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SC stops Comelec from cancelling Poe COC

MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday, December 28, temporarily stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from cancelling Senator Grace Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC) for president.

This comes hours after Poe filed petitions before the SC to stop the Comelec from barring her presidential bid.

In a news briefing on Monday, SC spokesman Theodore Te said the SC issued two temporary restraining orders (TROs) favoring Poe's request. Te said the SC acted through Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as the high court was in recess.

The SC also directed the Comelec to comment on Poe's petitions within 10 days.

Te added that the high court scheduled oral arguments on Poe's petitions at 2 pm on January 19. Te said these cases have not been consolidated.

Poe is assailing the Comelec's decision on December 23 to prohibit her from running for president in May 2016. The poll body cited issues over her citizenship and residence in the Philippines.

Poe: 'Just, compassionate decision'

The Comelec gave Poe a 5-day period to secure a TRO.

This 5-day period lapsed on Monday. This was also the earliest that Poe's camp could file their petition, with government offices closed during the Christmas break.

Poe, for her part, on Monday hailed the SC’s decision to grant her requested TROs.

Poe said: “I thank the Supreme Court for a just and compassionate decision. From the start, I put my full faith in the judicial process. The Comelec denied our people their choices in an open election, but I am confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the truth and the spirit of the Constitution.” 

“We are confident the SC will honor previous jurisprudence on the rights of foundlings to a country and citizenship. I also pray that they will carefully look into the facts of my residence and my actual physical presence in the country,” she added.

The senator also thanked the SC “for acting on her petition despite being on recess for the holidays.”

At the same time, Poe on Monday requested 3 SC justices, who voted against her at the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), to inhibit themselves from the high court’s hearings on her presidential bid.

Poe’s camp said Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion need to inhibit from her latest case.

Comelec: We will comply

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, for his part, said the poll body will comply with the TROs from the high court.

Jimenez said the effect of the TROs “will probably be minimal” because the Comelec “left the name of Senator Poe” in its temporary list of candidates.

He said in Filipino, “As a general principle, we do not remove names unless there’s a final decision.”

He added that because of the TRO, the Comelec cannot grant the motion filed by former senator Francisco Tatad on Monday to drop Poe from the list of presidential bets.

The Comelec spokesman said, "At this point, since there is a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of the decision, then obviously we can’t do what is being asked of us – specifically, we can’t take out the name."

Jimenez also pointed out that the TROs will not change the election calendar, at least for now.

“Things can change, so we have to just be ready for whatever happens. But as of right now, especially now since we just got the news, there have been no moves so far to change those timetables,” the Comelec spokesman said.

'Fairness and justice'

Meanwhile, Malacañang said it is hoping for a fair decision from the Supreme Court.

"In our system of laws, decisions on qualifications of presidential candidates are made by the Comelec and are appealable to the Supreme Court as the final arbiter," said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr.

"We join our people's hope and trust that any decision that will eventually be rendered on the matter would be imbued with fairness and justice." – with reports from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com