Ex-CJ rebuts Carpio on Poe citizenship
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - September 27, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Retired Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban has rebutted the opinion of senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on the legal issue on citizenship of Sen. Grace Poe.

In his newspaper column over the weekend, the former Supreme Court (SC) chief said the senator running for president next year is a natural-born Filipino.

He cited the generally accepted principle of international law, which forms part of the law of the land.

“Under Article 2 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, she — a foundling who was found in Iloilo, Philippines — is deemed to have Filipino parents. Perforce, she is natural-born since her presumed parents, specifically her father, are accorded Philippine citizenship,” Panganiban explained.

Although the Philippines is not a signatory to the 1961 Convention, Panganiban said the country is still bound by its provisions that have become “generally accepted principles of international law… as binding as statutes passed by Congress.”

He said the 1935 Constitution, the country’s basic law in 1968 when Poe was born, provides that the “Philippines adopt the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the nation.”

“Thus, by this doctrine of incorporation, customary international laws are given the same force and effect as statutes passed by Congress,” Panganiban explained.

Apart from the 1961 Convention, he said foundlings are also protected by the 1930 Hague Convention on the Conflict of Nationality Laws and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that the right to a nationality is one of the most fundamental human rights.

Nationality is synonymous to citizenship in international law, he said.

Contrary to the opinion espoused by Carpio in oral arguments in the Senate Electoral Tribunal disqualification case against Poe last September 21, Panganiban said Poe could not be considered naturalized in accordance with international law.

He explained that it was actually Poe’s parents who acquired Philippine citizenship pursuant to international law.

“But she derived her citizenship from her presumed Filipino father; thus, she is a citizen from birth without having to do anything to acquire or perfect her Philippine citizenship,” Panganiban stressed.

The 1935 Constitution provides, among others, those whose fathers are citizens of the Philippines are considered Filipino citizens.

Panganiban said Poe’s biological father may be proven to be actually a foreigner, but the burden of proof belongs to those who challenge her natural-born status.

“Unless such proof is presented, her parents continue to be presumed Filipinos. Thus, she retains her natural-born citizenship,” he added. Poe, the topnotcher in the 2013 senatorial race and a frontrunner in various presidential preference surveys, recently declared her intention to run for president in next year’s elections. 

Under the 1987 Constitution, only natural-born Filipino citizens are qualified to run for president, vice-president, senator and congressman.

The present Constitution defines natural-born citizens as “those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.”

Carpio has said that Poe, being a foundling, is not a natural-born citizen qualified for electoral post unless she proves that her biological parents are Filipinos.

Meanwhile, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said Carpio cannot be forced to inhibit from the case of Poe.

Macalintal noted that Carpio, as chairman of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), merely cited the customary international law (CIL) when he stated that Poe is a “naturalized Filipino citizen” and not a natural-born citizen.

“It not a strong ground for his inhibition from case,” Macalintal said while noting that the justice cited his legal opinion – not the decision of the SET.

Macalintal stressed that Poe has been given until Oct. 6 to submit memoranda after which the SET will deliberate on the issues and assign the writing of the court’s opinion to a member.

“Looking at the positive side of Carpio’s comment, it was to the advantage of Poe that Carpio disclosed what was in his mind, if ever that would be his final position on this issue. It is now a challenge to Poe’s lawyers to prove otherwise,” Macalintal pointed out.

If given an argument better than his, Macalintal said Carpio might later be convinced that Poe is a natural-born Filipino under CIL that recognizes the parents of a foundling as citizens of the country where the foundling was found.

Macalintal noted that there were cases in collegiate courts where some members who previously voted with the majority would join the dissenting opinion and eventually became the majority opinion.

Every member of the tribunal may refrain from participating in the resolution of a case where he sincerely feels that his personal interests or biases would stand in the way of an objective and impartial judgment.

But Macalintal said, no one could force Carpio to inhibit from Poe’s case and only his conscience and sound discretion could make the final decision.

Expect more attacks

A congressman-ally of Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero said yesterday the two should expect more attacks now that they have kept their lead in the latest surveys.

“By addressing issues and not attacking personalities, the Grace-Chiz tandem represents the kind of leadership that appeals to a public that is tired of mudslinging and gossip-mongering – dirty tactics that will be used more frequently against them as the election nears,” Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao said.

Aggabao is president of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), which is emerging as the political vehicle for the presidential-vice presidential ambitions of Poe and Escudero.

The NPC leader however has said his party was still in the process of choosing the presidential aspirant it would support.

“The survey numbers of Grace and Chiz are impressive especially when you consider that neither had declared their intention to run when the surveys were conducted,” he said.

He said Poe’s steady showing reflects “a solid support base that has not been eroded by the merciless and baseless smear campaign centered around the flimsy citizenship issues thrown against her.” – With Jess Diaz

ACIRC BORN CARPIO CITIZENSHIP INTERNATIONAL LAW MACALINTAL NATURAL NBSP PANGANIBAN POE
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