The camp of Senator Grace Poe is bracing for what could be a bigger road block in her journey to Malacanang.
Poe's lawyer George Garcia is anticipating a separate disqualification case once the senator has filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) for president next week.
“Our reading is that in the end, what they want is to exclude the name of Sen. Grace Poe in the ballot because if it’s included, that would really be a problem for our opponents,” Garcia told ABS-CBN News.
“They will try to have us disqualified before the printing of the ballots.”
But the camp of petitioner Rizalito David insisted he had no intention of taking her out of the presidential race.
Poe is running for president despite a disqualification case filed by David, who alleged that she’s not a natural-born Filipino. The senator has denied the allegation.
David’s lawyer, Manuelito Luna, said his client’s focus was winning his case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).
“We have no intention whatsoever to exclude her from the presidential race,” Luna said. “That is not our option and that is not our concern… Our hands are full already in the SET case.”
Under the rules, a petition seeking the cancellation of a COC may be filed before the Commission on Elections, within 25 days from the day the certificate is filed.
The deadline of the printing of ballots is April 20 next year.
Comelec rules also allow candidates who withdraw to be substituted until December 10. But that would not apply to Poe because she will be running as an independent candidate, her lawyer acknowledged.
Poe’s camp wants the SET petition resolved soon to allow her to concentrate on the more important aspects of her campaign, the lawyer said.
“Of course, it’s difficult if you have a pending (disqualification) case,” Garcia said.
“You will have to explain to the people that, you know, ‘I’m not disqualified. I’m a natural-born Filipino citizen. I am a resident of this country.’”
Garcia added: “So that will always be part of your speech. That will always be part of your explanation to the Filipino people.”
Garcia is confident Poe would weather the storm at the SET, including a possible petition for disqualification case after she files her COC.
But in case Poe wins the presidential election, but ends up disqualified, Garcia said the voters’ will should prevail.
“To us, the people would have already spoken, so what disqualification are we still talking about?” he said.
But Garcia said Poe’s camp still prefers that the disqualification case is settled before the elections.
“The Filipino people deserve to know the truth. The Filipino people deserve to elect a leader suffering from no disqualification, with no baggage, so to speak,” he said.