Grace Poe: People will be witnesses, judges in disqualification case

Camille Elemia

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Grace Poe: People will be witnesses, judges in disqualification case
Some senator-members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal say there is no need for any member to inhibit from the case

MANILA, Philippines – Now that the disqualification case against Senator Grace Poe is with the Senate Electoral Tribunal, the neophyte senator expressed hope that the members of the tribunal would be fair and quick in handling the case.

“Sa tingin ko, ako rin ay sana nagmamadali rin sa kaso na ito. So, sana nga, bilisan na rin nila ang pagdinig nito para naman mas maresolbahan na rin dahil wala naman akong itinatago sa ating mga kababayan,” Poe said on Monday, August 10.

(I am also in a hurry to finish this case. I hope they act on this quickly so that there would be a resolution. I am not hiding anything from our fellowmen.)

In an apparent challenge to senator-members of the tribunal, the frontrunner in presidential preference surveys said the public would be both the witnesses and judges in the case against her.

“Ngayon ang magiging saksi ko rito ay ating mga kababayan bagama’t sabihin nila patas sila, dahil kung anong ilalabas nilang mga dokumento dito sa SET ay ilalabas rin namin. ‘Pag sila ay tumaliwas sa kung anong nararapat na desisyon base sa ebidensya, sa tingin ko ang magiging saksi at hahatol sa kanila ay ating mga kababayan,” Poe said.

(Now my witnesses in the case would be the people. Whatever documents would be discussed in the SET, we would also release them. If [the senator judges] deviate from the appropriate decision based on evidence, I believe it is the public that will judge them.)

No need to inhibit

Senator Nancy Binay, a member of the SET, sees no need to inhibit herself from the case despite the possibility that Poe would be her father’s strongest rival in the 2016 presidential elections. After all, she said, SET has the responsibility to assess and decide on questions of citizenship of a sitting senator.

Binay said she would be guided by evidence and not politics. 

“I would like to assure the people that I will remain fair and reasonable in appreciating the case. Wala naman pong dapat ikabahala si Sen. Grace…. Di naman dapat maging kumplikado ito. All she needs to do is to show evidence – ‘yun lamang ang kailangan,” Binay said.

(I would like to assure the people that I will remain fair and reasonable in appreciating the case. Senator Grace has nothing to fear. This shouldn’t be complicaed. All she needs to do is show evidence – that’s all that is needed.)

Poe signed the committee report recommending plunder charges against Vice President Jejomar Binay in May. It was also the Vice President’s camp that first questioned Poe’s citizenship.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III shared Binay’s view that there is no need for any member to inhibit from the case, as this is impractical.

“No. Eh di walang natira because we are all politicians, we are all politicos in a position. Di ganun kadali. Madali lang sabihin iyon pero di madaling gawin,” he said.

(No one will remain [in the SET if we all inhibit]. We are all politicians or politicos in a position. It’s not that easy. It’s easier said than done.)

Sotto insisted his closeness with Poe would not affect his decision, even as he and the late Fernando Poe Jr were close friends. He also campaigned for the action star in the 2004 presidential elections, although talks were rife that Sotto sabotaged FPJ’s campaign then.

There are also talks that the Nationalist People’s Coalition would support the tandem of Poe and Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero in 2016.

“No it doesn’t matter. All you have to do is look at the black and white. The facts and that’s it. If it’s good or bad for whoever, we take it as that. As long as we do our job,” Sotto said.

Sotto said he would open the discussion on the disqualification case against Poe on Wednesday, August 12, when the SET convenes. After all, he said, the tribunal should be able to decide on the issue before the deadline of filing of certificates of candidacy in October.

Presumption of regularity

Senator Pia Cayetano, for her part, said she would base her decisions on laws and international conventions that the Philippines signed.

Cayetano said there is a “presumption of regularity,” as Poe complied with the requirements asked of a sitting senator, including the submission of a birth certificate.

Cayetano, who chairs the Senate committee on youth, women, and family relations, shared Poe’s arguments that foundlings are not stateless, contrary to Rizalito David’s petition before the SET.

“Well, as a longtime advocate for women and children and having participated in forums with parliaments from other countries, that is a situation that we are against. It is contrary to the rights of human beings to be stateless,” Cayetano said.

Other members of the tribunal are Supreme Court justices Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion, and Teresita De Castro, and senators Benigno Aquino IV, Cynthia Villar, and Loren Legarda.

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.