SET dismisses appeal in Poe disqualification case

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 03 2015 01:35 PM | Updated as of Dec 03 2015 03:31 PM

Petitioner to bring case to Supreme Court

MANILA - The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) sustained its earlier ruling favoring Senator Grace Poe in the quo warranto case filed against her by defeated 2013 senatorial candidatate Rizalito David.

With the same vote of 5-4 that dismissed the quo warranto case, the SET voted to dismiss David's motion for reconsideration as no new arguments were presented.

"Wala pong nakita ang tribunal na bagong argumento na ni-raise ng petitioner to warrant a reversal of the November 17 decision," SET Secretary Irene Guevarra said.

The SET met and voted behind closed doors at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. The SET is composed Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro and Arturo Brion, and Senators Nancy Binay, Bam Aquino, Pia Cayetano, Vicente Sotto III, Loren Legarda and Cynthia Villar.

All the magistrates plus Sen. Binay favored David's petition, while the remaining five senators sided with Poe.

David said through text message that he will appeal this case to the SC. "Yes, early next week."

''The joke is on the senators who continue to hold on to their misguided and perhaps even fraudulent belief that Grace Poe Llamanzares is a natural born Filipino citizen. This has become a comedy of the Shakespearian variety. But then this is at the same time a sad realization of how badly we have been treated to our choices of leaders particularly those in the Senate,'' he added.

''We just have to blame ourselves for electing into office legislators who should have the basic knowledge of the tenets of the law but are actually either totally ignorant or totally intellectually dishonest. We gave them the opportunity to rectify their errors on the initial vote through the motion for reconsideration we filed earlier but they chose to cling on to their transgressions on the rule of law and the sanctity of the Constitution. Is this expected? Perhaps. But we were praying that they will find it in their conscience to be honest, intellectually and morally on an issue that is bigger than themselves. Indeed justice has lost its meaning in the Senate. Given this we will find justice in the Supreme Court. And to these Senators I say - Woe to you!"

The quo warranto case seeks to unseat Poe, topnotcher of the 2013 senatorial elections with votes of over 20 million. Originally it assailed her natural born citizenship as she is a foundling, as well as her residency in the country as she was an American citizen before the death of her father, Fernando Poe Jr in 2004.

Senators are required to be natural born citizens and to have residencies of at least two years at the time of the election.

The SET ruling is already executory but may still be appealed by David before the Supreme Court through a petition for certiorari.

Villar told reporters after the executive session, "Kami we went through the motion of yung aming decision wala namang nagpalit ng isip. So walang change sa decision."

''We just want to clarify kasi yung pinag-uusapan namin. The SET decision is for her position as senator of the Philippines. We're not deciding whether she can run as president. Now mag-appeal na sila sa SC for this decision of the SET whether she can sit as senator. Sa Comelec iyun if she can run as president of the Philippines.''

Questions on Poe's citizenship and residency qualification as senator are expected to have a bearing on her current bid for the country's presidency in the 2016 elections.

Poe is the current survey frontrunner. She is facing four disqualification cases on the same grounds at the Comelec, one of which she already lost but can still appeal to the Comelec's full bench and subsequently, the high court.

The SET did not pass upon Poe's residency requirement as the period to question it had already lapsed.

''Residency should have been questioned 10 days after proclamation. Too late na. We decided on the basis of citizenship,'' Villar said.

''Sa Comelec meron pa silang issue ng residency and citizenship. They can go to the Supreme Court.''