Supreme court decides on presidential disqualification

Senator Grace Poe has added some colour to the presidential race. Source: Wikimedia

The Supreme Court in the Philippines has begun to hear oral arguments over the disqualification of Grace Poe from the presidential race.

Senator Poe was disqualified in December by the Commission on Elections because she could not prove she was a natural-born Filipino and that she failed to meet the minimum 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates because of years spent living in the USA.

In its ruling, the Commission said Poe would have been a resident of the Philippines for only nine years and six months when the elections took place on May 9.

As Poe did not know her biological parents or the details of her birth, she could not prove that she was a natural-born Filipino citizen.

The senator needs eight out of 14 Supreme Court justices to support her. The decision is expected less than a month after the oral arguments.

“It’s an emotional process to go through, especially when I consider my adoptive parents as my parents,” she announced. “Although the DNA evidence is not necessarily a requirement of the law it will probably make the process short for us.”

Poe’s counsel, Attorney Alexander Poblador said: “The burden of proof is on the [accusers] because [Poe] is presumed natural-born. Foundlings are Filipinos because their parents are presumed Filipinos. She is a natural-born Filipino.”

Senator Poe remains among the frontrunners in the Social Weather Station opinion poll.

She is second behind Vice President Jejomar Binay, closely followed by Mar Roxas and Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Found in the Jaro Cathedral on Panay in 1968, she was eventually given to a Philippine couple who became prominent in cinema and politics.

Her adoptive father, the late action movie star Fernando Poe, made an unsuccessful challenge for the presidency in 2004 while also facing charges that did not have proper citizenship credentials for the office.

The first-term senator went to university in the US and spent most of her adult life in Fairfax, Virginia, where she married an Filipino-American and worked as a school teacher.

The mother of three, 47, returned to the Philippines in 2004 after Fernando Poe died and was elected to the senate in 2013, running on his legacy.

To strengthen her citizenship case, she said she was awaiting the DNA results from three people who could be her relatives.

Outside the Supreme Court, Poe’s supporters blocked Padre Faura Street leading the Manila police to divert traffic.

Fire trucks were called in case the crowd got violent but her supporters left peacefully.