MANILA: The Philippine electoral agency cleared the way yesterday for opposition candidate and movie idol Fernando Poe Jr to run for president in May polls after rejecting a petition that questioned his Filipino nationality.
Lawyers backing the case against Poe said they were determined to appeal against the decision, suggesting that political uncertainty stirred by the issue could linger.
“The petition is dismissed for lack of merit,” a Commission on Elections' spokesman said.
The petition argued that Poe, a household name who has led most opinion polls, was not qualified to contest elections because he was born before his American mother and Spanish father were married.
Lawyers argued Poe was an American like his mother.
The prospect of disqualification had raised concern that Poe's supporters could react by staging protests, adding to rising political uncertainty ahead of elections shaping up as a battle between Poe and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Arroyo was swept to power from the vice presidency when million-strong protests and middle-class anger about graft chased Joseph Estrada, a close friend of Poe, from office in early 2001.
Her administration has stressed it is not fuelling the doubts about Poe's citizenship or a smear campaign that has included an anonymous full-page advertisement in newspapers listing supposed flaws in the official documents of the actor and his parents.
Arroyo welcomed the ruling.
“The electorate is entitled to more choices and this is good for our democratic system,” her spokesman said in a statement.
Poe's lack of political experience and perceptions that his popularity is being used as a means to return to power by allies of Estrada have unnerved markets, but the prospect of mass unrest was seen as an even worse alternative. – Reuters
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