MANILA, January 25, 2005 (STAR) By Aurea Calica  -  President Arroyo’s lawyers called on the Supreme Court yesterday to dismiss the election protest filed by the widow of her electoral rival, movie star Fernando Poe Jr.

Mrs. Arroyo’s lawyers Romulo Macalintal and Alberto Agra, in a 31-page petition, asked the court to deny Susan Roces’ bid to take the place of her late husband in the election protest filed against the President’s victory over Poe in the May 10 election.

The SC sits as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

The lawyers also argued that Poe’s claim that Mrs. Arroyo cheated him of victory in the election was no longer valid following his sudden death last Dec. 14.

Poe died of a massive stroke even before the high court could decide on his protest, in which he and his running mate, Loren Legarda, alleged massive irregularities and fraud marred the polls.

His wife Roces, herself an actress, had asked to take the place of her late husband in his complaint saying that the true will of the people had to be revealed.

The lawyers said that under PET rules, only the registered candidates who received the second or third highest number of votes could contest the results of the presidential election.

Macalintal and Agra said only Poe and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who placed third in the presidential election, can contest Mrs. Arroyo’s victory.

Poe’s widow "cannot contest the elections since she was not a registered candidate and she did not receive a single vote in the last elections. She was not a candidate as defined by law since she did not aspire for an elective office and she did not file a certificate of candidacy," they said in their petition.

The lawyers added that Roces "cannot replace her deceased husband since she has no legal capacity, no legal standing to file contest and pursue the election protest for the position of president. She is not a real party in the interest."

Macalintal and Agra said Poe’s widow lacked legal standing to replace him in the protest since a "public office is personal to the incumbent and is not a property which passes to his heirs."

They also cited that in other cases, the SC rules that marital and blood relations could not serve as a legal basis to pursue what was initiated by the deceased.

The lawyers also warned that if Roces were allowed to pursue the protest, it would set a precedent allowing any to contest election results, resulting in unending political instability.

Macalintal and Agra cited that the SC junked the protest of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago contesting the electoral victory of then President Fidel Ramos. The SC considered her candidacy and subsequent election as senator in 1995 as an abandonment of her claim to the presidency.

In Poe’s case, the lawyers said his protest died with him last December.

"This would be an opportune time to bury the hatchet and move on. Political stability of the nation during this period of national recovery must be vigorously pursued by all," they said.

It could take years before the SC rules on the electoral protest. — With AFP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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