Poe confident SET will junk election case

THE camp of Senator Grace Poe is “highly confident” that the nine-member Senate Electoral Tribunal will decide on her disqualification case based on merits and ultimately rule that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen.

“We believe that the SET will really resolve this case based on the law, based on their conscience, based on their own interpretation of the controversy and the given facts,” Poe’s lawyer George Garcia said, in a statement.

The SET, composed of three Supreme Court justices and six senators, is chaired by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who, during the Sept. 21 oral arguments on the disqualification case, opined that Poe, being a foundling, is considered a naturalized citizen under customary international law.

Garcia said Poe’s legal team will not seek Carpio’s inhibition, despite claims by various quarters, including lawmakers and legal luminaries, that he had already prejudged the case against the lady senator.

According to him, the team remains confident in the integrity and independence of Carpio and eight other SET members, namely: Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro and Arturo Brion, and Senators Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Tito Sotto and Cynthia Villar.

Garcia said the SET is expected to resolve the case on the merits and based on law, notwithstanding the political affiliations of its members, particularly the six senators, who are Poe’s colleagues in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Garcia said they are confident that even without the results of Poe’s DNA test, they can still prove she is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.

He said their client had agreed to undergo a DNA test not because she wanted to verify her citizenship, but to establish her relationship with alleged relatives as part of her “personal search for truth.”

“For her (Poe), this is more of a personal rather than a legal undertaking,” Garcia said. “[DNA testing] is not even required in our case because we can prove natural-born status even without it.”

Poe, the topnotcher in the 2013 senatorial race and a frontrunner in recent presidential preference surveys, is facing a disqualification case before the SET on the ground that she is not a natural-born citizen.

However, her legal team insists that Poe is a Filipino citizen from birth and does not have to go through a naturalization process to become a citizen -- a position shared by several respected legal minds, including retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and former senator Rene Saguisag.

It cited the long-standing presumption and principle of customary international law that a foundling is considered to have been born in the state where he or she was found and from parents of that country’s nationality.

The legal team said the presumption prevails unless proof to the contrary is presented, noting that Rule 31 of the Rules of Court provides that “whoever alleges must prove.”

Garcia said it is not Poe but the petitioner, defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David, who should present proof that the senator is not a natural-born Filipino.

He said it was not accurate to say that the burden of proof shifted to Poe considering that David has failed to present any evidence to substantiate his claim.

The counsel noted that during oral arguments at the SET, David’s lawyer Manuel Luna admitted they have no evidence to prove that Poe’s parents are foreigners.


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