By Perry Diaz
Last November 17, 2015, Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares had a reason to be jubilant! By a 5-4 vote of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), the disqualification complaint against her was thrown out. With the vote of five senators, Grace beat three Supreme Court justices in a “contest” that should have delved into the legality of Grace’s citizenship and residency. Instead the five senators ignored the facts and waded into the murky waters of political expediency.
Grace must have felt like she was on top of the world… and indeed she was… until her world turned upside down two weeks later. With five disqualification complaints against her before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Second Division disqualified her. The division’s three members unanimously ruled that she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen and lacks the 10-year residency for candidates running for president.
Then two weeks later, the Comelec’s First Division, on a 2-1 vote, approved the petitions of former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad, De La Salle University Prof. Antonio Contreras and former University of the East Law Dean Amado Valdez to disqualify Grace from the presidential race for the same reason as the Second Division’s ruling against her.
However, the double-whammy did not deter the former Montessori schoolteacher from pursuing the unfulfilled dream of her father whose stunning election loss and abbreviated life has become one of the most grieved political tragedies of our time. Now that she’s just one election away from achieving what some of her supporters believe was an act of providence, common sense stopped her just five months away from capturing Malacanang.
But she questioned the Comelec’s rulings and insisted that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen and that she meets the residency requirements. But the First Division said that Grace’s inconsistent statements on her residency indicate that she intended to deliberately misrepresent a material fact in her Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for president. The fact is: Grace stated that she has been a resident in the country since April 2006, which is contrary to her claims that she was residing in the country since May 2005. “It is indeed incredible to think that Respondent, a well-educated woman and already then a public servant with full staff support, including a legal team, would not know how to correctly declare the facts material to her candidacy for the 13 May 2013 Elections,” the Comelec disqualification ruling said.
Beleaguered but not out of the game, Grace said that she would appeal to the Comelec en banc and the Supreme Court to “uphold the truth, and the spirit and aims of our Constitution.” Meanwhile, she insisted that she is still a candidate for president, which begs the question: How is she going to convince the Comelec en banc and the Supreme Court to declare her a “natural-born” citizen and has met the minimum residency requirements of the Constitution?
It’s interesting to note that Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. had offered to undergo a DNA test to see if it matches Grace’s DNA. If their DNAs matched, then it could prove that Grace was the illegitimate daughter of Bongbong’s father, the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. who had been rumored to have fathered a child by Rosemarie Sonora, the sister of Grace’s adoptive mother Susan Roces. But Grace refused Bongbong’s offer saying that it wouldn’t prove anything. But what has she got to lose by going through with the DNA testing? She has everything to gain and nothing to lose except the fulfillment of her dreams.
With the disqualification of Grace, the presidential battle has changed direction with the entry of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte into the race. The latest surveys show that Duterte is now the frontrunner in the race with Grace going on a freefall.
The other major presidential candidates – Vice President Jejomar Binay, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago – haven’t been affected by the Poe fallout. But Binay, who had been the frontrunner for the longest time before Grace entered the presidential derby, is now stagnating in second or third place. And Roxas, who had been the stuck in the “5% club” for a long time, has improved in his popularity ratings. However, the three of them are hovering below Duterte who seems to have solidified his position in the race. With Poe hoping for a “miraculous” ruling from the Comelec and the Supreme Court, she would have a difficult time dislodging Duterte from the top of the ladder.
In my humble opinion, Grace should abandon her presidential candidacy. If she loses in her appeal to the Comelec en banc and the Supreme Court, she would be consigned to the dustbin of history. However, if she wins a “miraculous” ruling by the Comelec and the Supreme Court, there is no guarantee that she could beat Duterte, whom the people dubbed the Lee Kuan Yew of the Philippines.
But a miracle might just be what Grace – who loves to wear white just like Joan of Arc — needs to convince her followers that she was anointed by divine providence to deliver them from a sinful and corrupt political system, which makes one wonder: Is she convinced that she has the power to stop Duterte just like when Joan of Arc stopped the siege of the superior English forces at Orleans, France in 1429? Or is this all fantasy that would not happen in today’s realpolitik?
And if there’s anything that would come close to being a “miracle,” it’s the ease of how fast she lost all her political allies and unmasked her enemies when things got rough. Indeed, it’s a rude awakening for her to realize that in politics, there are no such things as friends, only those who’d use her to pursue their own interests. And in the short time that Grace was every presidential or vice presidential wannabe’s desired running mate, she must have felt an inner strength that defied the political detractors who were bent on destroying her. But that’s all behind her now. And just like Joan of Arc, Grace found out that there were more powerful forces out there that are masters of realpolitik.
And now it’s time to ask: Quo vadis, Grace?