The Commission on Elections’ second division dealt a debilitating blow to the presidential aspirations of Senator Grace Poe when it voted 0-3 to disqualify her from the race. In a 35-page decision released late Tuesday afternoon, the poll body ruled that Poe is not qualified to seek the presidency during the May 2016 national elections because of two reasons.
First, COMELEC pointed out that the senator falls short of the ten year residency requirement set by the 1987 Constitution by two months. Then, the poll body also stressed that Poe is not even a natural born Filipino citizen because of her status as a foundling or an abandoned newborn with no known biological parents.
Poe’s camp can still appeal the ruling to COMELEC en banc, where the case will be decided by the poll body’s Chairman and all the six commissioners. However, the expansiveness of the second division’s ponencia makes it unlikely to be reversed.
Having said that, the only chance for Poe to have the decision of COMELEC’s second division reversed and set aside is by appealing the case to the Supreme Court (SC). According to various analysts, the chances for Poe to prevail here is small especially since the magistrates were all appointed either by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the woman her father tried to unseat, or President Benigno Aquino III, whose party is endorsing Mar Roxas.
If the SC affirms both parts of COMELEC second division’s ruling, this will spell the end of Poe’s political career. First, she will not be able to seek the presidency during the May 2016 presidential elections. The next two implications will be far more devastating for her.
If it is held that she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen, then she will lose the Senate seat she won in 2013. Not only that, she will be effectively barred from seeking any national post as long as the 1987 Constitution is in effect. If the disqualification case against Fernando Poe Jr. will be a guide, we may have to wait until March 2016 to know definitively the outcome of all these legal proceedings.
For now, the most pressing issue is whether Poe’s name will even be on the ballot. COMELEC is due to begin printing the ballots to be used for the May 2016 polls by December 15 (the process needs to be started early because approximately 55 million ballots needs to be printed).
According to COMELEC spokesperson James Jimenez, the poll body will most likely let Poe’s name there out of practicality.”It’s easier to ignore the votes cast for that person than to take them out of the ballot then later on find out that they should have been in the ballot in the first place,” he told CNN Philippines.