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MANILA, Philippines – The camp of former senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad – one of the petitioners seeking the disqualification of Senator Grace Poe in the 2016 race – believes commissioners of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) “cannot be dictated by anyone.”
“I know that commissioners are independent-minded, they have integrity, competence, and probity. I don’t think they’ll allow themselves to be swayed by anyone. They’re professional enough to do their job as required of them under the Constitution. Their master is the law,” Tatad’s counsel, Manuelito Luna, told reporters on Wednesday, December 2.
His statement comes after the senator, whose candidacy was ordered cancelled by the Comelec Second Division, said Wednesday she was not surprised by the decision of the poll body. Poe also hinted that her presidential rivals may be behind the Comelec ruling.
Ruling unanimously on the petition filed by lawyer Estrella Elamparo, the division said Poe’s certificate of candidacy as president “contains material representations which are false” when she claimed she is a natural-born Filipino and has met the 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates.
“Ito kasi inasahan na namin dahil sa mga pinagkikilos rin ng mga nasa paligid namin. Alam niyo, marami kaming medyo napapansin na parang nakikita rin na talagang ito’y inaayos na para mangyari itong naging desisyon na ito,” Poe said in an interview with Bombo Radyo.
(We already expected this decision because of movements around us. You know, there are many things we are noticing and seeing, that there were already efforts so that the decision will be this way.)
She said there is an “obvious and conscious” effort to remove her from the 2016 presidential race. After all, she said, she is the “pinakamalaking banta (biggest threat)” in the upcoming elections. (READ: Poe not qualified? Let her run first, lawyer tells Comelec)
There are speculations the decision was to be expected since members of the Second Division – Comelec Commissioners Al Parreño, Arthur Lim, and Sheriff Abas – are all appointees of President Benigno Aquino III.
Aquino’s party, the ruling Liberal Party (LP), is fielding former interior secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II as its standard-bearer, who is trailing behind Poe in presidential preference surveys.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda dismissed this in a briefing Wednesday and cited as proof how non-appointees of Aquino and an LP member in the Senate Electoral Tribunal voted in the disqualification case against Poe.
“Let’s look at the [Senate Electoral Tribunal] decision, let’s look at the Comelec decision. These decisions for instance, in the SET decision, the 3 justices who voted to disqualify Senator Grace Poe were not appointees of the President. Senator Bam Aquino, a member of the LP, voted in favor of Senator Grace Poe,” Lacierda noted.
He defended the Comelec commissioners and urged everyone to “follow the rule of law and to respect the process.”
“You have to accord each and every individual the respect of their office, the independence that they carry, because it is important to them as constitutional commissioners to maintain their independence. They were confirmed. So once confirmed, they now are clothed with the office of where they are occupying now which is they are clothed with independence,” Lacierda said.
But how will this decision affect the 3 other disqualification cases filed against Poe before another Comelec division?
Luna said he does not know what’s going on in the commissioners’ minds, but they hope “justice and fairness will prevail.”
“There’s nothing personal here,” he reiterated. “This is for the good of the country, and I think even Senator Poe will agree, this will be good for her so this issue can be resolved once and for all.”
Poe’s lawyer, George Garcia, said they have until December 7 to appeal the decision of the Second Division before the Comelec en banc. (READ: Comelec to decide if 2016 ballot will include Grace Poe) – with reports from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com