SET ruling on Poe final

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SET ruling on Poe final

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jayI agree with those who say the ruling of the Senate Electoral Tribunal declaring Senator Grace Poe a natural born Filipino citizen, therefore a duly elected Senator of the Republic, is a final one.

No other court, not even the Supreme Court can reverse this.

The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) is a constitutional creation.

Its creation is the same as that of the Supreme Court, and other constitutional creatures like the Senate, the House, and other constitutional agencies such as the Commission on Elections, the Civil Service Commission, and the Commission on Human Rights.

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Section 17 Article VI of the 1987 Constitution provides that  “the Senate and the House of Representatives shall each have an Electoral Tribunal which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of their members.”

The most significant phrase in this sentence is “sole judge.”

This phrase means what it says, that is, it is the SET which shall be the sole, the only judge relating to a senator’s qualification, to the exclusion of all other tribunals and that includes the supreme tribunal called Supreme Court.

The people who ratified the Constitution made this so because the Senate Electoral Tribunal adjudicates matters that directly involves the political wisdom of the sovereign people.

The people have decided in the Constitution that when it comes to political matters, like deciding the qualifications of politicians running for office, it should not be lodged in a strictly legal tribunal, but in one composed mainly the elected representatives of the sovereign.

There is a small window of ‘review’ of the SET decision by the Supreme Court though.

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The Constitution grants the Supreme Court the power to determine whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction of a certain agency of the government, and that includes the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

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The Constitution reads in Section 1 Article VIII that judicial power includes the power “to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.”

However, this power lodged in the Constitution is not to review the wisdom and judgment of the SET, but merely to determine whether in arriving at such a decision, it was done with grave abuse of discretion.

But hardly should the existence or inexistence of grave abuse of discretion by entertained by the high court because precisely, the Senate Electoral Tribunal is composed of three justices.

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Not only that, the chairman of the Senate Electoral Tribunal is a justice of the Supreme Court.

It is thus expected that since the electoral tribunals are also composed of men learned in the law—and headed by one at that—the processes should be guarded against any abuse of discretion, much less grave abuse of discretion.

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Otherwise, we will have a scenario where the act of three justices designated as members of the electoral tribunals will face indictment by their own peers when the case is raised in the high court.

Since the Senate Electoral Tribunal has already decided, its ruling should also cascade to other cases of similar nature and lodged in other bodies like the Comelec because the only real issue is whether or not Grace Poe is a natural born Filipino.

The decision of the SET can be seen as a victory for the democratic processes because the people will have a wider set of candidates to choose from.

This should also thumb down maneuverings directed at a scenario where one candidate could win the elections by default.

That is clearly the pathetic strategy of candidates lagging behind in surveys.

Let the people decide. Let the people choose.

That is the essence of elections, the soul of our democracy. (By Atty. Jay I. Dejaresco)

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