Frontrunner Poe disqualified from Philippine presidential race

Former Senator Grace Poe, then one of the four contenders in 2016 presidential elections, speaks during a business forum in Manila on Oct 27.
Former Senator Grace Poe, then one of the four contenders in 2016 presidential elections, speaks during a business forum in Manila on Oct 27.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA • The Philippines' election overseer has disqualified Senator Grace Poe, who commands a huge lead in opinion polls, from running as president.

In a 35-page resolution, the three-man third division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) concluded that Ms Poe, 47, who had lived in the United States nearly half her life, lacked the 10-year residency required for presidential candidates.

Reacting to the ruling, Ms Poe said she was "disappointed", and stressed that she was still a candidate, as she could appeal before the Comelec, sitting as one body.

"This is not the end of the process," said the daughter of movie icon Fernando Poe Jr, or FPJ.

"My critics will use any excuse to exclude me, much like they tried to when FPJ ran for president...

They show a lack of trust in the ability of Filipinos to make the right decision."

Her father ran for president in 2004, but lost to Mrs Gloria Arroyo. He, too, was dogged by cases challenging his citizenship.

The Comelec ruling was a response to a case filed by lawyer Estrella Elamparo, who pointed out that Ms Poe, based on election papers she filed when she ran for senator in 2013, would be two months short of the 10-year residency required of all presidential candidates when the elections are held in May.

Ms Poe had indicated in her election papers that she again became a Philippine resident - after living in the US since her college years - in July 2006. She later said this was a mistake.

But the Comelec's third division said: "An aspirant for the highest position in the land must strictly adhere to the provisions of the highest law of the land - the Constitution."

Ms Poe barely won a vote earlier last month before a Senate electoral tribunal questioning her qualifications to run for an elective post on account of the fact that she is a foundling and cannot be considered a natural-born Filipino.

Raul Dancel

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'Frontrunner Poe disqualified from Philippine presidential race'. Print Edition | Subscribe