The Philippine Supreme Court Tuesday allowed frontrunner Grace Poe to contest presidential elections in May, reversing an earlier disqualification.

The Commission on Elections had banned the first-time senator from the race in December over residency and citizenship issues.

The judges voted nine to six in favour of Poe, court spokesman Theodore Te said.

Poe has been leading opinion polls of the major presidential candidates, in front of administration figure Mar Roxas and opposition candidate Jejomar Binay.

The Supreme Court decision was expected to further bolster Poe’s campaign, as voters will no longer have doubts about her being a candidate in the upcoming May 9 elections.

“We expect more people to express support for our campaign,” Poe said in an interview with Manila radio station DZMM.

“It was a difficult fight, but this is a message to all that there is hope, even if you are having a hard time, even if you are poor,” she added. “This victory is not just for myself, but for all who have experienced injustice.”

Hundreds of Poe’s supporters cheered outside the Supreme Court building on learning of the decision.

Te told reporters that the court’s decision will be released in the next few days, and that he could not say what issues the justices deliberated on.

The petitions against Poe questioned her qualification to run for president, arguing that she has not met a 10-year residency requirement in the constitution.

Her critics also argued that she could not be considered a natural-born citizen because she was adopted and the identities of her biological parents are not known.

The 47-year-old senator was abandoned as a baby on the steps of a church in the central city of Iloilo, and was adopted by a late Filipino action movie star.

Poe renounced her citizenship in 2001 to reside in the United States with her husband, but later returned and regained her Philippine citizenship.

Manuelito Luna, counsel for former senator Francisco Tatad, who sought Poe’s disqualification, warned the Supreme Court decision violated the constitution.

“It’s a dangerous result, a perfect recipe for chaos,” he said.

Luna said they would appeal the ruling.

More than 18,000 positions are up for grabs in the May 9 general elections, including national, regional and local posts.

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