Grace Poe to attend SC oral arguments on Comelec case – lawyer

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe will attend on Tuesday, January 19, the oral arguments on her petition questioning the jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) over cases to cancel her candidacy and disqualify her from the presidential race.

Poe’s counsel George Garcia confirmed this on Thursday, January 14, after the preliminary conference held at the Supreme Court (SC) to agree on the conducts of Tuesday's hearing.

“Definitely, Senator Poe will be attending the oral arguments,” Garcia told reporters.

Acting on 4 separate complaints, two divisions of the Comelec ruled to cancel Poe's certificate of candidacy, saying she is not a natural-born Filipino and failed to meet the minimum 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates. The Comelec en banc upheld the rulings, but not all commissioners agreed that Poe committed material representation when she declared in her certificate that she was qualified.

Poe was able to immediately secure temporary restraining orders from Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno during the Christmas break. The SC en banc confirmed the TROs on Tuesday, and ruled to consolidated Poe's petitions to review the two Comelec rulings.

On January 19, the camp of Poe would be first to speak, followed by Comelec commissioners Arthur Lim and Rowena Guanzon, and the 4 petitioners: former Senator Francisco Tatad, former University of the East law dean Amado Valdez, lawyer Estrella Elamparo, and professor Antonio Contreras.

Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who had refused to defend the Comelec before the SC due to its ruling that conflicts with the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal on Poe’s citizenship, is ordered to speak last. The SC invited him as a “tribune of the people.”

Garcia said they expect the final decision within 2 to 3 weeks after the oral arguments.

"More or less hindi magtatagal kasi nga the SC would like to at least terminate everything kaagad. Siguro one day lang 'yung oral arguments," he said. (More or less it won't take long since the SC would like to at least terminate everything as soon as possible. There will probably only one day for the oral arguments.)

Don’t discuss merits of case in public – SC

Garcia said the SC told all camps to refrain from publicly discussing the merits and substance of the highly complicated legal case. He, however, clarified this was a mere advice and not a gag order.

“It’s not a gag order. Sabi lang ng SC since this is a very legal and technical issue, hindi dapat gawing pulitikal and each of the parties should be responsible para hindi ma-undermine ang proceedings,” Garcia said in a phone interview.

(It's not a gag order. The SC only said that this is a very legal and technical issue, and should not be made political, and each of the parties should be responsible so as not to undermine the proceedings.)

The High Court also asked all parties to ensure that their supporters would behave properly inside the session hall during the expected heated debates.

Meanwhile, Tatad’s counsel Manuelito Luna said they would prepare hard for the battle. While each of the 4 petitioners would only be given 5 minutes to argue their cause, Luna said they are expecting a thorough interpellation from the judges.

“This will be a case of a lifetime so we have to prepare very hard for this,” he said. –