ROME, Italy (PNA)—How do you solve a problem like Grace Poe?
In a situation where clarity breeds confusion, President Benigno S. Aquino III said the decision is not his to make, but expressed hope that the senator would still find ways to appeal her case.
President Aquino was reacting to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) second division’s ruling to disqualify Senator Poe as presidential nominee because of her contentious citizenship issues.
Speaking to Manila-based reporters here on Friday, President Aquino said he himself finds the COMELEC’s decision confusing even as he read the 34-page resolution for three times now and consulted several lawyers.
Citing page four, item 12, of the said document, President Aquino understood that Senator Poe was granted her petition to reacquire her Filipino citizenship in 2006.
The order came from then Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez, Jr., which would have gotten the lawmaker off the hook, until her being a foundling was made an issue.
“Since Senator Poe is a foundling at hindi pa na-establish kung sino ‘yung parents niya how do you establish na Filipino ‘yung parents niya? Parang hindi pa proven ‘yon (Since Senator Poe is a foundling and her paternity has not been established yet, how do you establish that her parents are Filipino? I don’t think that it has been proven yet),” President Aquino said.
“So, tatanungin ninyo, tama ba ‘yung appreciation ng BID (Bureau of Immigration and Deportation) noon? Mali ba ‘yung appreciation? ‘Yung mga ganitong tanong ang napapaalala (So, you would ask, is the appreciation of BID (Bureau of Immigration and Deportation correct? Is it wrong? These kinds of questions make the case worse),” he added.
President Aquino said he was also surprised to learn that Senator Poe was still using an American passport at a time when she was supposed to have renounced it after taking an oath as a public official.
“Hindi ako SET (Senate Electoral Tribunal), hindi ako COMELEC, pareho silang independent bodies. Hindi rin ako Supreme Court. Pero parang nakikita ko ‘yung logic ‘nung sinasabi rito (I am not the SET (Senate Electoral Tribunal), I am not COMELEC, those are both independent bodies. I am also not the Supreme Court. But I am seeing the logic behind this),” he told reporters.
President Aquino emphasized, however, that Senator Poe could still exploit other avenues to help rectify her situation all the way to the Supreme Court.
“There’s clarity and at the same time it leads to so many more questions. And siguro, in a sense, this particular problem is not up to my decision—up to me to decide on (There’s clarity and at the same time it leads to so many more questions. Andperhaps, in a sense, this particular problem is not up to my decision—up to me to decide on),” he said.
President Aquino likewise defended his anointed successor, Mar Roxas, amid accusations that he and the Liberal Party (LP) had a hand in the COMELEC’s decision.
According to his party mates, it was United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) spokesperson Toby Tiangco who first questioned Senator Poe’s qualifications. UNA is supporting Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Senator Poe currently holds the number one spot among the top presidential candidates in next year’s elections with a considerable lead over her competitors based on recent surveys.
“Ipaalala ko lang, ang tagal naming nililigawan si Grace and, for that matter, Senator (Francis) Escudero to be part of an administration ticket (I am just reminding, we have courted Grace for a long time and, for that matter, Senator (Francis) Escudero to be part of an administration ticket),” President Aquino said.
The Chief Executive appointed Senator Poe as chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board in 2010. Three years later, she was elected as member of the Senate under the administration party.
President Aquino also initially thought of the good senator as the running mate of Roxas but it did not occur to him that she would be placed in this difficult situation.
When LP was negotiating for her to become part of the team, President Aquino said they never discussed the issue in detail, but Senator Poe assured him that she had a battery of lawyers who can handle the matter.
“She kept telling me that she had a panel of lawyers who had studied the matter and they were ready to answer any and all questions and I took it at face value,” President Aquino said.
The LP eventually settled for Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo as the vice presidential bet, a decision that allowed President Aquino to have more confidence in the current administration lineup.
“I really like Leni Robredo as a candidate. I like the things that she’s been saying. She is of the same fold without an iota of divergence, in a sense,” President Aquino said.
“So parang we can support her. It’s more total—I’m talking about si Leni and si Mar—as opposed to we support you 85 percent or 90 percent. I have more confidence to say that the present lineup I can fully support them without an iota of doubt or uncertainty,” he added. (PNA)
Editor’s note: Italics are Philippine Canadian Inquirer’s.