Cayetano is deal breaker in 5-4 SET vote for Poe?

'MESSY' DOCUMENTS. Sources say Senator Pia Cayetano was originally expected to vote for the disqualification of Grace Poe. Rappler file photos

'MESSY' DOCUMENTS. Sources say Senator Pia Cayetano was originally expected to vote for the disqualification of Grace Poe.

Rappler file photos

The close call during the meeting of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) on Friday, November 20, led to an emotional victory for Grace Poe, who has hurdled for now only one of the many disqualification cases she is facing both as a senator and presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.

But we learned that the voting could've gone the other way around: 5-4, with majority of the tribunal in favor of disqualifying Poe as a seated senator of the Philippines.

Apparently, it was another lady senator who turned the votes around. (READ: Senate Tribunal denies disqualification case vs Poe)

According to a SET source, Senator Pia Cayetano was originally expected to vote against Poe.

Remember that before the SET oral arguments on September 21, Poe already submitted 22 documents to back her claim that she is a natural-born Filipino. Her camp also submitted a 163-page memorandum after the oral arguments.

But despite the voluminous documents, the source said Cayetano – a lawyer by profession – still found Poe's papers "messy."

What changed her mind?

Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, only Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III and Supreme Court (SC) justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, and Arturo Brion circulated their opinions.

Cayetano and fellow senators Bam Aquino, Cynthia Villar, and Loren Legarda submitted their separate opinions on D-Day, while Senator Nancy Binay concurred with the 3 justices. (READ: Senators explain votes on Grace Poe's disqualification case)

Even if Binay did not submit an opinion, she was already expected to vote for the disqualification of Poe, one of her father's rivals in the 2016 presidential elections. But in concurring with the justices, she said she only voted "based on the provisions of the Constitution."

Meanwhile, another SET source said Carpio and De Castro were for disqualifying Poe "from the start."

If Cayetano stood by her earlier decision, the 5-4 vote could've unseated Poe as senator. But the first SET source said Cayetano must have decided instead to take a position that protects her adopted son Lucas, whom she found in 2011 at a children's home.

According to Sotto, who first announced the results of Tuesday's meeting, the majority voted in favor of Poe as a recognition of the rights of an adopted child. (READ: Senators explain votes on Grace Poe's disqualification case)

Hours after the decision, Cayetano released a statement:

As a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal that just rendered a 5-4 decision denying the petition to disqualify Senator Grace Poe as a senator, I have to decline interviews and won't make comments for now. The case is still pending with us given that the petitioner has a right to file a Motion for Reconsideration.

Rappler still tried to reach out to her for comments, but she has not answered text messages and calls as of this posting.

Whatever the final decision of the tribunal may be, this disqualification case is still expected to reach the Supreme Court. The SET source said Cayetano, as a lawyer, knows the SC will eventually rule on the legal side of the case. 

After the camp of petitioner Rizalito David files a motion for reconsideration, the tribunal will convene again to decide on the case with finality, hopefully before the printing of ballots in December.

The final decision will have a bearing not only on a separate citizenship case against Poe at the Commission on Elections (Comelec), but even on her presidential bid for the 2016 elections. 

To date, the presidential poll front runner is facing 4 disqualification cases before the Comelec, with 3 of the petitioners questioning Poe's natural-born status.

The other case questions her qualification for president based on the minimum residency requirement that she allegedly didn't meet. Poe's residency is also an issue in David's Comelec case, but it has long been dropped from the SET case, even before the oral arguments began.

David's camp has cried foul over the SET decision, saying the 5 senators in the majority voted "based on political considerations."

In a statement Friday, November 20, Poe's counsel George Garcia told David to move on and look for an "incontrovertible proof" that Poe is not natural-born instead of criticizing the tribunal. – Chay F. Hofileña and Jee Y. Geronimo/Rappler.com