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The Philippine Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Sen. Grace Poe is eligible to run for president in May 9 elections, overturning an elections commission decision to disqualify her and removing a long-hanging legal question over a tightly fought race to lead the Southeast Asian nation.

The justices voted 9-6 in favor of Poe's petitions against the Commission on Elections' decision last December to disqualify her on the grounds that she was not a natural-born citizen and did not have the 10 years of Philippine residency required of presidential candidates, Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said.

Elections Chairman Andres Bautista said his commission respects the ruling and will assess whether to appeal.

"This victory isn't only mine," a triumphant Poe told hundreds of people who joined an International Women's Day rally by a left-wing group in a downtown Manila square. "This is most of all a victory for the oppressed, a victory for those who are burdened by this system and a victory for women."

Asked by The Associated Press how she felt, Poe replied: "Relieved, but this is only the start, we need to do a lot of things. There is now a big opening for us to start our work."

The decision provided a major boost to the campaign of Poe, who is already leading in popularity polls, and removes a cloud of uncertainty over what has been shaping as a closely contested four-way race to succeed President Benigno Aquino III, whose six-year term ends June 30.

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