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Sen. Poe wins case in Senate Electoral Tribunal

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MANILA (via PhilAmPress)  Sen. Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares has won her initial battle against those wanting to disqualify her as a senator and a presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.


This as the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), the constitutional body composed of Supreme Court justices and senators tasked to decide on Senate cases, dismissed by a close vote of 5-4 the petition seeking to disqualify her as Senator of the Republic despite topping the lastsenatorial elections with over 20 million votes.


The dismissal buoyed up Sen. Poe, her leaders and supporters and their campaign for the presidency and provided strong ammunition to counter four other disqualification cases filed against her due to questions on her citizenship and alleged lack of residency.


Vice President Jejomar Binay and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., campaign manager of the Liberal Party presidential candidate Manuel Mar Roxas II, immediately congratulated Sen. Poe on her victory in the SET.

“I congratulate presidential contender Senator Grace Poe on the denial of the Senate Electoral Tribunal of the disqualification case against her. This is democracy at work and allows for a more interesting battle for the presidency,” Belmonte said.

While Poe still has to hurdle Commission on Elections (Comelec) cases filed against her, the Speaker said he still trusted "these strong institutions within our government to afford everyone fair decisions" based on evidence presented in every case.

“We all look forward to a healthy presidential campaign based on performance and platforms rather than mudslinging and character assassination of contenders, so that our voters are allowed to make informed and intelligent choices on who best can lead our nation." 


Those who voted to dismiss the petition against the neophyte senator who is the leading presidentiable based on surveys were the Senate contingent of the SET, namely, Senators Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, Loren Legarda, Paolo Benigno Bam Aquino, Cynthia Villar and Juliana Pilar Pia Cayetano.


Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay who is also running for president, was the only senator-member of the SET who voted to grant the petition. The members from the Supreme Court, namely, Associate Justices Antonio T. Carpio, Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro and Arturo D. Brion, all voted in favour of the petition.


Carpio presided at the SET meeting held at the Manila Polo Club in Forbes Park in Makati City.


Senator Poe and her mother veteran actress Susan Roces thanked the SET members for their decision.


”I thank the Senate Electoral Tribunal for their fairness,” Poe said in a press statement she issued after learning that the SET had thrown out the case filed by defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David.


Poe said the SET decision sent a strong message that the Philippines considers itself part of the global community that respects international law.


”More importantly, their affirmation of my natural-born status upholds the right of all foundlings in the country to the entitlements, services and protection they deserve as full citizens,” Poe said.


”I thank our fellow Filipinos for their continued trust and confidence. Our work in the Senate will continue with the same, if not greater, fervor and commitment to the welfare of the Filipino people in all areas of the country,” Poe said.


David, who is running also for president, filed the disqualification case last August after Poe surged in the presidential surveys.


David said he is set to appeal the decision before the Supreme Court (SC).


“I will ask the SC to rule on this case with finality,” David said.


He said he considered the decision as a moral victory since the three members of the SET, who are Associate Justices of the High Tribunal, ruled in his favor.


“Moral victory pa din because the SC justices are in my favor,” the presidential aspirant in the 2016 polls added.


David said he felt sorry for the five senators who voted to deny his petition.


“It's a pity that our senators failed to rise above their political nature. The issue placed before them was constitutional and legal and yet they voted along political lines,” he said.


“It's confirmed by how the SC justices voted, they know their law and these people voted in my favor. Clearly, political accommodation lang yung sa mga senators,” he added.


David also filed the same case pending before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).


In the petition, he claimed that Poe committed an election offense for claiming that she is a natural-born Filipino and has met the residency requirement when she ran for the Senate in the 2013 midterm elections.


Four more disqualification cases filed by former senator Francisco Tatad, lawyer Estrella Elamparo, De La Salle University political science professor Antonio Contreras and University of the East College of Law Dean and Professor Amado Valdez are still pending with the Commission on Elections.


Poe has already submitted her 159-page counter-affidavit, claiming she is a natural-born Filipino based on international law that favor the foundling like her, and has met the 10-year residency requirement.


Senator Binay explained her vote was not about her father or the presidential election.


”This is about the provisions of the Constitution which each and every Filipino must uphold,” she said.


Vice President Binay, who once offered Poe to run as his vice president, said he is enjoining everyone to respect the SET decision.


Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the disqualification case was a form of harassment “right from the very start.”


”Now that it’s over, we can start focusing on the real debate about character and issues,” Trillanes, whose Magdalo group endorsed the candidacy of Poe, said.


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