As first reported yesterday night by GMA News’ Joseph Morong, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) en banc upheld the decision of its First and Second Divisions disqualifying Senator Grace Poe from the May 2016 presidential elections. This was confirmed in by COMELEC Chair Andres Bautista in an interview with Rappler.
The decision does not come as a surprise because of the seven COMELEC commissioners, five have already voted against her namely Commissioners Luie Guia and Rowena Guanzon from the first division and Commissioners Sheriff Abas, Arthur Lim, and Al Parreno from the second division.
Christian Robert Lim, the only one to have voted so far in favor of Poe, opted to recuse himself from the deliberations because he and petitioner Estrella Elamparo used to be associates of the Lim, Ocampo, and Castañeda Law Offices.
With the COMELEC ruling with finality against her, Poe’s last remaining legal option is to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. The proceedings may take months to be resolved, but for now, the urgent task for Poe’s camp is to secure a temporary restraining order against COMELEC’s disqualification of her.
According to COMELEC’s Rules of Procedures (Rule #37 section 3), decisions made by the poll body disqualifying a candidate will become final and executory after the lapse of five days unless the losing party can get a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court.
The definition of “five days” is complicated by the fact that after today, the Supreme Court only has two work days left for the year – December 28 and 29 (half-day work only). At the latest, Poe’s camp should be able to secure a TRO by the first week of January.
Another problem: Poe is irreplaceable, literally
A few months ago, it seemed that Poe was well-positioned to become the first presidential candidate to win the election without running officially under a political party. However, in retrospect, it seems that her decision to run as an independent is turning out to be a horrible mistake.
Because no political party listed her as its nominee, Poe cannot be substituted by anyone if and when the Supreme Court junks her candidacy once and for all. Section 19 of COMELEC’s Resolution 9984 explicitly states that “No substitute shall be allowed for any independent candidate.” Hence, those wild speculations that Susan Roces may end up becoming the presidential candidate a la Lucy Torres substituting for her husband Richard Gomez in the 2010 Ormoc City congressional race has no way of happening.