MANILA, Philippines – If the ruling Liberal Party (LP) really wanted to eliminate survey front runner Senator Grace Poe from the presidential race, they should’ve done so at the level of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), weeks before a Commission on Elections (Comelec) division voted to cancel her candidacy.
“We cannot stop people from making those perceptions pero walang pawang katotohanan yan. Napakalayo sa katotohanan at tingin ko nga, talagang kitang-kita naman natin na kung may kinalaman ang LP diyan ay mas maaga naming ginawa yan doon sa SET,” Marikina Representative Romero Quimbo, spokesman for the LP-led “Daang Matuwid” coalition told reporters in a chance interview on Wednesday, December 2.
(But there is no truth to those claims. It’s far from the truth and if the LP really had something to do with that, we should’ve intervened earlier at the level of SET.)
Poe, an independent candidate who has led at least two consecutive presidential preference surveys, is also the subject of several disqualification cases before different bodies because of her supposed citizenship and residency issues.
The Comelec’s Second Division recently decided to cancel her certificate of candidacy (COC) for supposedly misdeclaring her residency in the Philippines.
Presidential aspirants are required to be natural-born Filipinos who have resided in the country for at least 10 years.
Weeks before the Comelec ruling, the SET, composed of legislators and 3 justices from the Supreme Court, denied a petition to disqualify Poe as senator on the grounds of her nationality. Petitioners argued that Poe, a foundling who was adopted by two wildly popular movie stars, is not a natural-born but a naturalized Filipino citizen.
It was a slim SET vote, with all SC justices voting against Poe. Among those who voted in favor of Poe in the case was Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino, a high-ranking LP member and campaign manager of Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo, the party’s vice presidential bet.
Senator Aquino is also the cousin of President Benigno Aquino III, chairman of the ruling LP.
“So kung talagang ang intention namin ay gamitin ang proseso, dapat noon pa lang ay ginawa na namin (If the intention was to use the process in our favor, we should’ve done that earlier) when it was absolutely under our control,” said Quimbo.
Poe is part of a tight presidential race between LP standard bearer Manuel Roxas II, opposition leader Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Roxas’ spokesman, Akbayan Representative Ibarra Gutierrez, likewise dismissed as “rumors” talk that the Comelec ruled with the LP and its standard bearer in mind.
“Malinaw naman na ang COMELEC ay isang independent body, Malinaw ang track record ng mga tao doon (It’s clear that the Comelec is an independent body. The track record of the people at the Comelec is clear),” he told reporters in a separate chance interview.
It’s not over yet for Poe, who still has the option to appeal the Comelec division’s decision before the Comelec en banc and eventually, before the Supreme Court.
Poe’s spokesman Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian had earlier said Poe would continue campaigning and would exhaust all legal measures in the aftermath of her candidacy’s junking.
“That is their right. We respect it. Ang expectation lang from them, daanin lang sa prosesong legal (What we expect from them is that they do this through the proper legal process). And it’s reassuring actually na si Mayor Gatchalian sinabi na (that Mayor Gatchalian is saying that) they will continue to respect the process,” added Gutierrez.
Before Poe decided to run for president, she was wooed by no less than Aquino and Roxas to be the party’s vice presidential candidate. The duo failed to convince the popular senator, however, who at that time was already leading presidential preference surveys.
Exactly 6 months ago, on June 2, opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) president Navotas Represenative Tobias Tiangco said in a press conference that Poe was not qualified to run for president – or vice president – because she did not meet the minimum residency requirement.
Quimbo used this as an argument against speculation that it was the ruling LP that is behind the cases against Poe. “Yung usapin ng residency, hindi sa amin nanggaling. In fact, kung may nag-raise niyan, na nagulat din kami, is nanggaling talaga sa UNA (The talk on residency didn’t come from us. That was raised, and it surprised us as well, by UNA),” he said.
Asked why Poe’s citizenship and residency were not issues when the LP was still trying to convince the senator to be their vice president, Gutierrez and Quimbo, who are both lawyers, said the party “assumed good faith…and regularity.”
Gutierrez said the cases came forward only after Poe finally announced her plans to run for president.
“Walang kinalaman ito doon sa nakaraan. Hindi naman po kami adjudicatory body eh. Kami umaasa lang kami na kapag sinabi ng tao na ganito (This has nothing to do with our discussions in the past. We are not an adjuratory body. We were only relying on when someone says this) then we will assume good faith on her part. But right now, that is being questioned,” said Roxas’ spokesman.
Talks about her citizenship, “never became an issue at that point in time,” said Quimbo. – Rappler.com