MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Electoral Tribunal that will determine the political fate of Senator Grace Poe is set to decide on her disqualification case by November.
Senator Tito Sotto, a member of the tribunal, told reporters on Friday, September 11, they are targeting a decision by that time, a month after the deadline of the filing of Certificates of Candidacy for the 2016 elections. Sotto, however, refused to give further details.
During Friday’s preliminary conference, the petition was limited to the citizenship issues against Poe.
Poe’s lawyer Alex Poblador said the SET, with the concurrence of the other camp, decided to drop the residency component of the case, as the prescribed period already lapsed.
Under the SET rules, a quo warranto case should be “brought within 10 days after” a senator’s proclamation.
Poblador said the tribunal also admitted documents of both camps in the initial conference.
Questionable birth certificate
Petitioner Rizalito David raised issues on the validity of Poe’s original birth certificate, saying there are erasures that are questionable. (READ: DOCUMENTS: Proof of citizenship submitted by Grace Poe to SET)
“Alterations di malinaw. Original name was Mary Grace Natividad Contreras Militar pero bakit may nakasulat na Sonora Poe? After adoption naging Mary Grace Natividad Sonoro Poe. Wala siyang birth certificate na lumabas after adoption yet she was able to get a series of passports? Alam naman natin na number one requirement sa passport yung birth certificate,” David said.
(The alterations are unclear. Original name was Mary Grace Natividad Contreras Militar but why is it there's a Sonora Poe written? After adoption her name became Mary Grace Natividad Sonora Poe. She has no birth certificate after adoption yet she was able to get a series of passports? We all know the number one requirement in getting a passport is a birth certificate.)
But Poe’s lawyer Alex Poblador said David’s allegation is “false.” Poblador explained when Poe was legally adopted in 1974, the original birth or foundling certificate had to reflect the legal changes to her name.
He added the adoption petition was approved in 1974 and was registered with the Iloilo civil registrar in 1980. The delay, Poblador said, is beyond Poe’s control. (READ: TIMELINE: Grace Poe's citizenship, residency)
“They were not alterations. There were additions there to reflect formal adoption in 1974 so in fact a new birth certificate was issued to reflect formal adoption and change of name,” Poe’s counsel said.
No outright dismissal
Poe’s camp earlier requested the SET to dismiss the case filed by David, primarily for “willful forum shopping” but the court only granted this partially.
David denied this allegation, saying the cases he filed before the SET and the Commission on Elections were different in nature.
David also said the fact that the tribunal held a preliminary conference “means that they have taken due course” on the petition.
“Di rin ito forum shopping kasi magkaiba 'yung nature ng kaso na finile ko sa Comelec. Comelec, election offense arising from misrepresentation of materials. Misrepresentation, so election offense, ito namang isa ay challenge to [Poe] to justify whether she should stay as a senator on the basis of her lack of qualification,” David said.
(This is not forum shopping because the nature of the case I filed before the Comelec is different in nature. In the Comelec, it's election offense arising from misrepresentation of materials. Misrepresentation, so election offense. This one [before the SET] is a challenge to [Poe] to justify whether she should stay as a senator on the basis of her lack of qualification.) – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org