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Win or lose in SC, Poe stays in ballot

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Tuesday, March 1, it will not “delist” presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe from the ballot even if the Supreme Court (SC) eventually decides to disqualify the senator. 

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body, after all, has printed 10.5 million ballots as of Monday, February 29. He said the Comelec cannot print these again without missing its April 25 deadline.

Naka-10.5 million na kami eh,” Bautista said in a news conference. (We’ve already reached 10.5 million.)

This is nearly 20% of the 56.77 million ballots needed for the May 9 elections.

Bautista issued this statement after reporters asked him whether the Comelec would “delist” Poe in case the SC disqualifies her.

The Comelec chairman also said, “If ever we are going to start again printing from scratch, we might not be able to meet the deadline.”

He said the Comelec is not even discussing the possibility of dropping Poe from the list of candidates. 

This comes as the Supreme Court (SC) is set to decide whether to uphold a Comelec ruling to bar Poe from running. Reporters anticipated the SC ruling on Tuesday, but the High Court said nothing about this in its weekly briefing.

The Comelec had cancelled Poe’s certificate of candidacy based on claims that she is not a natural-born Filipino and that she had failed to meet the 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates.

Poe's 'worst-case scenario'

If the SC decides to uphold the Comelec ruling, then Poe wins, this would thrust the Philippines in a crisis where the president-elect had been disqualified.

With the Philippines facing this possibility, Bautista on Tuesday said votes for disqualified candidates “will be physically counted but will be declared stray.” 

He added, “You will know the votes of these people who are disqualified and those who passed away.” One of the presidential candidates, Roy Señeres, died a couple of days after withdrawing from the race, but his name was already on the final face of the ballot.

Poe’s lawyer George Garcia, for his part, said their “worst-case scenario” is only that votes for Poe would be declared as stray.

Garcia downplayed the possibility that the Comelec would delist Poe and order a reprinting of ballots. “I doubt whether the Comelec will order a reprinting,” he said in an interview with reporters at the Comelec.

He said his camp, however, is not even thinking of the possible delisting of Poe.

Poe’s lawyer said, “Sobra 'yung paniniwala namin – mananalo kami sa Supreme Court.” (Our belief is firm – we will win in the Supreme Court.) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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