SET votes 5-4 in favor of Grace Poe

ABS-CBN News

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) – The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) on Tuesday voted in favor of Senator Grace Poe in the quo warranto case filed against her by a defeated senatorial candidate.

Voting 5-4, the SET rejected the petition of losing 2013 senatorial bet Rizalito David who said Poe must be disqualified because she is not a natural-born Filipino. David has argued that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino because of her status as a foundling.

Supreme Court Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, and Arturo Brion, and Sen. Nancy Binay voted in favor of David's petition.

The remaining five members of the SET, Senators Loren Legarda, Pia Cayetano, Bam Aquino, Cynthia Villar, and Vicente Sotto III, sided with Poe.

'A VICTORY FOR ALL FOUNDLINGS'

READ: A foundling named Grace

Poe thanked the five senators who voted in her favor. She reiterated that the decision is not only for her but also for the benefit of foundlings like her who may face questions on citizenship.

"Ang pagwawagi na ito ay para sa inyo at ako'y nagpapasalamat sa Diyos," Poe said during an event in Laguna.

She went on to thank her family and friends, including her running mate in the 2016 elections, Senator Francis Escudero, for giving her strength.

"Nais ko rin pong pasalamatan ang aking ina dahil sa nabigyan niyo ako ng oportunidad at nakarating ako sa puntong ito ng aking buhay. Maraming salamat sa aking asawa at mga anak," she said.

Poe's adoptive mother, actress Susan Roces, also expressed joy over the tribunal's decision.

''At the moment I am too emotional for words. I thank everyone who defended the rights of foundlings. To my daughter Grace, I thank the lord He gave me you and you found your way to me and your papa's lives,'' she said.

David's camp, however, is not backing down yet.

Atty. Manuelito Luna, David's legal counsel, said they may file a motion for reconsideration. They may also elevate the issue to the Supreme Court if the manner the SET members who favored Poe are found to be ''political in nature.''

''We'll have to peruse the decision first but in the event it's a political decision and the senators disregarded the Constitution then on the strength of the ruling in Lerias case, the SC will set aside the decision,'' Luna said.

'NATURALIZED, NOT NATURAL-BORN'

Carpio, chairman of the SET, earlier said that Poe is not a natural-born citizen but merely a naturalized Filipino.

Poe, for her part, said the 1935 Philippine Constitution and international laws and conventions grant her the status of a natural-born. She countered Carpio's argument by saying that for someone to be naturalized, a process must be undertaken, which, in her case, did not happen.

Carpio said Poe can only be considered a natural-born Filipino if she would be able to prove that at least one of her parents is a Filipino.

The senator attempted to prove this by undergoing DNA tests with her prospective relatives. The tests yielded negative results.

PRESIDENTIAL BID

Poe, who topped the 2013 senatorial polls after garnering 20 million votes, is currently the front runner in presidential pre-election surveys.

She is running for president alongside Senator Francis Escudero.

Her presidential bid is also facing challenges, with four petitions filed before the Commission on Elections asking that her candidacy be voided.

Lawyer Estrella Elamparo on October 16 sought to eliminate Poe from the presidential race due to the latter’s alleged "material misrepresentation in stating that she is a natural-born Filipino."

Former senator Francisco Tatad, meanwhile, cited Poe's uncertain lineage in his disqualification petition.

Last October 20, Professor Antonio Contreras filed a Petition to Deny Due Course or Cancel the COC of Senator Poe before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) using her residency as grounds.

Former University of the East College of Law Dean Amado Valdez filed the fourth petition, arguing that Poe committed material misrepresentations in her COC when she declared that she is a natural-born citizen and that she has fulfilled the ten-year residency requirements for her to run as president. - reports from Ina Reformina and Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, Poe 's spokesman, said in a statement that they are confident the four similar cases before the Comelec will also be dismissed.