No further obstacle to Poe’s candidacy
Last Saturday, April 9, with the release of the minute one-page resolution denying with finality the motions for reconsideration seeking to reverse its earlier ruling declaring Senator Grace Poe qualified to run for president in the May 9, 2016 elections, all obstacles to Poe’s candidacy for president are swept aside and she is now completely free to present herself before the people in the final month of the election campaign. The Court made it very clear that no new appeal or motion for reconsideration will be considered. (READ: Grace Poe: Nothing can stop me now)
The Supreme Court did an excellent job here upholding the rule of law and ensuring compassionate justice, and it did this promptly and wisely. Now it is the people that must decide.
Without changing their original positions, the justices voted 9-6 to finally remove the legal roadblock to Senator Poe’s candidacy for president. But it was not just Poe and the people that are the victors in this case. Foundlings (and the families who have adopted them) and global Filipinos are even bigger winners. The rights of these Filipinos would have been seriously jeopardized if the Supreme Court granted the motions for reconsideration.
The primordial issues is whether or not a foundling who lost and reacquired Filipino citizenship be allowed to run for the presidency? Given her circumstances can she be considered a natural born Filipino citizen and have acquired the necessary 10 year residency, essential requirements for the position she is seeking.
In resolving the petition, the main opinion of March 8, 2016 found that there was no material misrepresentation on the part of Poe when she declared in her certificate of candidacy that she is a natural-born Filipino and a resident of the Philippines for 10 years. The high court, in the same ruling, also said that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it ordered Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC) to be cancelled.
As already mentioned, 9 sided with the majority while 6 dissented. The strong feelings generated by the controversy spurred the two camps to express their sentiments in public.
Even before the resolution came out denying the Motions for Reconsideration, the Chief Justice responded in different venues to the criticism by some colleagues on the lack of majority. She insisted that there is no room for doubt in the Supreme Court’s majority ruling. On the dissenting side, Justice Carpio also conveyed in various fora his dismay over the position taken by the majority and disclosed his belief on the Court’s failure to reach a majority that petitioner Poe is a natural-born Filipino citizen. He asserted that the SC’s voting on the issue of citizenship was 7-5-3 contrary to the claims by the Chief Justice.
The adverse decision of March 6 spurred the filing of motions for reconsideration by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), former Senator Francisco Tatad, Atty. Estrella C. Elamparo, Antonio Contreras and former University of the East Law Dean Amado Valdez.
The eventual junking of these motions for reconsideration is remarkable in that the Court did not settle with a mere minute pro-forma resolution but decided to include concurring opinions of some in the majority and the dissenting opinions of the minority who earlier expressed opposition to the ponencia.
Nine (9) justice submitted their separate concurring and dissenting opinions to the resolution denying the MRs. But for purposes of this article, we shall only discuss a number of opinions, specifically those written by CJ Sereno and Associate Justices Leonen, for the majority view and Associate Justices Carpio and Brion for the dissenting minority.
In her concurring opinion, CJ Sereno reiterates her belief that the denial is final and no new pleadings shall be entertained. She voices out her belief that the decision and the concurring opinions were strong indictments of the grave abuse of discretion that “infested” the Comelec’s assailed actions “from root to fruits”. The concurring opinion also dismisses as speculative the view expressed by the dissenters that the decision would lead to an absurd result. She likewise castigated, without mentioning names, the dissenters for their brazen attempt at tyranny, which to her, is destructive to the rule of law.
Sereno trains her sights on her dissenting colleagues for trying “to cast uncertainty on an already tense situation.” With emphasis, she further adds, “the dissent gives excessive weight to the fact that there are 5 justices in the minority who believe that petitioner does not have the qualifications for the presidency, while ignoring the reality that there are at least seven justices who believe that petitioner possesses these qualifications.
According to her: “Since 12 justices took part and 3 did not on the matter of the citizenship of petitioner, it can be rightly said that a ruling has been made when a group of 7 emerged from the deliberations in favor of petitioner. It is offensive to the majority's pride of place that some in the minority are trying to belittle the Decision by saying that since only 7 and not 8 justices declared that petitioner is a natural-born Filipino, such position produces no legal effect. The reply to such position is simple: we are 7, you are 5. Seven is a majority in a group of 12. It is time that this reality be accepted. Whether such majority position will be reversed in a quo warranto petition is a future matter, but the odds against its happening are quite telling.”
Chief Justice Sereno brands as misplaced the demand by some in the minority that all the members of the Court take a position on the intrinsic qualification of petitioner. Nonetheless, according to her, it is not unimportant that 7 out of the 9 already believe that petitioner possesses the intrinsic qualification for the presidency as opposed to a lesser number espousing a contrary view. She also dismisses the proposition that a full resolution instead of a minute resolution be issued. For her this would cause undue delay by 1 to 2 weeks to the detriment of national interest. Sereno did acknowledge that another case, post-election, could be filed against Poe.
Associate Justice Leonen in his own concurring opinion to the Resolution maintains that the MRs failed to aver any sufficiently compelling reason to deviate from what the Court has already decided. On the voting, Leonen states that 9 justices agreed that the petition should be granted; how each justice arrived at the conclusions is fully explained in the concurring opinions. Like Sereno, he characterizes as unfounded or baseless the fear by some that the decision would result in “chaos and anarchy.”
Justice Carpio, as expected, stuck to his original position in his dissent. In particular, he states that while a majority voted to grant the petitions, there is no ruling by a majority on the citizenship status of petitioner, since, only 7 justices voted to declare petitioner a natural born citizen. With 5 voting to declare petitioner not a natural born Filipino citizen while 3 who took part and voted to grant the petitions but did not have an opinion on petitioner’s citizenship.
Based on Carpio’s reckoning, all 15 took part in the deliberations. Eight justices concurred with the ponente to grant the petitions, 6 justices dissented. Five (5) justices wrote concurring opinions and 5 wrote dissenting while J. Peralta joined J. Caguioa’s concurring opinion and J. Bersamin and J. Mendoza merely affixed their signatures to the ponencia signifying their concurrence. He asserts that the CJ cannot validly exclude the 3 justices who took part and voted but had no opinion on the citizenship issue.
In objecting to the denial of the MRs, J. Brion subscribes to the proposition that the ponente should have at least issued a resolution explaining the majority’s view instead of disposing of the case in a minute resolution. This, to him, is a very strange stance coming from the Court whose decision is being questioned by different sectors. Brion’s dissent follows the line of reasoning taken by Carpio as regard the lack of majority on the issue of petitioner’s citizenship. By its decision, according to him, the Court committed grave abuse of discretion.
I have the highest respect for the Chief Justice and her fellow Justices, whether they concurred or dissented in this case. As I have emphasized with my constitutional law students, the highest court showed in this case the power of deliberation. We must respect that now and move on. – Rappler.com
Dean Antonio G.M. La Viña is an adviser to presidential candidate Grace Poe. He has served as the dean of the Ateneo School of Government since 2006.