Escudero to Duterte: Don’t use Poe’s case as ‘an excuse to run’

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In defense of his presidential running mate Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Francis 'Chiz' Escudero said he respects Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s opinion but disagrees with it. He points out that even the Senate Electoral Tribunal in its decision disagrees with Duterte.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines)— When Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte officially announced on Sunday (November 22) his presidential bid in next year’s polls, he said that he could never accept the possibility of an American citizen being elected as the next Philippine president.

Duterte was hinting at Sen. Grace Poe’s disqualification case with the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), which questioned her status as a natural-born Filipino.

Last week, the SET ruled in favor of Poe, and deemed her eligible to run for the presidency.

Also read: SET denies disqualification case against Poe

In response to Duterte, Poe's allies have come to her defense.

In a statement, Poe’s vice presidential running mate Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said that although he respects Duterte’s opinion, he disagrees with it.

“In fact, even the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) disagrees with him,” Escudero pointed out.

Escudero said he believes that SET rendered justice to Poe and all other foundlings by favoring Poe.

Escudero also told Duterte in his statement that the mayor does not need to hit Poe and “use the decision of the SET in her favor as an excuse to run.”

“In fact, quite the contrary, an unfavorable decision against Sen. Grace could have been a putatively better excuse according to some analysts,” the senator added.

Poe’s allies maintain Grace is a Filipino

Escudero reminded Poe’s detractors that their claims are only barefaced allegations.

“There is no iota of evidence that even suggests that she is American or any other nationality for that matter.”

Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, Poe’s spokesman said they are saddened by the statements of Duterte and that they do not agree with the mayor’s position on Poe’s citizenship and the status of foundlings.

Gatchalian, however, said they accept Duterte’s decision to join the 2016 presidential race.

In a statement, Gatchalian said Duterte’s “decision to seek the presidency will make our democracy stronger and more vibrant.”

“The more choices the people have the better,” he added.

If Poe has allies, so does Duterte

In a statement, Sen. Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. said: “If this is the final word then we can all finally end the speculation.”

Marcos said if Duterte is really decided to run for president, then all surveys should be “back to the drawing board”.

Marcos also considered Duterte’s decision as good news. “Talaga si Mayor Rody, laging may masayang balita!”

A Facebook post by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano also pointed to Duterte's bid.

Cayetano, who is running for vice president in the 2016 elections, posted late Saturday night (November 21) a photo on his Facebook page of a gathering in Cavite saying "Change is coming" with the hashtag #dutertecayetano.

Also read: Supporters not surprised: Duterte declares bid for presidency

Meanwhile, PDP-Laban President Sen. Koko Pimentel in an interview with CNN Philippines said their party is celebrating Duterte's change of heart.

Comelec to wait for actual substitution

For the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Duterte’s announcement does not make his presidential bid final and official.

In a text message to CNN Philippines, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said that the poll body “will look into the matter if and when an actual substitution takes place.”

Comelec has disqualified Volunteers against Crime and Corruption chairman Martin Diño who filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for president under Duterte’s political party PDP-Laban.

Diño named Duterte as his substitute, which PDP-Laban adopted in a resolution.

Pimentel said PDP-Laban is now doing the necessary preparations for Duterte's candidacy like processing documents for substitution and preparing a headquarters for Duterte.

Comelec rules that only candidates with a political party can appoint a substitute and that substitutions can only happen after the last day of filing of COC's.

Duterte has until December 10 to officially file his candidacy as Diño's substitute under PDP-Laban.

With the mayor's recent pronouncements, Pimentel said PDP-Laban is now doing the necessary preparations for Duterte's candidacy like processing documents for substitution and preparing a headquarters for him.