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Legal woes threaten Philippine presidential election front-runners

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe arrives at the Philippine Supreme Court for the oral arguments following a petition filed before the highest court questioning her citizenship in Manila, Philippines.

MANILA (AP):

It's not just difficult to predict who will win Philippine presidential elections this year, thanks to some of the candidates' legal woes, it's difficult to predict who will be allowed to run.

Four are within striking distance. Senator Grace Poe, a political newcomer, leads opinion polls ahead of the May 9 elections, with Vice- President Jejomar Binay, close behind. They are followed by former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of the southern city of Davao.

Poe, 47, has seen her popularity soar since she first ran for office three years ago. She is the adopted daughter of one of the country's most famous movie couples. Her late father mostly played roles as a defender of the downtrodden in a country still plagued by widespread poverty and corruption.

But the Commission on Elections ruled in December that Poe was not a natural-born Filipino as required by the Constitution because she was abandoned as a baby by her unknown parents at a Roman Catholic church.

The US-educated Poe, who renounced her Filipino citizenship for about five years to live with her own family in America, also lacked the required 10-year Philippine residency ahead of the vote, the commission said. That prompted Poe to bring her case to the Supreme Court, which could deliver its verdict soon and have a huge impact on the presidential race.