Comelec unit cancels senator’s COC for President
THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) dealt its first blow on Sen. Grace Poe when a division of the poll body disqualified her from joining the presidential race next year for her failure to meet the residency and citizenship requirements for the post.
The three-page decision handed down by the Second Division headed by Commissioner Al Parreno canceled the certificate of candidacy (COC) for President filed by Poe.
The decision said the senator was not able to comply with the residency requirement laid down by the Constitution.
Under the law, a candidate for President should have resided in the Philippines for at least 10 years before the election.
Poe’s counsel, George Garcia, said they have five days to appeal the decision, adding that they may go all the way up to the Supreme Court to appeal the case.
The decision was based on a 71-page petition filed by Estrella Elamparo, former chief legal counsel of the Government Service Insurance System.
Elamparo said all existing legal records will negate Poe’s claim that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen and that she complied with the 10-year minimum residency requirement for one to be able to run for President.
Poe expressed disappointment with the Comelec decision.
“I am disappointed in the decision, but this is not the end of the process. We will continue to fight for the rights of foundlings and the fundamental right of the people to choose their leaders,” she said.
The senator maintained that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen and has complied with the 10-year residency requirement based on settled applicable jurisprudence.
“My critics will use any excuse to exclude me, much like they tried to do when FPJ [Fernando Poe Jr.] ran for President [in 2004] and in the process disenfranchising the people as well. They show a lack of trust in the ability of Filipinos to make the right decision,” she said.
FPJ is the senator’s father.
Poe expressed confidence that the Comelec en banc will side with the interest of the people.
Her lawyer maintained that the 10-year residency of the senator should be counted from the time she reacquired her Philippine citizenship in 2006.
He said they were able to prove during a hearing at the Comelec that Poe was already a resident of the Philippines as early as 2005.
Poe’s spokesman, Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) Mayor Rex Gatchalian, said the senator will continue her fight and will not back out of the presidential race.
“First, [the candidacy of Senator Poe stays], she is and she will be a candidate in the coming elections. Second, this is part of a process. The decision is from the Second Division, we respect the Comelec and the remedies that the parties [are entitled to]. We will make sure that we will explore the remedies. Third, we say that Sen. Poe is a natural-born Filipino and she has met all the requirements including the residency requirement,” Gatchalian added.
He said they will appeal the decision with the Comelec en banc.
Poe, in her affidavit submitted to the Senate Electoral Tribunal, said she returned to the Philippines in March 2006 after a lengthy stay in the United States.
“The month of April 2006 is also when my husband resigned from his job in the USA. The period between March-April 2006 [and] September 2012 is around six years and six (6) months. Therefore, this is the period I indicated [albeit, mistakenly] in my COC for senator as my “Period of Residence in the Philippines before May 13, 2013,” she stated in her affidavit.
The electoral tribunal, through a 5-4 vote, dismissed a disqualification complaint filed against Poe.
The senator is still facing three other disqualification complaints filed with the Comelec.
Elamparo, in her petition, cited legal statutes to disprove claims by Poe that she has satisfactorily complied with the constitutional requirements for presidential aspirants and thus is eligible to seek the country’s top post.
The lawyer presented as evidence Poe’s COC for senator in 2013 wherein the latter stated that she has been a resident of the Philippines for “six years and 6 months” before May 13, 2013.
“By the principle of estoppel and the Filipino people relying on what she stated in her certificate of candidacy during the 2013 senatorial elections, respondent cannot deny her 6 years and 6 months residency in the Philippines as of May 2013,” Elamparo pointed out.
She argued that Poe, being a foundling, cannot be considered a natural-born Filipino citizen under the provisions of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “natural-born citizen are those citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.”
Elamparo said adoption of Poe by action star Fernando Poe Jr. and actress Susan Roces did not have the effect of transmitting or conferring upon her the status of a natural-born Filipino citizen.
“Moreover, respondent had to perform an act–the filing of the sworn petition before the Bureau of Immigration–to acquire or perfect Philippine citizenship, which is antithetical to the definition of natural-born,” she added.
As such, Elamparo said, respondent not being a natural-born Filipino citizen disqualifies her from applying for reacquisition of citizenship under Republic Act 9225.
Even assuming that international convention and treaties can determine Poe’s status as a natural-born citizen, she added that “nothing in the international treaties and conventions supports the conclusion that a founding is ipso facto a natural-born citizen.”
Elamparo said the Philippines is not a signatory to the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Stateless.
Even assuming that Poe was a natural-born citizen, she added, “she lost that status when she became a citizen of the United States of America.”
WITH IZA IGLESIAS