MANILA, Philippines. In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court (SC) decided to save Senator Grace Poe from disqualification as presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.
The SC en banc on Tuesday, March 8, voted 9-6 to reverse the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to cancel Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC).
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was among the 9 justices who voted in favor of Poe. The rest are Presbitero Velasco Jr, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, and Benjamin Caguioa.
Of the 9, four are appointees of President Benigno Aquino III: Sereno, Leonen, Jardeleza, and Caguioa.
The 6 justices who voted against Poe are Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Mariano del Castillo, Arturo Brion, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Bienvenido Reyes.
No details on the decision have been made available.
“Please note that since the Court has only authorized the release of the vote, it may not be safe to report which ground the Court ruled upon and used as basis for the vote, i.e., between citizenship and residence. Thus, it may be best to simply say, the SC grants Senator Poe’s petitions, 9-6, allowing her to run for the presidency,”High Court’s Information Chief Atty. Theodore Te said.
Poe, in her memoranda submitted to the high court, said the poll body’s decision to cancel her certificate of candidacy (COC) for president was “somewhat premeditated, and that bias and impartiality tainted the Comelec’s acts.”
Poe’s camp lamented how the Comelec “changed and manipulated at every turn” the rules of the game in deciding the senator’s case “to achieve the singular objective of denying due course to her COC, and ultimately, removing her name from the official ballot.”
The Comelec, they said, denied Poe of her right to due process when it disregarded the overwhelming evidence proving that although a foundling, she is a natural-born citizen and that she has been a resident of the Philippines since May 24, 2005.
On the issue of citizenship, Poe’s lawyers said the Comelec abused its discretion when it ruled that the lady senator had the burden of proving her natural-born citizenship.
A foundling, Poe’s legal counsels said, is a natural-born Filipino citizen based on the generally acceptable principle of international law, which presumes foundlings to be natural-born citizens of the country where they were found.
“As importantly, the burden to prove that petitioner is not a natural-born Filipino citizen rested on the private respondents, because petitioner is presumed by law to be qualified for the office for which she now seeks to run,” they explained.
On the residency issue, Poe’s lawyers said the Comelec “acted whimsically and capriciously, ignored settled jurisprudence and disregarded the evidence on record” when it ruled that she made a false material representation as to the period of her residence before the May 9 polls.
“The Comelec’s refusal to perform this positive duty, and its gross inexcusable misappreciation of Sen. Poe’s evidence, are questionably acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, which warrant setting aside the Comelec’s finding of fact on the issue of Sen. Poe’s residence,” it added.
The lawyers also maintained that Poe “acted in good faith” with regards to the entry in her COC regarding her residency and that there was no “deliberate intent” on her part to mislead the electorate.
Based on records, Poe began to settle permanently in the Philippines on May 24, 2005. After that, she enrolled her children to local schools in June 2005, purchased a property in late 2005, constructed her family home in Quezon City in early 2006 and sold their US property also in 2006. (Rappler)