The Supreme Court of the Philippines cleared Grace Poe, a popular senator and daughter of two movie stars, to run in the May 9 presidential election after she was disqualified from the race in early December.
Ms. Poe, 47 years old, has been leading in a tight four-way race to succeed term-limited President Benigno Aquino III, according to the latest opinion polls, despite uncertainty about whether she would be allowed to run.
Tuesday’s news that she will be able to participate makes her “the clear front-runner,” political commentator Ramon Casiple said.
The 9-to-6 vote from the high court capped a remarkable turnaround for Ms. Poe, who was barred from running by the country’s elections commission. The panel said last year that she wasn’t a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and hadn’t been a resident of the country for 10 consecutive years as required. Ms. Poe challenged the decision.
The Supreme Court determined that Ms. Poe is a natural-born Filipino, even though she was found abandoned in a church as a baby, which raised questions about her origins. She was later adopted by movie stars Susan Roces and Fernando Poe Jr. The court also accepted her claim that she returned to the Philippines from the U.S. in 2004 after her father died.
In a recent interview, Ms. Poe warned that the election’s legitimacy would be in jeopardy if popular candidates were eliminated by courts without voters having a say. She added that the Filipino people—not lawyers—should be able to choose who will succeed Mr. Aquino.
“This is not just my victory…this is a victory for the oppressed, of every woman,” Ms. Poe said Tuesday as she addressed a gathering in Manila to celebrate International Women’s Day. “Let us make 2016 as the year when women win in government.”
Ms. Poe was leading in the latest poll, published Monday by Laylo Research Strategies, at 26%. That put her narrowly ahead of her three main rivals, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, who all clocked in at 22% to 24% support.
The Supreme Court verdict will “certainly provide momentum” to Ms. Poe’s campaign, said Edna Co, a politics professor at the University of the Philippines.
But Ms. Co said the contest would remain close. She said Mr. Binay, who has built a formidable campaign machine since becoming vice president in 2010, was a particularly strong rival.
Ms. Poe must now convince voters that she is up to the task of steering the developing economy, Ms. Co said, despite being a relative political novice. Ms. Poe was elected to the Senate in 2013 and is the youngest candidate in the presidential race by a decade.
“This is the first time that someone is running for president who has only had three years in politics,” Ms. Co said.
Source : Wall Street Journal | www.wsj.com/