SENATOR Grace Poe may hurdle the legal obstacles to her presidential bid if she will be able to gather so-called swing votes from the Supreme Court (SC) justices who are expected to decide on a disqualification case against her soon.
Although Poe’s case was included in the agenda for today’s en banc session, the justices are not expected to vote on a draft decision prepared by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo because some justices may ask for more time to study the case or to come up with their opposing or concurring opinions, sources said on Monday.
According to the well-placed sources, Poe may be able to muster eight votes, which will allow her to pursue her quest for the presidency.
There are 15 members of the High Court and Poe will need eight justices to vote in her favor.
So far, the sources said five justices are for Poe.
This number may increase to eight if the senator will be able to get the swing votes of some of the magistrates, particularly those appointed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The sources dispelled reports that the justices already voted on Poe’s case.
“There is no truth to the 9-6 or 8-7 voting in favor of or against Grace Poe. There is no voting yet,” one of the sources, an SC insider, told The Manila Times.
The source, however, confirmed that the draft ponencia of del Castillo has been circulated among the justices.
He said voting will be close and a “divided Supreme Court” will rule on the case that has such great implications for the country.
The SC insider noted that the justices who are inclined to side with Poe as seen during oral arguments for the case are Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
Sereno and Leonen were appointed by Aquino.
The President’s other appointees are Associate Justices Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Francis Jardeleza and Benjamin Caguioa.
“The appointees of Pnoy [short for President Noynoy, Aquino’s nickname]will be the swing votes that would lead to the victory of Grace Poe,” the SC source pointed out.
Although Poe’s case may be tackled by the high tribunal today, it may still take a matter of weeks for the justices to make known their votes. The source explained that the magistrates may ask for more time to “reflect” on the case, or to write their separate concurring or dissenting opinions.
The source said the Chief Justice is likely to vote for Poe because if the latter will win, there is less likelihood for the chief magistrate to be impeached.
Unless she is impeached or forced to resign, Sereno will be Chief Justice until 2030.
During the oral arguments, some justices observed that Sereno’s statements made her appear to be “lawyering for Poe.”
The source said Sereno will not bet on presidential candidates Liberal Party presidential bet Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd, Vice President Jejomar Binay of the opposition or Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
If Roxas wins in May, Sereno’s position “may be in danger” because Roxas’ lawyer, former Defense Secretary Avelino “Nonong” Cruz, is a Sigma Rho fraternity brother and former law partner of SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
Cruz was the canvassing lawyer of Roxas during the May 2010 vice presidential polls, which Binay won.
The source said Carpio’s dream of becoming Chief Justice has better chances with Roxas as President.
If Binay wins, the source pointed out that Sereno’s grip on her post would be endangered since she acted as a lawyer for the Office of the Ombudsman in pushing for the ouster last year of Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “JunJun” Binay, the Vice President’s son.
If Duterte wins, Sereno would still be in “danger” because Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte, is married to the son of Lucas Carpio and Court of Appeals (CA) Justice Agnes Reyes-Carpio, Manases “Mans” Carpio.
Lucas Carpio is the brother of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, cousin of the SC justice.
Supporters of Poe on Monday said the senator will zoom to the presidency once the SC rules in her favor.
“I could only surmise that judging by the fact when the TRO [temporary restraining order]came out, the numbers of Senator Grace went up. In fact, she was even ahead in one survey. When the Comelec handed the disqualification [ruling], her numbers went down.
If she hurdles the Supreme Court [case], perhaps her numbers will go through the roof,” Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC) President Giorgidi Aggabao said.
“Based on what we have heard and read during the public hearings, we feel more confident that Grace will be able to hurdle the SC case. When that happens, she will own the finish line. Tapos ang boksing [Game is over],” he added.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI