Top gov’t lawyer won’t defend Comelec in Poe case

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Philippine government’s top lawyer, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, refused to defend the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the case filed by presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe before the Supreme Court (SC).

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista on Tuesday, January 5, said the poll body is now left to defend itself.

Sariling sikap na po ang Comelec diyan. Kami-kami na lang ang magdedepensa sa naging posisyon ng Comelec tungkol dito (The Comelec has to do this on its own. We ourselves will have to defend the position of the Comelec on this),” Bautista said in an interview on dzMM Tuesday morning.

This comes after the Office of the Solicitor General defended the Senate Electoral Tribunal ruling in favor of Poe. (READ: FULL TEXT: SolGen defends SET ruling in favor of Grace Poe)

The SET earlier junked a petition to disqualify Poe as senator, based on claims that she is not a natural-born Filipino.

Despite the SET ruling, the Comelec later barred Poe from running for president. This is because she is supposedly not a natural-born Filipino and also lacks the required number of years to live in the Philippines.

The SC on December 28 stopped the Comelec from implementing this ruling. 

The High Court scheduled oral arguments on Poe’s case on January 19.

Bautista said the SC also gave the Comelec a “non-extendible deadline” of January 7 to file its answer to Poe’s request.

5-day extension

He said the Comelec, which would discuss the matter in its regular meeting on Tuesday, had requested the SC for a 5-day extension.

On Tuesday, the High Court released a copy of the motion for extension filed by the Comelec  on January 4, asking that the deadline be extended from January 7 to January 12.

The Comelec said that its request “is not intended to delay the proceedings but based solely” on the grounds that it had stated in the motion, among them, that the Office of the Solicitor General filed on January 4 its manifestation that it cannot submit the required comment on behalf of the Comelec.

Meanwhile, Poe thanked Hilbay and the OSG for defending the SET ruling that she is a natural-born Filipino.

“Malaking bagay po sa amin na ang mga mismong tagapagtanggol ng bansa sa larangan ng international law ay pumanig sa aming katuwiran (It means a lot to us that even the very defenders of the country in the field of international law have sided with us)," Poe said.

Buo po ang aming paniniwala na ang batas ay nandiyan para siguruhin ang  pantay na karapatan ng bawat Pilipino, at nagtitiwala po kami na itataguyod ito ng Korte Suprema,” Poe said.

(We firmly believe that the law is there to ensure equal rights for all Filipinos, and we trust that this will be upheld by the Supreme Court.) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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