MANILA, Oct. 28 (Mabuhay) – The Commission on Elections will rule on the disqualification cases filed against independent presidential candidate, Senator Grace Poe, before the middle of December.
“Sa palagay ko as soon as possible consistent with due process. Hindi patatagalin ang kaso. Kami ay handa ilabas ang decision sa bagay na yan at sa ibang bagay tungkol sa mga kandidato we will see,” Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim told reporters after facing a congressional hearing.
“Definitely we will act on this perhaps not later than the middle of December or even earlier.”
The poll body is expected to finalize the list of candidates by December, ahead of the beginning of the printing of the ballots. Ballots are expected to be customized according to each local jurisdiction.
The Comelec has asked all but 5 of the 130 who filed their certificates of candidacy for president to explain why they should not be declared nuisance candidates.
They will be subjected to preliminary conference before being heard by the divisions of the Comelec. The poll body will start those hearings next week.
“We will be observing a strict timeline so the timeline for the printing of ballots will not be affected. We will have all the time to scrutinize and weed out nuisance candidates,” Lim said. He added their rulings may be appealed before the courts.
Poe is facing a case for election offense for material misrepresentation in her certificate of candidacy in the 2013 elections over her residency as well as petitions to deny due course her certificate of candidacy for president.
Atty. Estrella Elamparo earlier filed a petition to deny due course or cancel Poe’s COC for alleged “material misrepresentation in stating that she is a natural-born Filipino.”
Former senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad also filed a disqualification case against Poe, saying Poe cannot run for president next year because she is not a natural born Filipino and because she failed to meet the residency requirement for candidates.
Professor Antonio Contreras filed a Petition to Deny Due Course or Cancel the COC of Senator Poe before the Comelec’s Clerk of the Commission Tuesday using her residency as grounds.
Those cases have been raffled to the divisions.
Lim said the law department initially recommended a suspension of the deliberations on Poe’s election offense case since a similar case is pending before the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
The Comelec en banc, however, decided to study the matter of the prejudicial question. For the time being , the Comelec will implement its rules on the preliminary investigation.
“It is not to pre-judge the case one way or another. Neither is it to rule that prejudicial question exists or does not exist. Rules mandate if there is verified complaint, investigative process has to set into motion,” he said.
The law department has sent a subpoena to Poe to file her counter-affidavit with a hearing set on November 3. Lim said it is at this point where respondents can invoke appropriate defenses, including the matter of raising the prejudicial question as a matter of defense.(MNS)