2nd MR queries majority vote

TATAD RAISES ABUSE OF DISCRETION ON SC

Its being prohibited under the rules of the Supreme Court did not deter former Sen. Francisco Tatad to file a second motion for reconsideration (MR) on independent candidate Sen. Grace Poe's eligibility to run for president.

The SC issued a final ruling on junking the Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision to disqualify Poe for misrepresentation in her certificate of candidacy.

Tatad's counsel, Manuelito Luna, said they will file today at 2 p.m. a second MR in which it will ask the SC to make a proper decision on the Poe case.

Luna in a statement said the egregious error committed by the nine members of the SC had reached the level of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction and, thus, rendering the decision on Poe's certiorari petition - a limited form of review under Rule 6 in relation to Rule 65 of the Rules of Court - and the subsequent resolution on the respondents MRs patently, null and void.

"The people may recall that in the case of Ang Bagong Bayani - on the partylist system - it also gravely abused its discretion by misconstruing the clear terms of the Constitution, only to correct itself in the case of Atong Paglaum and consolidated cases," he said.

Luna said he happened to be the counsel for one of the petitioning partylist groups in the case.

He, however, added the mentioned case was "nothing compared to the constitutional breaches committed in Poe's case which involved the highest and most powerful position of the land no less."

"I'm telling you there is no more rule of law; the biases of (Chief Justice Maria Lourdes) Sereno, et al. had gotten the better of them resulting in the accommodation of a patently nuisance candidate."

Luna said the suggestion of the nine for a petition for quo warranto to be filed in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), if she wins, to assail her citizenship qualification is naughty. He noted that seven of them already said that Poe is eligible.

"What chances do we have to get a favorable ruling?," he asked. "Clearly, they were giving the people - the political sovereign and the authors of the Constitution - a run around," he added.

"In light of these, it is warrantable to disregard the decision as well as the ruling. Anyway, no majority of the Court said that she is a natural-born Filipino and a resident here for 10 years," Luna added.

Luna said the motion will contain arguments against the "constitutionality of the findings in the April 5 resolution" disposing the appeal filed by Tatad, lawyer Estrella Elamparo, political science professor Antonio Contreras, former University of the East law dean Amado Valdez and the Commission on Elections.

Under SC rules, a second motion for reconsideration is prohibited but it can be entertained if two thirds of the 15-man SC or 10 justices would grant it "in the higher interest of justice," according to Section 3, Rule 15 of the Internal Rules of the SC.

Brion raises more questions

Associate Justice Arturo Brion in his vote of dissent to the Supreme Court resolution last April 5 upholding the presidential bid of independent Sen. Grace Poe said "no less than the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) expressed its misgivings about the Court's ruling because of the tenor of its dispositive portion and the opinions of the different Justices.

He noted that even legal academicians and netizens in newspapers and the web, expressed their concerns.

The Philippine Bar Association (PBA) likewise expressed their

"grave concern on the recent ruling of the Honorable Supreme Court," as the ruling failed "to resolve legal issues with clarity and certainty such that more questions are raised than answered, the Rule of Law is not served well," he said.

He quoted the PBA saying that "worse, when the ruling of the Supreme Court portends a looming constitutional crisis with the possibility of a person elected by our people on mere presumption of eligibility, potentially being ousted from office by a majority vote of the Supreme Court, the resulting mandate is weakened from inception, the balance of power among the great branches of government is upset, and the contentious issue of succession comes to fore."

What added to suspicions to the voting process that resulted in the resolution to uphold the Poe ruling was the recounting of Brion of what transpired during the SC en banc meeting.

He said at the SC's first meeting in Baguio for its summer session, one of the items taken up was the Grace Poe case.

"In the usual course, the respondent would have been required to comment on the motions for reconsideration filed. At the very least, a ponente who is disposed to deny the motions would have issued a resolution explaining the majority's positions on the issues raised," Brion said.

