MANILA — The Supreme Court of the Philippines on Monday temporariIy prevented the elections agency from implementing its decision to disqualify Sen. Grace Poe, one of the front-runners in the country's presidential campaign. With the court in recess, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno issued two temporary restraining orders (TROs) on the two Commission on Elections rulings that canceled Poe's certificate of candidacy on the grounds that she failed to meet nationality and residency requirements, court spokesman Theodore Te said in a televised news conference.
The TROs came hours after Poe appealed the Commission on Elections rulings to the court. The court gave the commission 10 days to submit its response to Poe's appeals and set oral arguments for Jan. 19, Te said. For now, the commission has to keep Poe's name on the ballot. The commission said it would comply, noting that in other disqualification cases it has kept candidates' names on ballots while appeals are ongoing, according to media reports.
Poe is No. 1 or tied for first place in December surveys released last week for the May election to succeed President Benigno Aquino, who is barred from a second term. Her closest rival is Vice President Jejomar Binay. Former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, Aquino's candidate, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte follow them.
While Philippine campaigns tend to be thin on policy specifics, Aquino's successor needs to maintain one of the fastest economic growth rates in Asia while trying to use it to reduce the poverty and unemployment that forces millions to leave their families to work abroad. The next president will also need to decide whether to maintain Aquino's tough stance against China's expansionist policy in the South China Sea, which the U.S. also opposes.