Senator Grace Poe offers flowers at the tomb of her father, Fernando Poe Jr., at the Manila North Cemetery on Sunday (Dec. 14, 2014), the 10th death anniversary of the acknowledged Filipino movie king. (MNS photo)

Senator Grace Poe offers flowers at the tomb of her father, Fernando Poe Jr., at the Manila North Cemetery on Sunday (Dec. 14, 2014), the 10th death anniversary of the acknowledged Filipino movie king. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — Former Commission on Elections chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Wednesday said Sen. Grace Poe cannot be disqualified from next year’s elections based on her residency status since she was born in the Philippines.

Brillantes said the Constitution asks not for the actual period of residence but for legal residence or domicile.

“Parang ang interpretasyon nila ay ‘yung tinatawag na actual residency,” Brillantes said, commenting on the accusation by the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) against Poe. “As far as residency is concerned, qualified si Grace Poe, based on the issue on domicile.”

Brillantes was the election lawyer of Poe’s father, the late Fernando Poe Jr., when the elder Poe ran for president in the 2004 elections.

“Ang opinyon ko diyan ay kung si Grace Poe ay pinanganak dito, ito ang kaniyang domicile of origin, resident na siya simula nu’ng pinanganak siya hanggang ngayon,” said Brillantes.

He also said that even if Poe lived in the US under a dual citizenship, she “reacquired her domicile” when she returned to the Philippines following her father’s death in late 2004.

“Kung bibilangin mo hanggang 2016, lampas pa siya sa 10 years,” he said, referring to the 10-year residency requirement under the Constitution.

Certificate of candidacy

In her COC for the 2013 midterm elections, Poe answered six years and six months under “Period of Residence in the Philippines Before May 13, 2013.” [LOOK: Grace Poe’s COC during the 2013 elections]

In it, Poe — the adopted daughter of Fernando Poe Jr. and actress Susan Roces — put “Jaro, Iloilo” as her place of birth.

UNA interim president and Navotas City Rep. Toby Tiangco raised Poe residency issue on Tuesday, saying she is not qualified to run for either president or vice president in 2016 because she is six months short of the residency requirement under the 1987 Constitution.

However, Brillantes pointed out, “Sa akin, hindi importante kung ano ‘yung nakalagay sa certificate of candidacy niya. Pwedeng nagkamali siya roon, o pwedeng iniisip niya ‘yung actual period of residence.”

During the interview, he cited the case of former first lady and now-Ilocos Rep. Imelda Marcos, who won against a disqualification case when she ran for representative of the first district of Leyte in 1995.

“Kasi ‘yung kay Imelda Marcos, nakalagay [sa COC] seven months siya sa Leyte. Requirement is one year. Ang sabi niya, kahit one day ka lang diyan sa Leyte, pero ang totoo diyan ka pinanganak, simula no’n, diyan ka na nakatira. Ibig sabihin, domicile,” he said.

“So si Grace Poe, kahit wala siya dito sa Pilipinas, kung may intensyon siyang bumalik sa Pilipinas — at bumalik naman siya — resident pa rin siya dito simula nu’ng pinanganak siya,” Brillantes added.

The Supreme Court said of Marcos’ case: “It is the fact of residence, not a statement in a certificate of candidacy which ought to be decisive in determining whether or not an individual has satisfied the constitution’s residency qualification requirement. The said statement becomes material only when there is or appears to be a deliberate attempt to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render a candidate ineligible. It would be plainly ridiculous for a candidate to deliberately and knowingly make a statement in a certificate of candidacy which would lead to his or her disqualification.”

In a 2012 decision overturning the Comelec resolution disqualifying petitioner Rommel Jalosjos from the governorship of Zamboanga Sibugay, the Supreme Court said that “(t)here is no hard and fast rule to determine a candidates compliance with residency requirement since the question of residence is a question of intention. Still, jurisprudence has laid down the following guidelines: (a) every person has a domicile or residence somewhere; (b) where once established, that domicile remains until he acquires a new one; and (c) a person can have but one domicile at a time.

Citizenship ‘a different issue’

While Brillantes thinks residency shouldn’t be an issue in her possible bid for higher office, he said her citizenship may be a different matter.

“’Pag citizenship ang issue, ibang usapan na ‘yon, kasi hindi natin alam kung sino ang nanay at tatay niya. Adopted kasi,” he said.

“”Baka magkaroon pa ng complications ‘yang issue na ‘yan later. Pero hindi masyado sa residence,” Brillantes added.

Earlier, Poe said she had renounced her US citizenship even before she entered government service and became chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

She also said she is a natural-born Filipino and that she never abandoned it. She became a dual citizen when she resided in America, but gave up her US citizenship when she returned to the country after her father’s death.

However, Brillantes pointed out that it is “definitely too early” to raise the said issue because “first of all, hindi pa naman naga-announce si Grace Poe na kakandidato siya.”

“You can raise all of these issues kapag nag-file na siya ng certificate of candidacy. Doon ka lang pwedeng mag-file ng disqualification case,” he said. (MNS)