Senator Grace Poe Optimistic SC Will Decide Early Her DQ Case in Her Favor as Squabble Hits Comelec

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SENATOR MARY GRACE POE LLAMANZARES:Optimistic as ever
MANILA – The camp of Senator Grace Poe has expressed optimism that the Supreme Court (SC) will act swiftly and impartially on the two sets of disqualification cases filed against the lady presidential candidate.
Atty. George Garcia, Poe’s lawyer, made the statement as the SC, after granting the temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the disqualification cases before the Comelec against Poe, readies to start the oral arguments on the case..
Meanwhile, a squabble over the Poe cases has hit the Commission on Elections with Chairman Andres Bautista assailing Commissioner Rowena Guanzon for going directly to the High Court without the alleged clearance of Bautista.
The word war heated over the weekend, as Commissioner Guanzon assailed the leak of Chairman  Bautista’s memorandum ordering her to explain her “unauthorized” submission to the High Court of Comelec’s comment on the Poe disqualification case.

Guanzon asserted she was in fact authorized by the Comelec en banc in its January 5 meeting, since the high court had ordered the poll body to file a comment on the temporary restraining order issued by SC on the Comelec ruling disqualifying Poe from running in the 2016 elections.

“So, what I’m saying is, why does the chairman resent it, when I gave the comment [to the SC] on time? It’s not correct to say we didn’t have the authority to file the comment because it was agreed upon in our en banc meeting last January 5, authorizing me and the law department of write our comment and submit it on time which is January 7,” Guanzon said.

Guanzon also accused Bautista – who  dissented from the majority opinion in the Poe case – of effectively delaying the filing of the poll body’s comment on the case by saying that it could be filed on January 12 and not on January 7 as directed by the High Court.

“The Commission on Elections has an interest in filing  the comment on time. It is so peculiar that it’s the chairman himself who is blocking our ability to file a timely comment. That is something else,” said Guanzon.

All lawyers know, Guanzon added, that when the Supreme Court sets a deadline, it should be obeyed at all costs unless the parties can cite circumstances justifying the delay in the submission of the comment.

“When you exceed the deadline, it’s unlikely for the Supreme Court to accept it except for justifiable reasons. Like in this case, we don’t have a lawyer [the Solicitor General opted to represent another government body, the Senate Electoral Tribunal, which ruled in Poe’s favor], and it was only on January 4 when we received a copy [of the SC order],” Guanzon said.

If Bautista wanted to sign the comment sent to the SC, Guanzon said he should have called her, but the last word from his chief of staff on January 6 was that that the poll chief will not sign the document. In his memorandum demanding an explanation from her and the Comelec law department, Bautista had pointed out that his signature was not on the comment submitted by Guazon to the SC.

“If he [Bautista] felt hurt or disrespected, as he says, what did he do with regard to his signature? His chief of staff said on January 6 that he will not sign it. That he won’t sign the comment, and it should just reflect his name without the signature,” Guanzon said in an Interaksyon report by Ernie Reyes.

Bautista alone is not the Comelec, which has six other commissioners to vote on a particular subject, said Guanzon.

“Chairman Bautista only has one vote in the en banc. Only two of them had dissenting opinions; they were outvoted in two cases; the other commissioner isn’t even saying anything. They lost, the majority had a decision. That’s why it’s such a surprise that he got upset when we filed our comment on time. In fact, he should be pleased,” Guanzon said.

With this, Guanzon asked Bautista openly whether he wanted the Comelec to win or lose the case before the Supreme Court, according to the Interaksyon report..

“As for me, I don’t want to lose in the Supreme Court,” she said, in Filipino.

 Guanzon said Bautista has no power under the Constitution to discipline commissioners because all authority comes from the en banc, not just the head of the poll body.

“Under the Constitution, the Commission and the Commissioners have equal power. All authority emanates from the en banc. The chairman simply signs all the documents,” Guanzon said.

On Bautista’s hint at plans to discipline her for filing the comment before the Supreme Court without his signature, Guanzon said: “We are not required to answer (the memo) within 24 hours or 100 days. Whatever his question is, he should have waited for the Monday en banc meeting, and then and there, I will answer his questions,” Guanzon said.  

Garcia said the SC, in fact, can rule as early as January on the case of Poe, the presidential race frontrunner based on surveys, who is facing legal hurdles from allies of other presidential contenders.
”Perhaps after the oral arguments on Jan. 19, the SC can immediately make the decision. That’s possible,” Garcia said in a press statement.
The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on Poe’s disqualification cases, as well as the petition to reverse the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, on Jan. 19.
”I believe that because this is a case of transcendental importance, it will be given priority by the SC,” Garcia said.
Despite the SC’s being on holiday recess, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno granted Poe’s request for relief on Dec. 28, just a few hours after Garcia filed the petition.
The two TROs issued by Sereno, which are effective until further notice from the Court, prevent the Commission on Elections from implementing its decision to cancel Poe’s certificate of candidacy for president.
The Supreme Court is expected to uphold the TROs when the Justices convene on Jan. 12.
Poe’s camp has also moved for the inhibition of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro and Arturo Brion when the SC conducts the oral arguments. The three magistrates unanimously voted to disqualify her as a senator on the basis of her being a foundling.
Garcia also filed a petition to consolidate the rulings of two Comelec decisions, saying all four petitioners are similarly questioning Poe’s natural-born status and residency.
Poe said she trusts the discernment of the justices of the Supreme Court, as the final arbiter on all matters concerning law. She also assured the public that she will respect and abide by the High Court’s decision, whatever it may be. (with MTVi/PhilAmPress)

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