He said that topmost of the considerations in the Poe case is the Constitution, simply because it is the contract on which our nation is founded and governed, and is the ultimate fountainhead of all the powers, rights, and obligations that exist in this nation; our people themselves promulgated this Constitution and link with

one another and with the rest of the country through it.

"It should thus be respected to the utmost, with an awe that is no less than what we owe to the Filipino nation itself. Issues on presidency come close behind as the President is the leader on whose mind, heart, and hands may depend thefuture of the country for the next six years," he said.

"To our surprise (at least, those of us who dissented from the

majority's ruling), the ponente simply recommended to the Court en banc the outright dismissal of the motions for reconsideration through a Minute Resolution, i.e., a simple resolution denying the motions for reconsideration for lack of merit," Brion said.

Brion added that the dissenters among the justices "pointedly asked if the ponente would write an extended resolution that would at least explain the reason/s for the outright denial. The answer

was a simple 'No,' thus, clearly indicating that the majority was simply banking on force of numbers, although Members of the majority (not the ponente) reserved the right to write their concurring opinions, after the dissenting Justices confirmed that they would write theirs."

"In other words, no extended ruling and reasoning can be read by the public as a ponencia coming from the Court," he said.

Brion said he found this strange since the SC's decision "has been questioned by different sectors for the confusion it sowed, and whose avowed mission, among others, is to educate the bench, the bar, and members of the public on matters of law. It should not be forgotten, too, that the Court has been entrusted with the care,

interpretation, and application of the Constitution."

He added that the least that a responsible and conscientious SC can do when faced with questions relating to the Constitution is to honor this trust through competent, capable, and principled performance of its duties, particularly those touching on constitutional issues and its relationship with the public it serves.

"That this approach did not take place shall, I am sure, lead to more questions about the Court," he said.

"Under these circumstances, I can only conclude that this Court has not fully discharged its sworn duty in ruling on this case," Brion said.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno conceded in his concurring opinion that the final ruling was unusual.

"Very rarely are concurring opinions and dissenting opinions attached to a minute resolution," Sereno said.

Last Tuesday , the magistrates maintained their 7-5-3 voting on the question of whether Poe is a natural-born citizen qualified to become president under the Constitution.

Nine justices maintained their position that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) committed grave abuse of discretion in cancelling the certificate of candidacy of the senator due to supposed material misrepresentation on her citizenship and residency qualifications.

They are Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Diosdado

Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

The six justices in the minority were also firm in their vote to dismiss Poe's petition - Carpio and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Bienvenido Reyes.

But on the issues involving Poe's citizenship and residency, the magistrates had different votings.

Only seven justices voted in favor of Poe and held that she is presumed to be natural-born citizen despite being a foundling: Sereno, Velasco, Bersamin, Perez, Mendoza, Leonen and Jardeleza.

There were five who voted that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino for failure to establish Filipino blood lineage as required by law - Carpio, De Castro, Brion, Reyes and Bernabe.

The three other magistrates - Peralta, Del Castillo and Caguioa - held that it was premature to settle the citizenship issue, which could only be determined by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) in an election protest against Poe should she win the election.

SC rules require that if all 15 justices deliberated and voted on a case, a majority of 8 votes is required in granting a petition.

"In short, the issue of Poe's citizenship remains hanging and unsettled," Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said in his 12-page opinion.

The senior magistrate has also warned of possible repercussions of the ruling.

"The majority will allow a candidate with unsettled citizenship to be elected President... The ruling of the majority will lead to an absurd result," he explained.

Carpio reiterated his stand that the eligibility of Poe should be determined with certainty and finality before the elections.

"All qualifications of those running for the presidency must be resolved by Comelec prior to elections... Otherwise, all nuisance candidates must now be allowed to run," he argued.

Carpio said the high court once more failed to come up with a clear majority ruling on the citizenship issue in dismissing the appeals on its earlier decision allowing Poe's candidacy.

Carpio said the issue of petitioner's (Poe's) citizenship remains hanging after the resolution skipped discussion on the contentious issue on the citizenship and residency requirements that the Constitution imposes on a presidential candidate.

Source: Tribune

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