Philippines' Poe cleared to run

The Philippines Supreme Court has ruled that film star Fernando Poe Junior can run in May's presidential election.

Mr Poe's candidacy had been disputed because he was born out of wedlock to an American mother, raising doubts about his Philippines citizenship.

The court ruled by eight votes to five, with one abstention, in favour of Mr Poe contesting the 10 May race.

Uncertainty over the case has cut Mr Poe's opinion poll lead over his main competitor, President Gloria Arroyo.

Mr Poe's supporters were reported to dance jubilantly at his campaign headquarters after hearing the ruling.

"Justice prevails," said Butch Cadsawan, president of one movement supporting Mr Poe.

The Supreme Court's 53-page ruling said that it judged that the national elections commission had made the correct decision in earlier rejecting the challenge to Mr Poe's right to run for president.

It said Mr Poe was "a natural born Filipino citizen under the terms of the 1935 Constitution since his father was a Filipino, as borne by the evidence in the court's possession".

There had been questions over whether Fernando Poe's father, Allan Poe, recognised the actor as his son, and over Allan Poe's own citizenship - his father, Lorenzo, was a Spanish subject.

The lawyers who filed the challenge have 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration.

President Arroyo's spokesman, Michael Defensor, welcomed the court decision.

"As we have stated, we have been hoping that this would be the outcome of the SC (Supreme Court) decision so that now we can already engage in high level of campaign on general program of actions and policies," he said.

Uncertainty

The controversy has taken its toll on the country's stability ahead of the polls.

The country's currency, the peso, has fallen amid the uncertainty and anti-riot police had been braced for protests, fearing an angry reaction from Mr Poe's supporters if he were disqualified.

Jailed former President Joseph Estrada, also an ex-actor and friend of Mr Poe, had warned of "civil war" if Mr Poe was barred from running.

The controversy is also thought to have been harming Mr Poe's efforts to raise campaign finance. The BBC's Kylie Morris says the film star's advisers are hoping his campaign can now begin in earnest.

Mr Poe, a secondary school dropout with no political experience, is hoping to draw on his populist appeal among voters who have grown to distrust established politicians.

The latest poll, conducted in mid-February when the court opened the case against Mr Poe, showed him neck and neck with Ms Arroyo, with both enjoying about 31% support, well ahead of the four other candidates.

03/03/2004

Bron : BBC World

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