Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said that the magistrates who voted to disqualify Senator Grace Poe in the Senate Electoral Tribunal should not join their High Court peers when they decide on the same case.
“Having judged below, they can no longer judge above,” said former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban in his Inquirer column. This means that only 12 of the 15 magistrates would decide on the fate of Poe, not counting the members who might volunteer to abstain from the vote.
Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion, and Teresita Leonardo-De Castro along with Senator Nancy Binay voted to uphold the petition of Rizalito David to disqualify Poe as senator for failing to meet the citizenship and residency requirements when she ran for senator in 2013. They were voted, however, by five senators – Tito Sotto, Loren Legarda, Bam Aquino, Cynthia Villar, and Pia Cayetano.
Panganiban said that this case and the four other disqualification cases filed against Poe at the Commission on Elections would be be elevated to the high court for a final consolidated decision.
Panganiban said there was no reason Poe’s name should be excised from the ballot “as was done in Joseph Estrada’s case in the 2010 presidential election.” The SC didn’t act on petition to disqualify Estrada for running a second time as president after wining in 1998 (and forcibly booted out of office midway into his term).
For Panganiban, Poe’s case was how the magistrates would chose to interpret the law on Poe: literal or liberal, letter or the spirit, the naked provision or the ultimate purpose, legal syllogism or substantial justice, in isolation of or in the context of social conditions, harshly against or gently in favor of the voters’ choice.
Panganiban opined that these issues were better left to the people to decide on the ballot rather than a few men and women in robes.
For example, Panganiban cited Poe’s decision to migrate to the United States and swear allegiance to the stars and stripes was a political and not a legal question.
” Not every question can and should be decided by our tribunals. Let Poe explain to our people, and if the majority accepts her explanation and votes her to office, so be it. This is the essence of democracy. As the axiom goes, Vox populi voxDei,” Panganiban said.