Independent vice-presidential candidate Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero remains confident that his running mate Sen. Grace Poe will be allowed to run for president, having met all the constitutional requirements to seek the highest post in the land.
Escudero said the resolution of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Second Division is just a temporary setback as he expects Poe to get relief either from the Comelec en banc or the Supreme Court.
“We still have faith in our justice system. We believe that in the end, Senator Grace will be allowed to run not only based on international and domestic laws, but also based on the factual situation of the case,” Escudero said.
He added: “If we’re not able to achieve or attain justice in the Comelec Second Division, we are still hopeful that we will be able to attain it either in the Comelec en banc or in the Supreme Court.
“At the end of the day, laws are invented and created to achieve justice. I am of the firm belief that in the end justice will still prevail.”
Poe, the frontrunner in various presidential preference surveys, is also facing three other petitions for her disqualification from the presidential race due to citizenship and residency issues. The cases have been consolidated and are pending before the Comelec First Division.
Escudero said the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) has already ruled that Poe is a natural-born Filipino citizen as defined in the 1987 Constitution, and therefore she is qualified to run and be elected as senator and even president.
“Senator Grace is a citizen of the Philippines from birth, without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect her Philippine citizenship,” he said.
Escudero, meanwhile, could not hide his disappointment after the Comelec Second Division completely ignored a long-standing decision of the Supreme Court that is applicable to Poe’s case when it said she made a material misrepresentation in her residency status.
The poll body’s Second Division claimed that Poe’s period of residence in the Philippines up to the day before May 9, 2016 would not be at least 10 years, citing her declaration in the certificate of candidacy (COC) she filed when she ran for senator in 2013 that she has been a resident of the country only since November 2006.
This falls short of six months of the required May 2006 commencement of residence in the country in order for her to qualify as a candidate for president in the May 2016 polls, the Second Division claimed.
“I am amazed with the resolution. The Comelec Second Division has no basis in saying that the 2013 COC was correct and the 2016 COC was not correct. Up to now, I have been reading the Comelec resolution many times over and I failed to see any justification for that kind of conclusion,” Escudero pointed out.
Escudero said the Second Division has deliberately disregarded the doctrine of animus revertendi or having the “intention to return” which was cited by the SC in allowing former First Lady Imelda Marcos to run as representative of Leyte in Congress in 1995.
Despite her long absence in the province, Mrs. Marcos was allowed by the high court to seek election in Leyte as it ruled that she remained domiciled in the province due to her previous manifestations of her intention to return.
Domicile is defined as the “permanent home, the place to which, whenever absent for business or pleasure, one intends to return, and depends on the facts and circumstances, in the sense that they disclose intent.”
In that 1995 ruling, the SC stated that an individual does not lose his or her domicile even if he or she has lived and maintained several residences in different places.
The high tribunal also held that Mrs. Marcos made an honest mistake in writing “seven months residence” in her COC for a congressional seat, a period less than the constitutional requirement of “not less than one year” for that position.
Escudero said just like that of Mrs. Marcos, Poe’s honest mistake in indicating her residence in her COC for the Senate to be only “six years and six months” is not binding proof of the length of her domicile in the Philippines.
He said the SC was also clear in saying that statements made in the COC should not be taken against a candidate.
“I am wondering why the Comelec Second Division completely ignored the SC decision on the matter,” Escudero said.
“In the case of Mrs. Marcos, the SC said that it is not the material statement she wrote in her COC that will bind if you can prove your actual residence with intent to return and actual physical presence in the country or district where you are running for,” he explained.
Escudero recalled that Poe returned to the country after the death in 2004 of her father, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr.
He insisted that several acts showed Poe intended to return and remain in the Philippines for good.
These include her return to the country in May 2005, enrolling her children in local schools in June 2005, purchasing a property in late 2005, construction of her family home in Quezon City in early 2006, and the sale of their Virginia home in 2006.
“Both her intent to return and actual physical residence was evidenced by the fact that she sold her house in the United States, she resigned from her work, she bought a house here, and she enrolled her kids—one in elementary, one in high school and one in college,” Escudero said./chizescudero.com; FB: senchizescudero; Twitter: @saychiz @chiznewsalert