THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) on Monday defended its decision to cancel Sen. Grace Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC) after finding out that she was not a natural-born Filipino citizen and had failed to comply with the 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates explicitly required under the Constitution.
In a 48-page comment on Poe’s certiorari suit against the Comelec ruling, the poll body said it “hewed closely to constitutional and legal parameters and applicable jurisprudence” in reaching its decision against the senator.
Poe’s suit questioned the Comelec decision granting the petition filed by lawyer Estrella Elamparo to cancel Poe’s COC. The poll body made a similar decision in the case filed by a group led by former Sen. Francisco Tatad, which Poe is also questioning in the high court.
“The Comelec oppressed nobody when it rendered the assailed resolution, [which has] been promulgated in a justiciable case and sets forth therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the constitutional provisions, law and applicable jurisprudence on which it is based. It that sense, it speaks for itself,” the poll body said.
It added that the decision against Poe merely ensured that those seeking the presidency must be compliant with the eligibility requirements prescribed in the Constitution and that the Comelec was only fulfilling its mandate to implement those requirements.
“To disqualify the petitioner who is reportedly among the front-runners in the 2016 presidential race is not an easy task, to say the least. But the Comelec will not shirk its bounden duty and constitutional mandate to conduct clean, orderly, honest and credible elections. An essential ingredient of orderly and credible elections is for Comelec to ensure that candidates comply with the eligibility requirements mandated by the Constitution, without fear or favor,” it said.
The Comelec reiterated that it was not legally bound to take judicial notice of and apply the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) recognizing Poe’s natural-born status.
The poll body insisted that it had correctly ruled that Poe failed to prove that she was a Philippine citizen by blood and that the 1935 Constitution and international human rights instruments did not vest on foundlings like her a natural-born status.
Poe reestablished her residence in the Philippines in July 2006, when she reacquired her Filipino citizenship, and not in November 2006 as she stated in her COC for senator during the 2013 elections, the Comelec added.
“[Her] statement in her subject COC as to her citizenship and residency is and by itself a deliberate attempt to mislead the electorate or hide from them her ineligibility to run for the office of President of the Philippines,” it said.
The former law dean of the University of the East, Amado Valdez, asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the certiorari suits filed by Poe seeking the dismissal of the Comelec disqualification case.
In a 71-page comment/opposition released Monday, Valdez said the poll body did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it granted his and several other petitioners’ move to cancel Poe’s COC for not being a natural-born Filipino citizen and for failing to meeting the 10-year residency requirement.
Valdez, along with Tatad and political science professor Antonio Contreras, filed the second disqualification case against Poe.
A constitutional law expert, Valdez argued that contrary to Poe’s claim, she cannot reacquire natural-born Philippine citizenship under Republic Act No. 9225, or the Citizenship Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003, assuming that she could prove that she was a natural-born Filipino citizen.
He noted that Article IV, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, defined a natural-born citizen as one who is a citizen of the Philippines from birth “without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.”
No clear authority
Valdez noted that even the terms used in RA 9225 were in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution and did not specifically mention the automatic reacquisition of “natural-born” status for former Filipino citizens who reacquired their Philippine citizenship.
“This fact is intentionally ignored by petitioner who claims to have renounced her Filipino citizenship in 2001, assuming that she could prove her natural-born status, and reacquired it in 2006 under RA 9225. As worded, there is no clear authority under RA 9225 to allow her to reacquire the same status after renouncing her Filipino citizenship,” Valdez said.
“Her material representation, therefore, in her COC that she is a natural-born citizen, is false because it is not in accord with the facts in the light of the law and jurisprudence,” he said.
Valdez added that another factor that could affect Poe’s reacquisition of her natural-born was her “peculiar situation” during the period between July 7, 2006, when she took the prescribed oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines under RA 9225 and Oct. 20, 2010, when she executed an affidavit of renunciation of allegiance to the United States and renunciation of American citizenship.
“By petitioner’s failure to renounce American citizenship immediately upon reacquiring Filipino citizenship in 2006, she remained a loyal citizen of the USA and bound by her binding oath of allegiance to that country,” he said.
He added that such a situation was inimical to the national interest as it might create a conflict in her choice in the event of contrasting policies between the two states.
Valdez also said it was apparent that Poe had no intention to permanently reside in the country considering her dual allegiance from 2006 to 2010, and the use of her passport five times for four years during the said period.
He noted that Poe also continued to maintain two residential properties in the United States until the present time, has expressed her intention to pay federal and state taxes in the United States even after her renunciation, and that her husband remained in the United States for sometime after reacquiring her citizenship.
Thus, Valdez said the Comelec just followed settled jurisprudence when it found that Poe has not yet abandoned her domicile in the United States when she traveled there between May 2005 and July 2006.
He urged the court to ignore public clamor and instead adhere to election laws and jurisprudence ruling on Poe’s qualifications.
“The ballot cannot override the constitutional and statutory requirements for qualifications and disqualifications of candidates. When a person who is not qualified is voted for and eventually garners the highest number of votes, even the will of the electorate expressed through the ballot cannot cure the defect in the qualifications of the candidate,” he said.
“To rule otherwise is to trample upon and rent asunder the very law that sets forth the qualifications and disqualifications of candidates. We might as well write off our election laws if the voice of the electorate is the sole determinant of who should be proclaimed worthy to occupy elective positions in our republic,” he said.