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No international law conferred Philippine citizenship on Poe

SEN. Grace Poe Llamanzares and her supporters have gone to town with their notion that, if not the Constitution, international law had conferred on her, a foundling, the status of a natural-born citizen.

The three Supreme Court justices in the nine-member Senate Electoral Tribunal hearing a petition to unseat Poe argued away that idea, but they were outnumbered by five senators in the panel.

As things stand now, the SET has upheld the claim of Poe that she satisfies the requirement of the Constitution that she be a natural-born Filipino to validly sit as senator.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, SET chairman, summed up in his dissenting opinion that there is no international treaty to which the Philippines is a contracting party that provides expressly or impliedly that a foundling is deemed a natural-born citizen of the country in which he/she is found.

There is no dispute that Poe is a Filipino citizen, Carpio said, but the Constitution asks more than that. It requires that a would-be senator be a natural-born citizen, or one who does not have to do anything to acquire or perfect her citizenship.

The 1935 Constitution, which was in effect when Poe was born in 1968, did not include foundlings (whose biological parents and their citizenship are unknown) in its enumeration of who are Filipino citizens at birth.

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• Why international conventions don’t apply

SAYING that every independent state has the right to determine who are its citizens, Carpio shot down the international conventions or treaties that the Poe camp kept citing until some innocent bystanders started to believe them.

1. The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Philippines signed the convention on Jan. 26, 1990, and ratified it on Aug. 21, 1990.

Its Article 7 says: “The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.”

Since Poe was born in 1968, or more than 20 years before the convention came into existence, it could not have applied to the status of her citizenship at the time of her birth.

The convention guarantees a child the right to acquire a nationality and requires the contracting states to ensure the implementation of this right, in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless.

But the convention does not guarantee a child a nationality at birth, much less a natural-born citizenship at birth as understood under the Constitution.

2. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Philippines is a signatory to this international treaty that was adopted on Dec. 16, 1966, and entered into force on March 23, 1976.

Its Article 24 says – “Every child has the right to acquire a nationality.” The covenant does not guarantee a foundling a nationality at birth, much less natural-born citizenship at birth as understood under the Constitution.

3. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948, whereby “member states (including the Philippines) pledged to achieve the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human fundamental freedoms.”

However, such a right guaranteed by the UNHR does not obligate states to automatically confer nationality to a foundling at birth, much less natural-born citizenship at birth as understood under the Constitution.

4. The 1930 Hague Convention on Certain Questions Relating to the Conflict of Nationality Laws.

Its Article 14 says: “A child whose parents are both unknown shall have the nationality of the country of birth. If the child’s parentage is established, his nationality shall be determined by the rules applicable in cases where the parentage is known.”

Until the contrary is proved, a foundling is presumed to have been born in the territory of the state where it was found.

Article 15 says: “The law of that state shall determine the conditions governing the acquisition of its nationality.” The contracting parties have to enact legislation prescribing the conditions for the acquisition of citizenship by a foundling.

But the Philippines is not a signatory to this convention and therefore not bound by it.

5. The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Its Article I says “A contracting state shall grant its nationality to a person born in its territory who would otherwise be stateless.”

Again, the Philippines is not a signatory to this convention and thus is not a contracting state.

• Lapid, not Poe, filed bill for foundlings

READER Chito B. Dimaculangan reacting to our Oct. 1 Postscript (“No int’l law confers Phl nationality to foundlings”) said:

“Quoting extensively from Ambassador Jaime Bautista, you said ‘foundlings need implementing law.’  This piqued my curiosity to find out if our legislature has enacted a law that will allow grant of Philippine citizenship to foundlings.  I found out that no such Philippine law exists.

“What I found is a Senate bill with a short title of ‘Foundling Act of 2015’ filed on June 10, 2015.  To my surprise, the sole author of Senate Bill No. 2844 is not Grace Llamanzares but Sen. Manuel ‘Lito’ M. Lapid. Of all the great minds in both the Senate and the House, it took a high school dropout to understand the need for a law to address the citizenship problem of foundlings in the country.

“I am bothered by the inaction of Mrs. Llamanzares in either offering to co-author the bill with Senator Lapid or authoring and filing the bill herself ahead of him. She boasts and prides herself to be the champion of foundlings in our country and yet she has not done anything to protect their rights and interests.

“She is well aware of the need for an implementing law.  She said so herself in the Verified Answer she filed before the Senate Electoral Tribunal that among jus sanguinis countries, the legislature of those countries passed a law that will allow the grant of citizenship to foundlings.”

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