MANILA, Philippines – “We find that Respondent deliberately attempted to deceive and mislead the electorate with respect to her citizenship and residency qualifications.”
With these strong words, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division on Friday, December 11, barred Senator Grace Poe from running for president.
The Comelec First Division said that since Poe “deliberately attempted to deceive and mislead” voters, she “therefore committed a material representation” in her certificate of candidacy (COC).
This means the Comelec should cancel her COC.
In a 49-page decision, the Comelec First Division explained that material misrepresentation “warrants the denial of due course and/or cancellation” of a candidate’s COC. (READ: FULL TEXT: Comelec First Division ruling vs Grace Poe)
The division said material misrepresentation is committed when:
The Comelec First Division said Poe’s declaration in her COC “is false because she is not a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and she lacks the 10-year residency requirement for president.”
'Unknown biological parents'
On Poe’s citizenship, the Comelec commissioners pointed out that Poe’s blood lineage “is unknown” because she “was a foundling with no known blood relatives.”
They said that to be a natural-born Filipino citizen, the respondent “must be able to definitively show her direct blood relationship with a Filipino parent and – consistent with Section 2, Article IV of the 1987 Constitution – demonstrate that no other act was necessary for her to complete or perfect her Filipino citizenship.”
They said that Poe, “though a Filipino citizen, was not and could not have been a natural-born Filipino because she was adopted as a foundling with unknown biological parents.”
(Read the full text of the Comelec First Division's decision below)
Despite “what is clear under law,” however, Poe “chose to ignore and brush aside the Constitution and jurisprudence and misrepresent herself as a natural-born Filipino citizen, clearly in order to serve her purpose and suit her intent for running for the presidency.”
“Ignorance of the law excuses no one,” the Comelec commissioners said.
They said Poe “is presumed and expected to know the law,” especially because she belongs to the Philippine Congress. “As lawmaker, it is Respondent’s duty to know, abide by, and apprise herself of the laws of the Republic.”
'It is indeed incredible'
On her residency, the Comelec commissioners also found “that there was a deliberate attempt on the part of Respondent to misrepresent her period of residency in the Philippines.”
They said Poe, in her COC for senator for the May 2013 elections, declared under oath that she had resided in the Philippines for 6 years and 6 months before the 2013 polls.
Counting backwards, this would mean her permanent residency in the Philippines began only sometime in November 2006.
“Based on this declaration, Respondent fails to meet the residency requirement for President,” the Comelec commissioners said.
In Poe’s recent COC for president, however, she declared that she would have resided in the Philippines for 10 years and 11 months by May 9, 2016.
Her recent declaration would mean she has resided in the Philippines since May 2005.
“Respondent knowingly declared this false material information in her COC in order to make it appear that she is now eligible and qualified to be President,” the Comelec commissioners said.
The Comelec First Division said: “It is indeed incredible to think that Respondent, a well-educated woman and already then a public servant with full staff support, including a legal team, would not know how to correctly declare the facts material to her candidacy for the May 13, 2013 elections.”
The Comelec Second Division said Poe is not a natural-born Filipino and fails to comply with the 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates. (READ: Why Comelec division cancelled Grace Poe's candidacy)
Poe can still appeal these decisions before the Comelec en banc, or the commission sitting as a whole. If the Comelec en banc junks her appeal, she can also run to the Supreme Court as her last recourse. – Rappler.com
Editor's Note: In a previous version of this story, we inadvertently wrote "not" instead of "now" in this original quote: "Respondent knowingly declared this false material information in her COC in order to make it appear that she is not eligible and qualified to be President." The correction has been made. It should be "now", instead of "not".
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.