Grace Poe's camp questions timing of Comelec decision

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of presidential race front runner Grace Poe questioned on Wednesday, December 23, the timing of the release of the final decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which upheld her disqualification from the 2016 elections.

Poe's counsel George Garcia said the poll body could have made the ruling sooner or later, and not during the holiday season, when government offices are already on break.

"'Di ko masasagot kung sinadya. 'Di naman po siguro maililihim na p'wede naman ito mailabas noong nakaraang linggo. P'wede rin po ito mailabas sa susunod na linggo. Ang sinasabi po namin, bakit ngayon nailabas bago mag-Pasko?” Garcia told reporters after he received the decision on Wednesday, December 23, at the Comelec main office.

(I can't answer if it was planned. I guess, we cannot deny that the decision could have been released last week. It can also be released next week. All we're saying is, why did you release it before Christmas?)

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon has said Poe has 5 days upon receipt of the copy of the decision to get a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court (SC). Garcia disagrees, however, and says the Comelec decision only becomes final and executory 30 days upon receipt of the ruling.

Garcia said they will be filing for a TRO on Monday, December 28, when the high court resumes office.

Poe's counsel said they have to secure two TROs, one each on the two separate decisions by the en banc. (READ: What now for Grace Poe? 3 things to expect)

“Dalawang desisyon ang 'nilabas, dalawang petition ang ipa-file namin sa SC. Hindi p'wede isa lang. Nangangahulugan po na dalawang beses kami dapat makakuha ng TRO. Kung makakakuha kami pero 'yung isa hindi, ano po ung effect? Tatanggalin din po ang aming pangalan sa listahan,” he said.

(Two decisions were released, we also need to file two petitions [seeking TRO] before the SC. We can't just file one. This means we have to get TRO twice. If we get a TRO for the other case, and not for the second one, what's the effect of that? Our name will be removed from the list [of candidates].)

Poe’s spokesman Rex Gatchalian said the questionable timing is “meant to disadvantage Senator Poe’s legal response.”

“Despite these timing obstacle thrown our way, we will bring the battle to the SC in a timely manner, taking into account the prescribed deadlines. We will not let the plotters of this low-handed tactic get away with it,” he said.

The turn of events, Garcia said, have made them believe that this is an orchestrated move by some groups.

"Ayaw namin masyado maniwala sa suggestion ng iba sa sinasabing may mga forces na maaaring nag-impluwensya, kaya lang po di mo po maiiwansan na mag-isip-isip din. Baka totoo nga 'yung ganung klaseng alegasyon na may mga kumikilos-kilos na grupo laban sa atin. Kasi tingnan 'nyo po 'yung timing, 'yung timing ng paglalabas ng desisyon. Alam ko may disecretion ang Comelec, pero Pasko naman po sa susunod na araw," he said.

(We didn't want to believe suggestions that there are influential forces. But now, we cannot avoid thinking that it might be true because of the timing, the timing of the release of the decision. I know Comelec has its own discretion, but it's Christmas day in two days.)

Still a candidate

Despite the unfavorable decision of the en banc, Poe’s camp said the senator is still a candidate for president in next year’s elections.

“Senator Poe remains a candidate in the running for the presidency until the whole process takes its course in the SC,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian maintained they will continue the fight, as he expressed optimism the high court would “correct the injustice committed against the senator.”

“We are extremely disappointed with the decisions rendered by the Comelec en banc. The en banc’s decisions blatantly disregarded the rights of foundlings enshrined in international customary laws that also prevail in our country,” Gatchalian said. – 

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.