SC FENCESITTERS IN POE CASE URGED TO RECONSIDER VOTE
Should the Supreme Court fail to resolve the motions for reconsideration (MR) filed by the respondents Commission on Elections and four private respondents, a lawyer of private respondent former Sen. Francisco Tatad, Manuelito Luna, yesterday said this would mean that the Grace Poe case would not be deemed final and executory which in turn may mean that the Comelec cannot count the votes cast for Poe.
In a telephone interview yesterday with Luna, he told the Tribune that “in the unlikely event the SC will fail to resolve the motions for reconsideration of the respondents, the Comelec cannot count the votes for Grace Poe since such non-resolution means that the decision of the Supreme Court has not become final and executory.”
The SC vote on petitioner Grace Poe went this way: Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and Justices Marvic Leonen, Presbitero Velasco, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Mendoza, six in all, voted for petitioner Poe on the Comelec’s jurisdiction. Justices Antono Carpio, Arturo Brion, Teresita de Castro , Estella Perlas-Estella Bernabe , Benjamin Reyes, Mariano del Castillo, Diosdado Peralta and Benjamin Cagouia voted in favor of the respondents, making a count of 8, or a majority on the Comelec having jurisdiction.
On the issue of grave abuse of discretion, 9 justices voted for petitioner Poe while 6 voted in favor of respondents, a clear majority on the Comelec having committed grave abuse of discretion on claims that she had committed an honest mistake on “good faith.”
On the issue of Poe being a natural born Filipino, only 7 justices voted in favor of petitioner, while 5 justices voted in favor of respondents, with three justices saying there is no need to vote on this issue. Clearly, there was no majority attained, since 7 out of 15 is not a majority decision.
On the 10 year residency issue, only 5 justices voted in favor of petitioner Poe , with 6 favoring the respondents. The rest either failed in concurring or dissenting in decisions, or failed to come up with their ponencias.
The 9-6 vote, thus, only applied on the issue of the Comelec exercising grave abuse of discretion and affirming the Comelec’s jurisdiction over the case, while the issue on Poe being a natural-born citizen and her satisfying the 10 year residency ruling, no clear majority was reached.
For his part, former University of the East College of Law dean Amado Valdez has asked SC Associate Justices Peralta, del Castillo and Caguioa to reconsider their position not to vote on the question on whether Senator Poe is a natural-born citizen qualified to run president.
“We ask the three justices (Peralta,del Castillo and Caguioa) to decide on the citizenship issue so that it could be resolved before the elections. We cannot allow this issue to drag on until after the elections,” Valdez told SC reporters in an interview.
The magistrates opted not to submit their position on the citizenship issue believing there was no need for the High Court to rule on it to be able to resolve the case, which only involved the issue of whether or not there was material misrepresentation in the senator’s certificate of candidacy (CoC).
Seven of the justices voted that Poe is natural-born despite being a foundling who reacquired citizenship while five of them said otherwise. No majority vote was attained.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio cited this in his dissenting opinion in saying that there was no majority ruling to establish Poe’s eligibility both as a natural-born citizen.
The only clear ruling of the justices was the 9-6 vote where the majority held that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) committed grave abuse of discretion in disqualifying Poe for material misrepresentation and that the mistakes in her CoC were committed in good faith.
Valdez said there is need for the High Court to settle the citizenship issue with certainty when the justices resolve the appeals on the ruling in summer session next month.
“If Senator Poe wins, the court will just invoke vox populi (voice of the people) and that will veer away from its duty to ensure that the Constitution is respected and exercise wisdom to enforce adherence at the right time,” he stressed.
Valdez appealed the SC ruling in a motion for reconsideration he filed last Tuesday.
He asked the High Court to reverse its decision and instead rule that Poe is not eligible for the presidency for not being a natural-born citizen and not meeting the 10-year residency requirement under the Constitution.
Valdez, one of the four disqualification petitioners against Poe, believes that the justices in the SC majority ruling erred in finding grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that disqualified the senator over material misrepresentations in her eligibilities.
He argued that the High Tribunal has set a dangerous precedent as it allows returning residents to merely invoke reacquisition of citizenship under Republic Act 9225 (Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003) in qualifying for elections as natural-born citizens.
“The clear and unequivocal terms of R.A.9225 that merely ‘deemed’ the petitioner (Poe) ‘to have reacquired Philippine citizenship’, and not as natural-born citizen, cannot be replaced by misapplication and misreading of judicial precedents.
“In the same vein, the definition in the Constitution of a natural-born citizen does not change with an erroneous understanding of repatriation,” Valdez argued in his appeal.
Valdez also supported the plea of the Comelec in its separate appeal on the ruling for the High Court to hold another voting on the issues on citizenship and residency, which were both not resolved in the assailed decision.
He already joined the three other disqualification petitioners - former Tatad, De La Salle University Prof. Antonio Contreras and former Government Service Insurance System counsel Estrella Elamparo – in filing a joint MR last March 18.
The Comelec has also appealed the ruling and asked the justices to again deliberate on the case and conduct another round of voting, agreeing with Carpio’s dissent that there was no majority vote finding Poe as a natural-born Filipino qualified to become president.
In the assailed ruling penned by Associate Justice Jose Perez, the SC held that there was no material misrepresentation on the part of the senator when she declared in her certificate of candidacy (CoC) that she is a natural-born Filipino and a resident of the Philippines for 10 years.
Under Article VII Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, natural-born Filipino citizen and 10-year residency are among the basic requirements to qualify to run for President.
The SC claimed majority ruled that Poe is presumed to be a natural-born Filipino based on circumstances such as physical appearance as well as statistical probability.
The High Court agreed with the Office of the Solicitor General’s assertion that Poe is probably natural-born based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showing that more than 99 percent of babies born in the 1960s and 1970s, both in Iloilo and the entire Philippines, were natural-born.
The High Court also said Poe is probably natural-born because she was found at a Catholic church in Iloilo and possesses “typical Filipino features such as height, flat nasal bridge, straight black hair, almond shaped eyes, and an oval face.”