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Philippine Actor Gets OK to Seek Presidency

March 04, 2004|From Associated Press

MANILA — The Philippine Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an effort to disqualify film star Fernando Poe Jr. from the presidential election, clearing the way for a May 10 showdown with incumbent Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The court's decision eased fears that Poe's supporters among the poor would mount a violent backlash if their candidate was booted from the campaign over questions about his citizenship.

The most recent surveys have shown Poe and Arroyo in a virtual tie, well ahead of three other candidates.

In a 53-page decision, the justices voted 8-5 to uphold an Elections Commission decision that the actor could run, with the top court "declaring that Fernando Poe is a natural-born Filipino," court spokesman Ismail Khan said at a news conference.

The rejected petition argued that Poe should have been deemed a U.S. citizen at birth because he was born out of wedlock to an American mother. The petition also questioned the Philippine citizenship of Poe's father.

Although the court acknowledged that Poe was born out of wedlock, it declared his father Filipino and upheld the candidate's citizenship.

At Poe's campaign headquarters, supporters yelled his nickname, FPJ, and arranged a thanksgiving Mass instead of the mass protests that would have followed an adverse ruling.

Arroyo said the decision would give voters a wide choice. "Let us unify behind democracy, clean elections and the rule of law," said her spokesman, Ignacio Bunye.

The lawyers who filed the challenge have 15 days to appeal, but success for such efforts is rare.

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