MANILA – Senators on Wednesday defended Senator Grace Poe after an opposition official questioned her qualification to run for higher office in the 2016 elections.
Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero questioned the motives of United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) interim president Rep. Toby Tiangco of Navotas to question Poe’s qualification if she will run for either President or Vice President due to a 10-year residency rule.
Tiangco showed to the media a copy of Poe’s certificate of candidacy (COC) which she filed in 2013, saying Poe will have only nine years and six months by the time the 2016 elections will be held in May next year.
”What is the motive of Cong. Toby. Last month, they said Vice President (Jejomar Binay) wants Grace (vice presidential candidate). When she signed the committee report and turned down the vice president, they said she is disqualified,” Escudero said in a television interview.
Escudero said Tiangco should have realized that his own aunt, Rep. Imelda Marcos, was five-months short of the one-year residency rule based on her own COC when she ran in Leyte.
”According to the Supreme Court, it is the fact of residence, not the statements made in the COC that will control and dictate the residency rule,” Escudero said.
Escudero said Poe returned from the United States after 10 years and lived in the Philippines after her father, the late movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., died in December 2004.
”It would be easy to prove and she can do it if just in case Senator Poe will decide to run (for higher office),” Escudero, a campaign manager of Poe in 2013, said.
Aside from actual physical residence in the country, Escudero said Poe can also cite a law which provides ‘animus revertendi’ or intent to return if she will seek presidency in 2016.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said if Poe can prove that he has intention to return even if she lived in the US for 10 years, “there is no need for physical presence to satisfy the residency rule.”
”The physical presence is not a hindrance if she can prove the ‘animus revertendi,” Drilon said.
Acting Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the residency requirement should not be an issue since Poe had always an intention to return to the Philippines.
“What I know is that she was born here and even if she stayed abroad for a while, she always had an intention to return,” Sotto, one of the campaign managers of Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 presidential election, said.
Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay said she has no prior knowledge when Tiangco went out to the media to question Poe’s qualification.
”Actually, I was surprised that he came out with that information,” Binay said in a media interview.
Binay said even her father, Vice President Binay, was not informed of Tiangco’s move.
Senator Binay refused to comment on Poe’s residency, saying she is a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET).