WHO'S scared of Grace Poe?

The camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay very obviously is. After she rebuffed his offer to be his vice presidential candidate next year, Poe has been targeted for demolition by Binay’s henchmen, presumably with Binay’s consent, if not upon his instructions.

It is in this light that we should view United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) president Toby Tiangco’s claim that Poe is not qualified to run for president in 2016 because she lacks the 10-year-residency requirement of the Constitution.

Why doesn’t Poe practice the honesty that she preaches by admitting that she’s not qualified to run for president or vice president in 2016, Tiangco ranted. Her 2013 election COC clearly shows that she will be some six months short of the 10-year residence that the Constitution requires, he ranted further.

Tiangco could have gained more to bolster his credibility as Binay’s spokesperson if he had done a little research instead of practicing his “shoot me now” line for dramatic effect when he waved Poe’s certificate of candidacy for senator in 2013. For example, he would have been able to learn a little about the concepts of residence and domicile as used in election law if only he had taken the time to read Imelda Marcos vs. Comelec and Montejo.

Imelda was a candidate for congresswoman of the 1st district of Leyte but Cirilo Roy Montejo petitioned the Comelec to disqualify her because she said in her certificate of candidacy (COC) that she had lived in the district for only seven months. Marcos explained that the entry in her COC was “an honest mistake or misinterpretation.”

Imelda was allowed to run but the Comelec refused to proclaim her. She went to the Supreme Court and won.

In the decision penned by Justice Santiago Kapunan, the High Tribunal noted the “startling confusion in the application of settled concepts of ‘Domicile’ and ‘Residence’ in election law.”

The Court explained that while for purposes of election law, residence is synonymous with domicile, it is wrong to “substitute or mistake the concept of domicile for actual residence” because the latter is a “conception not intended for the purpose of determining a candidate’s qualifications for election to the House of Representatives as required by the 1987 Constitution.”

As for Imelda’s statement in her certificate of candidacy that she had been a resident of Leyte’s first congressional district for less than one year, the Court ruled that it is the fact of residence (or domicile), not the COC, that should determine whether or not a candidate has met the minimum residency requirement.

The justices agreed with Imelda that what she wrote in her COC was an “honest mistake.”

Like Imelda, Poe was born and spent his childhood in the Philippines. Her residency was interrupted only when she left for the United States to study and, later, work. As did Imelda, she returned to the country. And like Imelda, she claimed that her entry in her certificate of candidacy (when she ran for senator in 2013) on the number of years that she had resided in the Philippines was an honest mistake.

If the Supreme Court ruled that Imelda had met her own residency requirement for purposes of running for Congress, why should it be any different with Poe if and when she decides to file her certificate of candidacy for the presidency?

“A constitutional provision should be construed as to give it effective operation and suppress the mischief at which it is aimed.” Justice Kapunan might have written this opening line of his decision in a different context.

Or maybe, he had not.

(frankotherside@gmail.com)