SET decision won’t affect disqualification cases vs Poe

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) may have voted in favor of presidential polls front runner Senator Grace Poe but the war is far from over, according to the petitioners of the 4 cases seeking to disqualify her from the 2016 presidential elections.

All 4 petitioners claimed the SET decision would not affect the cases filed before the poll body.

Former University of the East Law Dean Amado Valdez said the tribunal's decision “should not” affect his petition.

Valdez said the SET declared Poe a natural-born citizen based on her status as a foundling, without consideration of her renunciation and reacquisition of Philippine citizenship in 2001 and 2006, respectively. (READ: DOCUMENT: SET decision on disqualification case vs Poe)

Valdez, in his petition, said Poe lost her natural-born status when she reacquired her Philippine citizenship in 2006.

“In the case of [my] petition, the ground is not about her being a foundling but her having renounced her citizenship and reacquired it under RA 9225 (Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act). The petition also argues whether we can count the 10-year residency while she was a dual citizen from 2006 to 2010,” Valdez told Rappler in a text message.

In 2001, Poe became a naturalized US citizen after marrying her husband Neil Llamanzares, who is a dual citizen of the US and the Philippines since birth. (READ: TIMELINE: Grace Poe's citizenship, residency)

In 2006, she reacquired her Philippine citizenship through RA 9225, making her a dual citizen from 2006 to 2010. She then renounced her foreign citizenship in 2010, prior to taking oath as chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

Another petitioner Antonio Contreras shared the same sentiment, saying his petition is different from the disqualification case decided by the SET. 

“It won’t affect my petition because my petition is on residency not on citizenship, it doesn’t have any bearing on my petition,” Contreras told reporters after a preliminary conference on the case on Monday, November 23.

The SET dropped the residency component of the petition filed before them by Rizalito David.

The Constitution mandates a 2-year residency requirement for senators and a 10-year minimum requisite for president.

Contreras maintained that Poe did not meet this, as her residency years should only be counted starting July 2006, when she reacquired her Philippine citizenship. Contreras said Poe supposedly lacks 2 months to complete the 10 years needed.

Comelec ‘not bound’ by SET ruling

Petitioner Estrella Elamparo, for her part, said the poll body is “not bound” by the SET decision. After all, she said the Comelec is an independent constitutional body.

Aside from residency issues, Elamparo’s petition questions Poe’s citizenship as a foundling, the issue settled by the SET in its decision.

While Elamparo maintained the Comelec should “independently” decide on the issue of citizenship, she is hoping the dissenting opinions of SC Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion, and Teresita De Castro would “influence” the poll body.

“As to persuasive effect, I am counting on the extremely well argued and scholarly dissenting opinions of the 3 Justices to have stronger influence on the Commission compared to the majority decision which was based on political expediency,” she told Rappler in a text message.

Former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad echoed Elamparo’s view and said the SET erred in its decision declaring Poe a natural-born citizen.

His lawyer Manuelito Luna said the poll body has its own mandate, as he claimed the SET’s decision is “erroneous and unconstitutional.”

“Comelec is an independent constitutional body. It has its own mandate. So the wrong decision of the 5-man majority of the SET in no way affect the disposition of the case before the law department of the commission on elections,” he said.

Poe’s camp: Initial SET victory gave us hope

If there’s one positive thing that came out of the SET decision, Poe’s counsel George Garcia said supporters who doubted Poe have now returned. 

He added the SET decision is a big push for their arguments on the 4 disqualification cases, even as all petitioners remained firm the tribunal ruling would not hamper their cases.

“Maganda lang po sabihin na because of the initial victory sa SET nanumbalik kahit paano ung mga tao na nagkaroon ng agam-agam,” Garcia said.

(It's good to say that people who had doubts came back because of the intial victory in the SET.) 

While Garcia said the Comelec should not decide based on the SET ruling alone, he expressed hope that the poll body sees the “logic” and “reason” behind the majority decision. 

“Di ako naniniwala that the Comelec will decide the case based on the SET decision. It’s too unfair di naman under ng SET ang Commission on Elections. Lumakas din kaso namin dito sa Comelec. Lahat ng 4 na kaso, kung ang Senate Electoral Tribunal ay nagsabi na kami ay natural born, ang Comelec sana naman ay makita ang logic at yung naging dahilan ng Senate Electoral Tribunal,” he said.

(I don't believe the Comelec will decide the case based on the SET decision. It's too unfair because the Commission on Elections is not under the SET. Our case here before the Comelec also got stronger. I hope the Comelec sees the logic behind our arguments.) – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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