Controversial Philippine senator can continue bid for presidency

A banner on display in front of the Supreme Court during a demonstration yesterday against the move to disqualify Ms Poe from running in the 2016 elections.
A banner on display in front of the Supreme Court during a demonstration yesterday against the move to disqualify Ms Poe from running in the 2016 elections.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Senator Grace Poe won a lifeline yesterday allowing her to continue her bid to become the Philippines' 16th president after the Supreme Court barred poll officials from disqualifying her, for now.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) last week ruled that Ms Poe, who had topped surveys on who Filipinos preferred as their next leader, was not qualified to run for president.

It had said the 47-year-old adopted daughter of a Filipino movie icon was not a natural-born Filipino and that she lacked the minimum 10-year Philippine residency required under the Constitution for presidential candidates.

But the election commission now said it would comply with the court order. Ms Poe's name would stay on the ballots, according to its spokesman, Mr James Jimenez.

Over 50 million Filipinos will vote in May next year to select a successor to President Benigno Aquino.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno scheduled on Jan 19 oral arguments to hear all cases seeking to bar Ms Poe from running in the May elections.

Should the Supreme Court side with the Comelec, that would end Ms Poe's bid.

In a statement, Ms Poe thanked the high court "for a just and compassionate decision".

"The Comelec denied our people their choices in an open election, but I am confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the truth and the spirit of the Constitution," she said.

Ms Poe, long rumoured to be an illegitimate child of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has been trying to locate her biological parents to prove they were both Filipinos, which would make her a natural-born Filipino.

Ms Poe was abandoned as a baby on the steps of a church in Iloilo city, 620km south of the capital Manila. She was later raised by Philippine movie icons Fernando Poe Jr and Susan Roces.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'Controversial Philippine senator can continue bid for presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe