang February (It would take time in the en banc. It can reach until February),” Garcia told The Times.
Garcia said even if the en banc decision is unfavorable, it can be questioned at the SC.
“So that we can be voted upon, we need to secure a TRO from the SC,” Garcia added.
Asked what will happen if Poe wins in the election but will be later disqualified by the SC, Garcia said: “It’s already a political issue. Panalo na kami, la na tatanggal dun (If we win, we can no longer be removed),” Garcia said.
But Manuelito Luna, counsel for Tatad, believes otherwise. “The en banc will resolve it fast and before the printing of ballots in February,” Luna said.