VOTING 9-6, the Supreme Court en banc allowed Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares, the front runner in the race, to run for president in the May 9 Philippine elections.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, and Benjamin Caguioa voted to uphold the presidential bid of Poe whose certificate of candidacy (CoC) for president was cancelled by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Of the nine, four are appointees of President Benigno Aquino III — Sereno, Leonen, Jardeleza, and Caguioa.
The six justices who voted against Poe were Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Mariano del Castillo, Arturo Brion, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Bienvenido Reyes.
Of the six, two are appointees of Aquino — Bernabe and Reyes. Three of them – Carpio, Brion and De Castro – were part of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) that earlier voted in favor of Poe. They dissented in that SET verdict, insisting that Poe is not a natural-born Filipino citizen.
In a press conference, Supreme Court Public Information Office (PIO) Chief and Spokesman Theodore Te said nine justices voted in favor of and six justices voted against granting the consolidated petitions of Poe, which assailed the Comelec en banc’s that nullified her CoC for president in the May 9 polls
Te, in a statement released hours after the verdict clarified: “I am authorized to say that there will be four concurring opinions for the Majority Decision, and five dissenting opinions. Please note that since the Court has only authorized the release of the vote, it may not be safe to report which ground the Court ruled upon and used as basis for the vote, i.e., between citizenship and residence. Thus, it may be best to simply say, the SC grants Senator Poe’s petitions, 9-6, allowing her to run for the presidency.”
The landmark ruling removed the biggest obstacle to Poe’s run for presidency.
Poe, who is running under the Partido ng Galing at Puso (PGP), cried when she heard the news over the radio.
In an ambush interview, Poe said she was on her way to Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila for the International Women’s Day celebration when she heard the news while climbing the stairs to drop by Quiapo church to pray.
“I really stopped because…. the vendors there who I always see were thinking why my eyes were puffy,” related Poe.
“Of all the places, you can ask my companions in the car… the news stopped when I arrived in front of the church where I oftentimes go,” said Poe.
It was also in the vicinity of Quiapo Church where Poe and his fellow candidates at Team Grace-Chiz (Escudero) held their proclamation rally that officially kicked off their campaign for the upcoming polls.
When she ran for senator in the 2013 elections, the Team PNoy, which adopted her as a Guest candidate, also held their proclamation rally in the same area.
“So it’s always near the church. Important events in my life happened in the church or near the church,” she emphasized.
Poe, as a foundling was abandoned inside a Jaro Catholic Church in Iloilo where she intended to take her oath of office if she wins the presidency.
The Senator said she wasn’t expecting the SC decision on March 8 because from what she heard, it will come out during the second week of March. “So it was a week earlier.” But she called it a “pleasant surprise”.
“The news came on. And it just ended just when I arrived there (in front of the church).” So it was sort of “I should go down, and give thanks,” she said.
She said it might “be the hands of God (guiding me to) do what is right, not only for myself, but for millions of Filipinos who until now are seeking for concern, help and justice.”
She said the decision of the Supreme Court is a victory not only for foundlings, but for all Filipinos who are poor and being oppressed.
“This is my mission—that our government should afford us protection and equality,” she added.
Still, she believes a surge in her survey ratings will depend on her message and her job.
She acknowledged nothing is certain in the campaign, but “I believe that the people will now have the courage to choose and support (their candidate) with the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Reacting on the possibility that those from other parties might jump ship and join their team, Poe said anybody is welcome because they have always advocated unity and the good for all.
On the reported bribery of justices before they came out with a decision, Poe admitted she heard about it. “I just hope it’s not true. But I’m thankful that justice won.”
Meanwhile, in her speech delivered at the International Women’s Day, Poe said the decision came at just the right time.
According to Poe, 26 percent of Filipino women are poor. In other areas, the poverty incidence among women is even higher: 45 percent in Eastern Visayas and 55 percent in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Should she win the presidency, Poe said she will ensure that women will have income and livelihood opportunities. She said she will push for the strict enforcement of the Magna Carta for Women and the passage of the Anti-Discrimination bill. (MCA)