JUSTICES of the Supreme Court (SC) should hold a “secret voting” on a disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe to avoid possible trending of votes, sources at the tribunal said.
The sources told The Manila Times that if the High Court will hold nominal voting, the junior justices may set a “trend” even before the senior justices have cast their votes.
To avoid trending, a secret balloting should be done, they said.
The counting of votes and revelation of each justice’s position, according to the sources, will only be done after all of the magistrates have finished voting.
“Syempre pag nakita na ng senior justices na may numero na for or against [Poe], pwedeng maki-ride on na lang sila sa mananalo [Of course if the senior justices see that a number has emerged for or against Poe, it is possible that they will ride on the majority vote],” the sources explained.
Under nominal voting, the junior justices are the first to cast their votes and make an explanation, followed by the senior justices.
“The junior justices of the Supreme Court could set a trend. The senior justices who are in the middle ground can be swayed with the votes of the junior justices if the number is already prominent,” the sources said.
In the normal en banc voting, the most junior magistrate — Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa — will cast the first vote whether to disqualify Poe.
He will be followed by Justices Francis Jardeleza, Marvic Leonen, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Bienvenido Reyes and Jose Catral Mendoza.
Except for Mendoza, all of the justices were appointed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The sources, however, pointed out that once a magistrate has circulated his or her separate opinion on or before March 8, that justice will have manifested the position he will take even before the actual voting is held.
The SC en banc will tackle Poe’s case during a regular en banc session on March 8, the deadline set for magistrates to submit their separate concurring or dissenting opinions to a draft decision written by the ponencia of the case, Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.
The High Court also set a special en banc session on March 9.
The sources told The Manila Times that if at least four justices will vote for or against Poe, these votes will be crucial since there are at least three senior magistrates expected to vote for Poe.
On the other hand, three senior magistrates are also expected to vote against Poe.
With the swing votes of the junior justices plus three votes from the senior magistrates, there will be seven votes for or against Poe, which is one vote shy of the needed eight votes to notch victory.
The sources said those who are expected to vote for Poe are Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Jose Portugal Perez, Marvic Leonen and Francis Jardeleza.
They added that Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. may also favor Poe but “a “change of mind” is always possible.
Velasco’s son, Lord Allan Velasco, was blocked by the Liberal Party from assuming his post as Marinduque congressman in favor of Gina Reyes.
The young Velasco was only allowed to sit in January, with only six months remaining in the current Congress.
On the other hand, the sources said those who will likely vote to disqualify Poe are Senior Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion and del Castillo.
Carpio, de Castro and Brion have voted to disqualify Poe in a separate disqualification complaint filed at the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
Del Castillo has already manifested his position via his 70-page draft decision, which disqualifies Poe on the ground that she failed to meet the residency requirement imposed by law on presidential candidates.
Under the election law, a presidential candidate should have resided in the Philippines for 10 years prior to the holding of an election.
Sources at the SC said del Castillo’s decision did not touch on the citizenship of Poe.
Petitioners who filed several complaints against the senator claimed that she is not a natural-born Filipino, another requirement for those seeking the presidency.