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Experts: Poe not eligible despite case’s dismissal

THE dismissal by the Senate Electoral Tribunal of the disqualification case against Senator Grace Poe does not establish her eligibility to run for President in 2016, according to legal experts.

Former Deans Pacifico Agabin of the University of the Philippines College of Law and Amado Valdez of the University of the East Law School, and litigation expert Raymond Fortun, said the tribunal’s decision on Sept. 11 dropping the residency case of petitioner Rizalito David against Poe could still be raised once Poe formally files her certificate of candidacy for President in next year’s elections.

Poe

The experts made their comments even as the House Minority became as deeply divided as the majority in supporting Poe’s presidential bid, with its members questioning her track record and allegiance to the Philippine flag.

Rep. Arnel Ty said not all members of the minority bloc would back House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora in supporting Poe.

Rep. Carol Jane Lopez said she was inclined to support the Liberal Party’s standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II.

Rep. Neri Colmenares said the seven-member Makabayan bloc preferred Poe even if the bloc had been belittling Roxas’ Tuwid na Daan platform.

Agabin and Fortun said the tribunal dropped the residency issue only in relation to Poe’s eligibility in the 2013 senatorial elections, which was the subject of the disqualification case, and that there was a higher residency requirement for a presidential candidate.

For the presidency, the Constitution requires a presidential candidate to have been a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding the presidential elections.

The law experts believe that the residency issue could again be raised when Poe files her certificate of candidacy next month after her declaration last week to seek the presidency.

“Later on, after Poe files her [candicacy] next month, the residency issue against her can once again be revived, and no longer for her senatorial bid but for her presidential bid,” Agabin said in a text message.

Valdez agreed, saying the residency issue when applied to Poe’s senatorial and presidential eligibility should be treated separately and differently.

“Even if the [tribunal] has dropped the residency issue on the present case, her [Poe’s] presidential bid is still left hanging because of another possible disqualification case that could be filed against her next month,” Valdez said.

“It will be a new disqualification case once she files her certificate of candidacy for President.”

Valdez said Poe, who migrated to the US as a college student and earned citizenship there, still must prove that she had been a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years before the May 2016 elections.

“The residency must be in the concept of having domicile in the Philippines. She cannot have two domiciles, one here and another in the US,” Valdez said.

“It is only when she abandoned her US citizenship that she could be considered a resident in the Philippines for purposes of the elections.”

Fortun said Poe had the burden to establish the doctrine of “animus revertendi,” or the intention to permanently return to his or her domicile.

He said he expected the case to reach the Supreme Court.

“The big question is: What was her unequivocal act in April or May 2006 to convince the Commission on Elections and the Supreme Court that she had the desire to reacquire residency in the Philippines?” he said.

“It can’t be a simple ‘I buried my father’ while on a Philippine tourist visa. It can’t be ‘I visited and enrolled my kids’ while on a Philippine tourist visa.” 

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